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Industry Research : Telecoms and Pompt Customer Service Challenges
Nigeria can confidently boast of having over 100 million active telephone lines, from a meagre 400,000 lines a decade ago. This geometric rise, to many, never came as a surprise, given the largeness and robust nature of the Nigerian market and the potential thereof.
A 2011 World Bank declaration, estimated that Nigeria had 162 million inhabitants, meaning that only about a quarter left of the Nigerian populace are yet to be exposed to the telecoms revolution.
Fortnight ago in Abuja, while addressing journalists, the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah disclosed that Foreign Direct Investments in the sector had risen to $25 billion this year from $18 billion in 2009, which is a 39 per cent growth increase within three years.
Besides, a Pyramid research also informed that the revenue generated by the sector alone in 2010 stood at $8.6 billion. It predicted the revenue to hit $11 billion by end of 2013.
Indeed, Nigeria is said to be controlling 30 per cent of Africa’s Value Added Service market, which according to Informa and Telecoms, is expected to hit $11.5 billion by 2014. It is equally interesting to note that the said telecommunications revolution in the country entered its 11th year this August.
Telecoms analysts believe that customer centric services must be the watchword if this growth must be sustained and more investments must come in.
According to analysts, as we enjoy the boom in the industry, this success presents the sector with new challenges and industry players should take more serious the state of relationships with customers as a way to drive increased revenue.
To them, today, in the Nigerian telecoms market, where every single service providers competes against each other for the same customer, a single bad contact centre experience can have exponential ripple effect.
Market research has shown that on the average, one happy customer will tell 10 people about his experience, and in turn, those 10 people will each tell a further five people each, meaning that a total of fifty people will have heard about one bad experience.
Besides, studies conducted to evaluate subscribers experience with operators contact centre have shown that the key factor determining customer satisfaction is call resolution, which remain a sour point for most subscribers. When you call with major concern to some of the help desks, you are either given multiple referrals or a request to visit in person to a service centre, for basic problems, such as inability to load a recharge card, or complaints about multiple billing and so on.
The study also found that customers whose issues were unresolved are eight times more likely to discontinue their relationship with the operator.
Such was the case of a Lagos banker, Tinuade Oladejo, who said one of her greatest desire at the beginning of 2012, aside better quality of service from the telecommunications firms, the need for a faster customer response to enquiries are critical.
Oladejo, who is virtually a customer to all the four major networks in the country, stressed that, the era of putting customer on hold for hours on Customer Care lines, when trying to either lay complaints or seek information should be over by now. "We are in a digital revolution, where things are done at the speed of light. I believe that any operator who indulge in keeping customers for hours need to be sanctioned by the regulator. There should be no room for nonsense in this sector anymore."
Oladejo, who said she tried loading a recharge card, "but I mistakenly over scratch the card and some numbers got missing. Immediately, I called their customer care line to complain and possibly retrieve the card. I was put on hold for close to 30 minutes. Nothing was done. It took 48 hours before the issue could be resolved."
For Chief Chijioke Opara, a loyal customer, his experience was the issue of sending SMS and failure delivery. "I have experienced this for some time now, not only on MTN, but other networks. You will send text, you will be charged and later discovered that the text you sent never got to the final destination. Not now that technology is at the tip of our hands. Let them improve, we know it is tough somehow, but customer loyalty is key to the growth of any operator."
In one of his speeches, the Chairman, Association of Licenced Telecoms Operator of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo said customer loyalty could be measured solely by asking one question, does our customer recommend your network to his friends and acquaintances? He said customer satisfaction, true loyalty, as measured by recommendation, is much more powerful indicator of a customer’s return business.
Adebayo said it was delightful to note that the regulator has done appreciably well by holding consumer feedback forum on regular basis through the Consumer Parliament and other similar initiatives, there is need for operators too to hold consumer forum, on their own, to give an opportunity to their subscribers to discuss unresolved complaints as well as concerns, "it shouldn’t just be promos and winning of luxury items alone."
Another study conducted on customer loyalty also informed that almost 25 per cent of all customer callers said they left a company solely based on their experience with the company’s customer care representatives. Furthermore, the survey indicated that 76 per cent of customers who had a bad experience shared it with others.
The ALTON president noted that in today’s information-driven society, these unhappy customers can use mass messaging to broadcast their opinion to millions of potential customers in just few seconds, but on the other hand, 94 per cent of callers who had positive customer service interactions said they would remain on the same network.
A Lagos-based telecoms expert, Tayo Osofisan posited that some of the operators solely focus on the bottom line of revenues beyond customer satisfaction and by not doing the right investment in empowering contact centre agents with the authority to make on-the-spot customer complaint resolution, this will continue to see an erosion of their client base.
Speaking in an interview with The Guardian, the president of the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, said it was worrisome that operators are only interested in growing their subscribers base without paying adequate attention to efforts at ensuring satisfactory customer care experience.
"If there is any major excruciating experience being faced by telecoms subscribers in this country today, aside the so obvious intermittent challenge of quality of service obtained on the networks of operators, it is the poor customer care response that is becoming a thorn on the flesh of our service providers."
According to him, whether a subscriber wants to make a request about new service offerings available or to resolve a service challenge, "it is often the case that you either find it difficult to access the dedicated customer line of the concerned operator or where the line goes through, you are made to wait for minutes or hours before a customer service representative attends to you. Atimes, you could be asked to visit their websites, which means you spend extra money to browse before your problem could be resolved."
But to further empower consumers of telecommunications services in the country, the NCC has set up machinery to review the Consumer Code of Practice Regulations of 2007.
To achieve this, the commission in December 2011, established an Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF), in collaboration with other industry stakeholders such as the Consumer Protection Council, the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, the Nigerian Bar Association of Nigeria, telecoms advocacy bodies, as well as, other key consumer advocacy representatives in the country.
Speaking at the ICAF forum in Lagos, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, said the forum would act in advisory capacity and make recommendations to the telecommunications regulator regarding the interest and concerns of consumers of Information and Communications Technology products and services including persons with disabilities and the elderly.
Besides, Juwah explained that this move by the NCC came from investigation conducted with the discovery of some sharp practices in the industry, which negates the tenets operators pledged to abide by, "consumer constitutes a major stakeholder in telecoms industry and as such, enjoys a primary focus at the commission."
He added that it is a core responsibility of the commission to see that the industry at all times satisfies the various needs of consumers where possible.
Expectedly, the ALTON president believed that operators must locate consumer helpdesks nearer to subscribers and work to solve each complaints and inquiry that is received individually, with the ongoing increase and diversification of the complaints and inquiries, the service agents are required to have greater knowledge of the entire service of their company and its subscribers. He equally said consumer awareness was very important; operators should do more enlightenment to their subscribers, including basic information of network upgrade, envisaged disruptions in service, impact of other services on service delivery and service quality level.
Adebayo advised that training of personnel to strengthen consumer support and creation of courses and a certification system will help, in order to offer broad-ranging education on telecommunication services to those people who work at consumer helpdesks.
Airtel Chief Executive Officer, Rajan Swaroop said the company has re-doubled its efforts to ensure customer satisfaction was taken to the next level.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, August 13, 2012