M. Dinesh Varma

Growth of mobile telephony strains customer support mechanisms

Tamil Nadu has more than 1.5 crore subscribers

The quality of services has deteriorated: TRAI

CHENNAI: Subscriber satisfaction levels among mobile users are falling below the prescribed benchmarks, adding ominous discordant notes to the otherwise amazing growth of mobile telephony in the State.

Tamil Nadu has more than 1.5 crore mobile subscribers and is adding five lakh new subscribers every month. However, the exponential growth of the mobile telephony market is straining the resources of customer support mechanisms evolved by the operators. In its latest quarterly review of the scenario across the country, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) says the quality of services had deteriorated in relation to parameters such as good voice quality and response time to the customer request for assistance in terms of calls answered (electronically) within 40 seconds and percentage of calls answered by operator (voice to voice) within 90 seconds.

All cellular mobile service providers had achieved the prescribed benchmark in respect of parameters such as call drop rate, percentage of calls answered (electronically) within 20 seconds and period of all refunds/payment due to customers from the date of resolution of complaints. The performance also improved in this quarter, compared with the previous quarter in respect of the percentage of calls answered (voice to voice) within 60 seconds.

Consumer activist T. Sadagopan says subscribers of most providers have a harrowing time filing a complaint through a call centre. “Some call centre staff lack a perspective of customer relations. Often, no docket number is provided, and the customer ends up calling different staffers to follow up on a complaint.”

BSNL, which is in the middle of a yearlong re-dedication to the cause of the customer, has recently opened a dedicated help centre in Flower Bazaar to strengthen customer care. All calls to its helpline operated from Bangalore land here, and only if the line here is busy does the call get re-routed.

“An estimated 25 per cent of the traffic is dealt with here to reduce downtime,” an official said.

However, on the flip side, the Flower Bazaar facility does not function during after-office hours. Other measures have included networking assistant engineers and junior telecom officers through Wide Area Network to monitor faults and deputing 12 customer relations managers for corporate clientele.

Rajiv Rajgopal, CEO, Airtel Mobile Services, said it was a challenge to scale up service delivery mechanism, not just in terms of volumes but also of meeting customer expectations.

Airtel has tried to do this by leveraging technological expertise to cope with customers’ changing needs and expectations.

Besides developing the e-CRM (customer relationship management) solution to capture the minutiae of detail of a customer, the company has inbuilt checks and balances to test customer satisfaction.

Besides, from each process, critical resources listen to at least five calls per week to understand customer constraints and turn in the required process modification. The introduction of short codes has also helped subscribers access a host of Airtel touchpoints on phone.

A spokesman for Reliance Communications saidthe company had in place a State-wide network of over 250 company franchised outlets and more than 40, 000 retail outlets to serve customers. Apart from an in-house Reliance retail help desk, Reliance runs a 24/7 helpline that can be accessed by customers from anywhere in the country. Several subscribers who felt they were unhappy with their provider said they chose not to switch operator only to retain their number.

The choices could open up for such subscribers once the TRAI prescription for Mobile Number Portability facility—under which a subscriber can switch operators and retain the original number—comes through.

Recently, the TRAI forwarded to the DoT the draft request for appointing a Mobile Number Portability Clearing House Administrator for providing and operating an end-to-end mobile number portability solution.