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The Many Woes of Customer Service Delivery in Telecom

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It is a popular saying that a customer in every service driven business such as telecom is king and therefore should be treated as such. The subscriber in the business of telecommunications is the reason for the business because, if services are provided and nobody subscribe to it, there is no business, as the provider of such service will not have returns to sustain such service. More so, the business of telecom is driven by the number of subscribers to the services being rendered by the operators, this accounts for the intensity of promotions that operators run, which are geared towards retaining loyalty of their subscriber as well woo new ones to the network.
Consumers of Telecommunications products and services in Nigeria today are varied and their tastes, needs and expectations are also varied. They number over 70 million today and are spread across the vast geographical area of the country, and have become more aware of the usefulness and potentials of ICT products and services.
There are corporate, communal, institutional, individual and many other categories of users of telecom and ICT products and services. Conceptually, the consumer includes the high political office holders, the movers and shakers of the society, the youths, the entrepreneur, the artisans, the military rank and file, the fishermen in the Delta, the Fulani pastoralists on Gembu hills, and the rural women who sell crayfish at Zonkwa market, among others.
Today, Consumers of telecoms services in Nigeria are no longer the few who were endowed with the economic power to own a phone in those days when only very few Nigerians could afford the few lines that were available. The reasons of inability to own a phone is no longer much about inability to afford a phone because of very high cost or that locations of business or residence are not covered by any telephone network as, apart from very remote areas, most urban and semi-urban parts of the country is covered today.
Some people have said those who could afford phone services in the era being referred above, were victims, rather than being described as the privileged few when compared with the present day consumers of telecommunications services.
To all intents and purposes, it is easy to agree with this assertion because deregulation of the telecoms industry, with the attendant availability of many networks, providing multifarious products and services, covering far more geographical areas, with millions of Nigerians privileged to own phones services at far lower costs, supports that position. The fact that Nigerians can also sit down today to discuss the place of the consumer in the national telecom equation, provides an insight into the elevated position of the Nigerian telecoms consumer in the scheme of things.
The consumers of telecom products and services, as have indicated, have many desires expected to be met. He wants services available at all times and at every place. The consumer wants the services to be of a good quality and affordable. The consumer wants the operator to respond at all times when he or she needs attention, and to provide explanations whenever anything goes wrong. The consumer wants to be protected at all times from being taken advantage of by service providers. Just like consumers of any services, the consumer of telecom services wants to be well treated.
The important aspect of all these rest on how prepared the staff of network operators saddle to take care of these customers as well as the extent to which customers are being cared for.
The telecom industry no longer talks only about customer service — instead, it is addressing the broader topic of the customer experience, which includes not just the conversations between customer service representatives and customers when something goes wrong, but the full range of customer contact from when a service is ordered to when it is delivered.
Service providers of all types are investing heavily in this customer experience. A recent survey, conducted by Frost & Sullivan and commissioned by Amdocs, found that two-thirds of service providers responding expected to increase their spending on customer service enhancements next year.
And increased investment is what will be required, for many reasons. Chief among them is the reality that, as service providers tries to offer more services and more complex services, like they are doing today, customer service requirements increase exponentially. It is easier for customers to get confused, there are more things that can break and it is harder for customers to decipher competitive offers and determine what they want.
Telecommunications operators have two basic ways to attend to subscribers’ complaint on its network. They establish customer care shops, which are centre designated for solving subscribers complaint that require them to bring either their phone or computer as the case may  be in internet service physically to the shop for the problem to be resolved. Products of such network operator are also sold at customer care centres. Another way through which complaints of subscribers are addressed by operators is through customer service contact centres. A customer service contact centre, is a department in the operations of the network that addresses complaints through voice or email to a toll free line of the network.
Challenges in addressing Complaints
Having a functional customer care shops and contact centre are one leg of effort by operators to take care of their subscribers, while training and monitoring of those working in these departments are another leg which to many is the most important is customer service delivery.
A visit to some telecommunications operators’ customer care shops will explain the need for those working at such centres who act as interface between the company and their subscribers to be well trained both in understanding of the services being rendered by the operating company as well as manner of treating customers. Some of the ‘so called’ trained staff at most customer care centres of greater percentage of operators lack the required technical knowledge of some products at offer to talk of solving some problems that are brought to them. This writer had issues with his data service of one of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operators, he called the customer service centre and the attendant that spoke to him after holding him on for 25 minutes could not resolve the issue but directed him to any customer care centre around his area. When I got to the customer care shop, behold the issue was resolved through recharging the phone with any amount of airtime above N100.
Deolu Ogunbanjo, president, National Association Telecommunications Subscriber of Nigeria (Natcomms) narrated how he was unruly treated at customer care shop of a telecommunications operator, when he went for a welcome back pack at the shop. He was meant to stay two and half hours at the shop because he vehemently condemned the way the attendant treated another customer at the shop. These are few instances of pains that subscribers are meant to go through in the hands of unqualified customer care attendants at customer service centres of telecommunications operators.
In some situations, subscribers have been asked to take their complaints to another customer care shop where more experience people will address their problems, this goes to show that those working in the shop lack the prerequisite knowledge to support services.
Although, there are situations where customers exhibit unwholesome behavour at either customer care shop or when talking to customer service attendant at contact centres, but, during training these staff attendants, they are taught the best way to handle such situation in order not to create bad impression about the network.
Customer service contact centre operators have severally decried the high number of hoax calls- where subscribers call the centre only to start asking the female attendant for an outing appointment.
Some call the contact centres only to listen to the ring back music and the company’s advert jingles, and when attendants pick the call to inquire what the issues are such caller will quarry with the attendant on why he or she stop the music that he is enjoying.
It is against these backdrops that operators introduce Interactive Voice Response (IVR). This is interaction between a human and a computer in which the human caller inputs commands and requests to the computer, which responds in either pre-recorded or synthesized speech form. The human input can be the form of spoken words or as tones sent via the telephone keypad. If the input is speech, IVR is much like having a frustrating conversation with a dimwitted and highly inflexible human call center agent. In a database access application, a voice processing system with IVR capability is positioned as a front end to a general-purpose computer and multiple databases. Through speech recognition technology, and text-to-speech (TTS) capability, and perhaps voice print matching for security, a complete transaction can be accomplished on a voice basis without human involvement and except for the caller, of course. Reservations centers and financial institutions make heavy use of such capabilities in support of routine transactions, thereby reducing staffing levels and providing customer service on a 24 hour basis.
Even as operators have started outsourcing customer care job to others companies believed to be suited for it, as well as reducing ever growing cost, there is need for effectively monitoring especially those that physically interface with subscribers and also equip them with the relevant technical training to support the company’s services and products.

 


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Huawei Launches Mondia Pay on Huawei Mobile Services in Nigeria, Others

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Huawei, in cooperation with digital payment entity, Mondia Pay, now offers Direct Carrier Billing service (DCB), for seamless, contactless payments for users in the MEA region through Huawei Mobile Services (HMS).

Mondia Pay is a leader in the digital payment space and provides a simple, fast and secure way for consumers to pay for services using their mobile phone.

Huawei has been working closely with Mondia Pay, the MEA region’s top digital payments fintech company, as part of its commitment to supporting developers in the MEA region. This strategic partnership will allow for increased DCB coverage and IAP (In-App Purchase) kit capabilities for global developers.

As a result, Huawei and smartphone HONOR users in almost 20 countries including, Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Madagascar, Liberia, and Botswana, will be able to make cashless payments securely without the need for bank cards by downloading the app from Huawei’s Application Store, AppGallery. In addition, Mondia Pay will also market Huawei’s games content in Egypt.

The number of mobile internet subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa has quadrupled since the start of 2010 (World Bank Data) and, for many consumers, it’s the only way they can get online. With low credit card penetration rates in most markets, contactless, online payment solutions can reach wider audiences looking to consume digital content.

“This new partnership with Huawei is an endorsement of Mondia Pay’s industry expertise and deep routed knowledge of Africa. Customers across the continent will benefit from our fully integrated digital payment technology to make frictionless payments in a fast, safe and secure manner. We also support the natural progression towards cashless societies, fast-tracked by current affairs such as COVID-19,” said Simon Rahmann, CEO Mondia Pay.

Mondia Pay is available on Huawei’s AppGallery as direct carrier billing and e-wallet services to facilitate online consumer payments. Huawei’s AppGallery allows users to explore the best local and global apps.

Adam Xiao, Managing Director, HMS and Consumer Cloud Service for Huawei Consumer Business Group MEA, said: “We welcome the opportunity to partner with Mondia Pay to provide our users across the MEA region with even more payment options.

Mondia Pay allows for contactless payment without the need for bank cards in a safe and secure manner that protects the privacy of users. This partnership is part of Huawei’s ongoing commitment to make it easier for local and global developers to offer their services to millions more people in the MEA region.”


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Sub-Saharan Africa 5G Connections to Reach 18m by 2025 – Report

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Mobile technologies and services are expected to significantly increase in Sub-Saharan Africa, with over 137 million new mobile subscribers forecast to be added in the region by 2025.

An estimated 27% (165 million) of total mobile connections will be made on 4G and 3% (18.4 million) on 5G, by this period.

This is according to the latest “Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2020” research report released by the GSM Association (GSMA) to coincide with the GSMA Thrive Africa virtual event.

It consists of an in-depth study that explores the latest data, forecasts and mobile trends for the region.

According to the report, mobile-enabled platforms and services will increasingly disrupt traditional value chains in Sub-Saharan Africa, as it remains the fastest-growing mobile region globally, with 477 million mobile subscribers at the end of 2019.

The additional 137 million subscribers expected over the next five years will take the total mobile subscriber base to just over 614 million, representing around half the population in the region and a CAGR growth rate of 4.3%.

While spectrum availability will promote strong growth in 4G and 5G connectivity over the next few years, 3G mobile connections will continue to dominate the region, says the GSMA.

The report calculates the strong growth in mobile connectivity across Sub-Saharan Africa will generate around $184 billion in economic value contributed to the region’s GDP by 2024.

“The findings from our Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa report clearly show the importance and value of digital connectivity,” says Akinwale Goodluck, head of Africa, GSMA.

“Realising the full potential of a progressive digital future requires an informed policy debate. Governments and policymakers should implement policies to enhance access to connectivity and drive investment in more resilient digital infrastructure for the future.

This is crucial to reactivating the region’s economy post-COVID-19 despite the sizable contribution mobile technologies and services generated in 2019, growing at 9% of regional GDP.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the digital landscape around the world, and the mobile industry in Sub-Saharan Africa has largely risen to the challenge of keeping individuals and businesses connected during the pandemic, despite changes in data consumption patterns, the report points out.

However, with nearly 800 million people in the region still not connected to the mobile Internet, it has never been more urgent to close the digital divide, it advises.

Mobile money services, infrastructure and mobile-based content/services, as well as the application of mobile big data for social good, are expected to record the highest rise in the next five years, notes the report.

“The 2020s will see strong growth in the number of Africans connected to mobile broadband. As 4G and 5G grow together throughout the decade to come, spectrum preparation can drive cost-efficiency and promote growth,” according to the GSMA.

“Efficient and effective management of spectrum is also key to maximise the opportunities that mobile connectivity can bring to society. Making sure the required spectrum resources are available under the right conditions will lower broadband costs, increase coverage and boost connectivity.”

In 2018, mobile technologies and services supported almost 3.5 million jobs (directly and indirectly) and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with almost $15.6 billion raised through taxation, according a previous report.

As countries increasingly benefit from the improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by the increased take-up of mobile services, this is expected to significantly boost the informal economy, which accounts for a large part of the mobile ecosystem in Sub-Saharan Africa, notes the GMSA.

Nigeria and Ethiopia will record the fastest growth rates of mobile connectivity, between now and 2025, growing at 19% and 11% respectively, it adds.


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Ndukwe Reveals Secret of MTN’s Dominance Of Nigeria’s Telecoms Space

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Dr Ernest Ndukwe, Erstwhile Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has been speaking on why foremost telecommunications services provider, MTN, has continued to dominate the Nigerian telecom space like a colossus.

Ndukwe, speaking on Tuesday as a guest at the Virtual Digital Africa VIP Leadership Series powered by Digital Africa, organisers of the annual Digital Africa Conference & Exhibitions, noted that three factors – strong financial position, good management and discipline in terms of managing resources, separate MTN from the rest of the pack.

“I think it is important to say that MTN is a particularly disciplined company right from its roots; it has always been a well-run organization. It has not had the board squabbles of its competitions. Since the first board of MTN (Nigeria), some of the board members just retired last year (2019). Meanwhile, their competitions have had various owners, various quarrels, and various issues,” he said.

Ndukwe, who is the Chairman of MTN Nigeria Board, said that nobody can be blamed for this position as the way organisations manage their affairs translates to the kind of position they occupy in the business environment.

“One thing that people don’t know also is that for the first five years of existence of MTN in Nigeria, it did not pay dividends to its shareholders. They recognized the importance of scale and were pumping in all the earnings, all the profits into building networks. They started building their own microwave links; they started building their own fibre optic links all across the country because it’s a matter of planning.

“Let it be said that technology changes, the best company today might not be the best company tomorrow. A few years ago, Facebook was not on the reckoning but today, is a much bigger company. People might not make it in terms of telecommunications service delivery because in certain countries, there is actually a certain number after which the market gets saturated. There are opportunities in the technology space; all that is needed is for operators to discover them and leverage.

“When Zoom started, no person knew it was going to scale to the level it has now reached; thanks to Coronavirus. People should continue to look for opportunities and niche markets and go there because that’s where they can scale. There are many companies that are doing very well in the financial technology space in the country too.”

Dr. Ndukwe also talked about NITEL, 5G, the Stock Market, companies he admires in Nigeria and the concept of a single African Telecoms network.


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