Dr. Abdul Malek Al Jaber, president and managing partner, Peppers & Rogers Group tells CommsMEA how it’s crucial for the operators in the region to look at customer experience in a new way and transform contact centres from being cost centres to revenue generators
Evolution of market needs and customer behaviour has created the pressure for telcos to transform digitally. Providing personalised customer service is crucial for reducing churn and increasing profits.
In addition, strategic partnerships can go a long way in profitably positioning telcos as digital lifestyle providers. Dr. Al Jaber of PRG sheds some light on how PRG is striving to transform the way telcos capitalise their contact centres and effectively monetise all the resources they have.
CommsMEA: Which are the telcos in the region you are working with?
Dr. Al Jaber: We are working with almost all the telcos in the region. STC is a key strategic partner. Apart from that we are working with du, Turk Telecom, and Turkcell. We are already working with Ooredoo Kuwait and are also in discussions with Ooredoo group to work with its other OpCos. We have also worked with Etisalat in past. We are also talking with MTN which is one of the key players in the region.
CommsMEA: Could you elaborate on the kind of projects you work with the telcos?
Dr. Al Jaber: All the projects are all around customer experience. In markets that have really tough competition, for example, KSA or Kuwait, understanding the customer behaviour becomes even more important. So, what we do actually is we go in the opco, conduct full data analytics to understand the different segmentations and sub-segmentations of the customers in a comprehensive manner and thereafter, we infer the NBA/NBO (Next Best Action/Offer).
With STC for example, we were able to identify, 230 NBOs. That means whenever a customer comes to any touch point of the opco, STC automatically knows the exact segmentation wherein the customer fits and accordingly decides on the right NBO or NBA. The deal we did with STC was based on revenue share. We managed to bring an incremental revenue of SAR 1 billion to STC.
By deep diving into the customer journey, one can actually understand what a customer truly needs. The current market scenario has no place for cut and paste offers. It’s no more just about selling something to the customer; rather it’s about making the life of the customer easier. The basic principle of PRG is that each customer is a unique customer and has to be served differently or uniquely.
In the past, if a customer was angry, he either picks up the phone and calls you or he goes to your office. In the worst case scenario, he talks to his friends, and his neighbours. Nowadays, thanks to social media: if a customer is angry, the whole world knows. Moreover, you can no longer force the customer to communicate just with you. Keeping this in mind, PRG tailors omni-channel customer experience solutions which respond with accuracy regardless of what channel a customer is using.
I feel that this region is increasingly understanding the need to emphasise customer experience. The need in the telecom industry for this kind of a mind shift is enormous. No telco can survive today in a competitive market unless it really appreciates and respects the intelligence of the customer and understand that each customer needs to be served differently. You can’t just tell a customer what he needs. That’s a thing of the past. Today, one needs to listen to the customer, and dive into his journey to know what he needs.
CommsMEA: How do you compare the relative understanding of customer experience in various countries of the GCC?
Dr. Al Jaber: Saudi Arabia is definitely on the top. It’s often seen that the dominant market players tend to relax. That’s not so for STC. Instead, the telco is pushing the competitors with new ideas and innovations it’s introducing into the market. Kuwait is also realising the importance of customer experience due to the competition between Zain, Ooredoo, and Viva. In the UAE as well, the pressure to move ahead comes with increasing focus on customer experience.
CommsMEA: What’s your take on omni-channel customer care in the region? Is it for real or are companies just confusing it with multi-channel customer care?
Dr. Al Jaber: The region still doesn’t have many instances of omni-channel customer experience. Unfortunately, the contact centre experience still continues to be quite primitive. We need to understand that omni channel is not about having additional channels in different siloes; rather it refers to same level of care and same accuracy of response regardless of the channel.
In the region, so far, it’s just about multi-channel monitoring of customer feedbacks only to transfer to customer care at the end. That needs to change. We are in discussions with three big operators to transform their contact centres into truly omni-channel experiences. That will not just save costs, but also transform contact centres from being cost centres to revenue generators.
CommsMEA: In your opinion, what are the main challenges for the region’s telcos?
Dr. Al Jaber: Customer experience is at the core of all challenges. It’s something that telcos need to understand and that too with a changed mindset. It will not suffice to have customer experience division as a sub-division under marketing. It has to be a whole department in itself. Only then, it can change the whole direction of the company.
Another thing to keep in mind is that investments in customer experience shouldn’t be driven by the incremental revenues that can be brought to the company consequently; instead, the focus should shift to the revenue that a company might stand to lose if it doesn’t invest in understanding its customer needs. The strategic thinking of telcos has to change.
CommsMEA: What’s next on the radar for PRG?
Dr. Al Jaber: We will keep pushing customer experience. And additionally, the other thing we will be focusing on is data monetisation through understanding of the digital journey of the customers. Proper understanding of the customer can go a long way in not just retaining the customer with the business but also in generating additional revenues by providing to the customer additional services that he might have the need for.
CommsMEA: Could you give us a backgrounder of Peppers and Rogers group?
Dr. Al Jaber: Peppers & Rogers Group is part of a MNC named TeleTech based in the US (Colorado). TeleTech is a NASDAQ listed company with 45,000 employees working in 75 countries. It has the largest global companies as its clientele. TeleTech is the number 1 strategic partner for Google. TeleTech has different arms, one of which is called Care. In old terminology, this is basically the contact centre division. We now call it Care because that industry has evolved a lot, thanks to the power of social media.
TeleTech also has a consulting arm wherein PRG fits. PRG was acquired by TeleTech almost five years ago. PRG was founded by one of the legends of customer experience called Don Peppers and Martha Rogers. Their publications still continue to be reference publications for customer experience worldwide. Don Peppers until today is one of the most popular speakers around the world to talk about customer experience.
CommsMEA: How long has been the Peppers and Rogers group operating in this region?
Dr. Al Jaber: PRG has been in this region for more than 15 years, way before it was acquired by TeleTech. It was based in Turkey before moving to Dubai. We still have a large operation in Turkey. PRG is the leading consultancy company which is fully focused on customer experience. We don’t work on customer experience just in theory but also it’s customer experience in practice. We go beyond the consulting and go all the way to implementation as well.
The relationships we have with our clients is much more than providing them with best practices in customer experience. We work on a revenue share model. We get a percentage of the incremental revenue we bring to our clients. Our money comes after our ideas have been successfully implemented, and the promised results are delivered. PRG is quite active in the MEA region. We have offices in Turkey, Dubai and Lebanon. And we are on the way to open/register our office in Saudi Arabia, because it’s one of our big markets. We are also working in Kuwait and Qatar.
CommsMEA: Do you also have plans of expanding into Africa?
Dr. Al Jaber: Africa is a target market for sure. We used to have an office in South Africa. But currently, the Saudi market is bringing in enormous opportunities because of the Vision 2030 and the shift of the whole structure of the Saudi economy towards non-oil based economy. We expect our business in Saudi Arabia to grow 5X in 2017 compared to this year and this year is already bigger than last year, because of the transformation in Saudi Arabia. The UAE is a big market as well. We are also focussing on Qatar because of the upcoming world cup.
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