Customer service is key to reducing churn in Africa’s competitive prepaid mobile market, but service quality varies enormously among operators and could serve to differentiate one from another, according to a KPMG report.
KPMG studied 106 providers of prepaid mobile services in 25 countries including South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, according to a report in TechCentral.
The most notable finding of the survey is that “managing the end-to-end customer experience is increasingly important to winning and retaining customers.” This is particularly true for emerging markets like South Africa, which is becoming more competitive making winning new customers far more costly than retaining existing customers.
KPMG found that African markets differ markedly from the rest of the world, partly because prepaid customers are so much more common on the continent than elsewhere. Most customers buy airtime or bundles using retailers, ATMs and online banking and seldom through operators’ own branded retail outlets.
Although operators in Africa have found more innovative ways of taking Sims and top-ups to the market through informal channels, there are fewer direct points of contact at which to manage the complete customer experience, said Johan Smith, head of KPMG’s Africa telecommunications group.
Customers also associate their experience going through informal channels with the brand of the mobile operator, he said. “The onus is then on the operator to invest in broader programs focused on driving consistency in the customer’s experience with the brand, its products and services, regardless of the channel being used.”
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For example, Smith says the majority of prepaid customers belong to lower income groups. Those in rural areas may only ever interact with mobile operators’ brands through informal retail channels.
Consumers are able to contact operators using their call centers but may have lengthy waits before speaking to an agent. He says there is also no “cross-selling” taking place – a missed opportunity.
Generally, Africans’ first interaction with an operator is when they register their Sim cards, “and often this is not a pleasant experience,” Smith said. He cites long waits, poor product knowledge and complex pricing plans as some key challenges. “Additionally, many people in Africa carry multiple Sim cards, so when it comes to topping up they look at differentiators from a pricing and benefits perspective.”
Adding to the mix of complexities that African operators face are structuring deals or benefits that are more appealing, yet still competitive and profitable. Customer experience is where operators should be differentiating themselves, Smith said.
The survey also found that interactive voice recording menu systems for most mobile operators are too long and require excessive waits before being able to speak to someone.
“Today, consumers don’t need a reason to leave an operator, but they do need a compelling reason to stay with one,” Smith said. “As the number of available mobile product and service options increase, delivering a best-in-class customer experience becomes less straightforward. However, it undoubtedly needs to be a top priority.”