Participants at the Industry Consumer Advocacy Forum (ICAF) 4th Quarter Open Forum held yesterday in Lagos has unanimously agreed that a lot still needs to be done to ensure consumers of telecommunications services enjoy absolute customer experience from operators.
In her welcome address, Designated NCC Officer (DNO) to ICAF and Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) Mrs. Felicia Onwuegbuchulam noted that with increased competition, service providers are getting closer to consumers. She, however, noted that the needs of consumers are changing rapidly and service providers need to factor these in. “In order to remain relevant, telecom operators need to invest more in retaining and serving their customers. Creating exceptional Customer Experience will tackle these concerns and lead to a general increase in Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) given that the demand from customers for multi-play services such as broadband, mobile wallets, data, and content, can actually boost revenue if customers can be retained.”
She advised, that to keep pace with the changing needs of consumers, service providers need to put consumers first and take “large technological leaps” which has already started with the growth in TouchPoints, providing the opportunities to evolve from customer service to customer experience.
In her speech, the outgoing ICAF Chairman, Professor Felicia Monye, who is also the president of Consumer Awareness Organisation (CAO) expressed satisfaction in the activities of ICAF to the progressive benefit of telecom consumers in the country and challenged all stakeholders to strive towards the protection of consumers, and transit from just rendering customer service to extending good customer experience.
The ICAF was established in February 2009 to harness the views and efforts of critical stakeholders on issues of quality service delivery and consumer protection in the Nigerian ICT space.
Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management at NCC, Mr. Sunday Dare, whose speech was read on his behalf by Mrs. Felicia Onwuegbuchulam applauded ICAF noting that the Forum deserves the industry’s collective praise because of its valuable recommendations and deployment of pivotal initiatives that include the declaration of 2017 as the “Year of the Consumer”, the subscribers’ registration exercise, Mobile Number Portability (MNP) and service provisioning for people with special needs, among others.
While noting that more still needs to be done, Mr. Dare further acknowledged: “I must also acknowledge your very valuable inputs into key instruments affecting the industry such as the Critical Infrastructure Bill, the Communications Tax Bill and the Bye-laws developed by the NCC over the years to improve service delivery.”
He further pointed to some of the initiatives from NCC that promote consumer experience to include the Quality of Service Key Performance Indicators (QoS KPIs); imposing obligations to eliminate unsolicited SMS through the “2442/DND”; frontally tackling issues of call masking, forced Value Added Services (VAS) and data subscription. Others include mandating operators to establish customer service centers in all State Capitals and major towns; setting up of second-level fault resolution mechanisms such as the NCC “626” free channel phone link among others.
He, however, noted that the Consumer Experience challenge before the industry now is to ensure the proactive removal of all impediments to technology adoption, and identify ICT Pain points even before they occur, and address them before they become an issue.
In her presentation on “Enhancing Consumer Satisfaction And Growth Through Service Delivery”, Managing Director of Jaeno Digital Solutions, Mrs. Mary Uduma, encouraged a synergic relationship between the regulator, consumers and service providers with a target of satisfying the consumers’ needs.
While stating that the regulator owes service providers the job of providing enabling regulatory environment; protecting operators’ investments and enforcing standards and compliant best practices, she charged the operators ensure they fulfill their own side of the bargain by filling in their periodic reports and complying with regulatory standards. She further encouraged consumers to trust and utilize regulatory platforms provided by the NCC and be aware of the regulatory functions of the Commission; while the NCC will ensure it empowers consumers, provide platforms that will benefit them and protect them.
Mrs. Uduma further pointed out that enhancing customer growth and satisfaction will further improve competitiveness in the industry, attract investments, build trust between industry player and foster innovation and productivity, among others.
According to her, service providers can boost their delivery to consumers by also ensuring the welfare of employees, institutionalizing the Know Your Customer (KYC) scheme, engaging in regular consumer outreach and rewards and incorporating integrated service delivery platforms.
She further charged operators to embark on research and development while also training and retraining their employees. They should also implement Consumer Feedback Mechanism to ensure consumer trust and loyalty.
Mrs. Uduma noted that: “the road towards achieving excellent service delivery for enhanced consumer satisfaction and growth is paved with activities and initiatives that require the involvement of industry players.”
Also speaking on behalf of the President of the Association of Licenced Telecommunication s Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, the Administrative Secretary of the Association, Mr. Gbolahan Awonuga pointed out that telecom operators in Nigeria have been expending their best efforts to ensure excellent customer experience, but various environmental challenges are adversely impacting service delivery.
While recognizing that the telecom service sector has been the most consumer-centric sector among all others, ALTON noted that its members are always innovating to improve on their consumer experience services.
Mr. Awonuga pointed out some challenges and reasons that hamper quality service delivery to include multiple taxation and regulation; security challenges exhibited in theft, vandalism and outright sabotage of network equipment; power supply issues and community issues that can disrupt scheduled maintenance of cell sites.
He, however, noted that despite these challenges, telecom operators have continued to innovate in the delivery of excellent customer experience to their customers.
The forum tried to distinguish the difference between customer satisfaction and customer experience, noting that operators should go beyond ensuring that consumers are satisfied with the product or service they just purchased, and move on to ensure that consumers have lasting quality experience after the service or product has been delivered.
The event which also marked the handing over of leadership baton from Professor Felicia Monye, the outgoing Chairman of ICAF to Prince Igho Majemite as the new Chairman,
Professor Felicia Monye introduced the incoming chairman and pleaded with members to extend the same support given her during her two-year tenure to Prince Majemite.