Cell Phone Services: Bangladesh Perspective- Part I

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Cell phone Services: Bangladesh perspective- Part I

Introduction:

Doing business means serving some segments of human needs; and with the passage of time knowledge and expertise-spheres of humankind turned the service itself into a business when even a tangible-goods manufacturers are eager to call their products a service per se.  Alike human nature, do all the services customers consume really what percepted as services? What if one raise question about the core service product –say for an example- Cell phone? What about the services that meant for customers are indeed well communicated and understood, particularly in a country like Bangladesh, will remain be a question in the critics’ mind where the quality of tangible goods are in doubt either as ever.  In the following paragraphs we would dare to explore the fundamental nature of Customer Services and the situation prevailing in Bangladesh.

Objectives:

The rationales of sparing time and energy in this type of inscriptions are to try to look into one more time the concepts and practices of Customers Services in the real world picturesque of Bangladesh. Where every color of collars feel the need for customer services; talked about services & businesses provided but not conceptualized or sometimes rather not understood as and how should it be- explanation abstained; the dilemma haunting both for the providers and receivers. 

Concepts of Services Marketing  & Cell Phone Services Marketing in Bangladesh:

Business, philosophy, services and products are now a days reached in such a phenomenal atmosphere where the defining and understanding the definitions, and what really it perceived seem to be walking on a thin line. No two business concerns agree with each other to the matter of definition, practice and conceptions. This is more true and disturbing when it comes in the business condition of Bangladesh where the value system and service conception seem like living in a distance of world apart even though from the top to bottom, white collar to general mass time and again, here and there customers found to express their resentment for bad customer services. This is truer in the case of Cell phone businesses in Bangladesh.

Thomas Watson   Junior, son of the founder of IBM and a one time Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation wrote a book called ‘A Business and its Beliefs’. In it he explains the beliefs upon which IBM is based.  The most important IBM’s philosophy is  – the respect for the individual. This is a simple concept, but in IBM it occupies a major portion of management time. We devote more effort to it than anything else.  Years ago IBM ran an advertisement saying simply in bold types “IBM Means Service”. Thomas Watson still considers that is the best ever advertisement of IBM.  IBM’s philosophy is largely contained in three simple beliefs:

a.)           Have respect for the individual,

b.)          Achieve the best customer service,

c.)           Do everything in a superior, and therefore excellent, manner. 1

No one seems satisfied, particularly potential customers and customers who are actually using any products or services, tangible or intangible, whether Search properties, or Credence properties, now a days in the concurrent market situations nagging the identical complaints as – services not up to the mark, or Bad or no customer services at all (Satirically calling Zero service).  Implying the gap between the perceived service in a product and the services or goods provided in the real situation. In other words value for money not being delivered by the sellers’ ends.  The interesting phenomenon to note that from Professional Managers to the mere petty customers or irrespective of the individuals, all mention the ‘customer service’ attribute – but do the deliverers’ end really realize what matters the most? Still cast some doubts in critics minds apparently of what derives from the customers’ reaction after using the items or services.  Eventually all sales turned to be one-time sales and all become Brand-switchers customers.  Vivid examples of it are the various Cell phone companies’ services. 

Customers services characteristics:

It is no more difficult for laymen in Bangladesh to feel the services utility who are using the Cell phones and who are buying the new products / packages of the different new/old companies services and why.  Because while talking about customer services- there are some characteristics include within the product, e.g.;

Firstly, the product itself a Customer services, and it definitely falls anywhere in the down part of Lynn Shostack’s Tangible/Intangible chart2 if placed with proper attention and care.  Some critics wonder if the Marketing people in the channel of distribution even realize it at all!  Defining a product plays a pivotal role while considering how deeply the customer loyalty and long-term sales related with as the service quality and intensity varies along the nature of products.

Secondly, Supplementary customer services with the core service products also enormously important while the point of leaving or keeping questions arise particularly while the products or services are identical subject to other factors remaining to be the same, such as, well known numbers usually people don’t want to discard. 

Thirdly, the core value, what people really looking for in the core services really depends on the segments of the market.  Further market niche is there- while the talking points arise for the Call rate. Yet this way or that way the tricks, tactics and instincts are playing role while choosing from the varieties- sometimes, the emotional begging in the form of TV commercial do play a part in pursuing the customers to lean on towards, as a study indicates that, in advertising Likeability may be more important than Memorability. Consumers who like a TV Commercial are twice as likely to believe that the brand advertised is best.  In the past, when forced to choose between a stronger selling message and a more pleasant one, admen usually opted for the former. 3  Moreover, customer perceiveness and expectations not sticks with the yesterdays, it changes with time, technology, market forces and information. For example, in the beginning the price of product and distribution channel was vital for the customers, not mentioning the network. As time pass by the supplementary services like billing and front desk behavior came out in the streamline.

Lastly the other value-added services like, call rate and other fringe benefits are considered by the customers. Who these customers are the next stringent question. To be honest they are the actual current users – So, the products itself to them are like Experience Properties.  For brand new customers the economic factor and supplementary utilities are like bonuses.

How far the Customers Services stretched?

The issues are how far a company could go offering the competitive services, or how much value added services a company could offer with its existing core services- or when the customers would be saturated with the services available. The quick answer could be as far as the market niches discovered and the competition exists, as Peter Drucker said in his book ‘Adventures of a Bystander’-  “ People are to not only more interesting and more varied but more meaningful precisely because they develop, unfold, change, and become.”  Hinting the nature of human being, so to potential customers.  Anyhow, the companies’ profit and growth obviously will depend, particularly in the service industry, how well the customers’ evaluated. For better understanding we could produce another research finding which says, 1% customer satisfaction will eventually affect 2.37% on the ROI.6

Obviously the crave for Profits drove the capitals from home, abroad to ventures business in the communication service sectors which is segmented into different types of utility based wireless forms of tele-communications, using the satellite technology and Nano-techs. We already have beyond expectations Four Cell phone companies, popularly branded as GP, Aktel, CityCell,  Banglalink all of them in one or other ways relying heavily upon the foreign Capitals and technology which is also the direct yield of Free Market Economy. But who else thought about the success of communication sector at this level of pace and profitability and service utility a decade ago! Computerization and high-tech development made the world to come to a closer at hands grip so to say. Liberalization of economy and free capital flow got the sector more pace from monopoly (Citycell era) to non-competition (Before Banglalink era) to perfect competition. 

There was time when the cell users had to pay more than more than 50,000/- for connectivity and Tk. 7/- per minute (before Banglalink era),  and now where as people enjoy less paying per minute at Tk. 3.50 per minute (Averagely) , moreover, some offers even free services at certain periods within themselves. Note worthy to mention here that the call generation cost estimated to Tk. 0.30 only. Whereas the all other costs customers are paying would conforms or will help the service providers to build super profits out of the business. Understanding  the economic prospects new phone companies under different types of services and forms started to pour in the market. Cordless phone companies like Rankstell or outdoor antenna phone –Bayphones or other companies land phones with mobile and net surfing utilities recently rampaging the communication market to have the cramp of the market share . And the opportunity of earning profits to the core tangible gadgets /handsets also started booming in Bangladesh. Every new technological development or additional features addition would bring forth business threats to other product segments. For example- the handsets features now affect the still and Video camera market, who knows in the future the upsurge of 3-G phones might threat the vivid presence of Television and Laptop computer market provided that all the computer features are included in the cell phones. 

On the contrary customers never asked for these excellent features though dreaming on! The incitement of invention of technology , particularly nano-tech, customers perception of services from products growing higher than the previous stages. The service providers had to contemplate ahead and slash their profit shares into the investment profile of new opportunity and services, meaning they are on a constant thrive for achieving a competitive edge, and guarding against market pressure and threat which even could be fatal to the existence at a flying colors level for a long  term. 

But are the customers’ interest taken cares of? Do the customers get what they perceive? In other words do the Service Providers care? The arguments and logics are frequently flowing both directions to and fro. Customers knowledge and expertise of using the mini-high tech utilities are sometimes complex to a big chunk of customer segments who just using their phone features for calling out and receiving in.  This may be rather an excuse for the companies to evade the criticism and shortfalls of services they are rendering to.  We could do an investigative look how the services actually coming in to the user-ends.

Cell phone services criteria in Bangladesh:

In the following diagram efforts exerted to explain the customers services components of various cell phone companies that are active in the market.  Due to knowledge-base enrichment, technological improvements and competition the cell-phone companies have been on a tug-of-war situation. Various types of benefits and supplementary facilities and services now alluring customers have became a no surprise to customers.

Various Cell-phone Customer Services/ Services Business

Products6

Value Added

& Maintenance

Info & Knowledge

Trouble Shooting

E-Marketing

Diagram –1

In Bangladesh’s perspective we could classify the services into five major segments:

At present  a total of 10,750,000 people irrespective of demographic segmentation are using Cell phone(s).  Of which a significant number of people are having more than one services or Sims. Out of this total the Grameen Phone holds the lion share of 51%, the second bigger market share  goes to Aktel  which stands at 23%, and the third and and fourth position goes to Citycell (14%) and Banglalink (9%) respectively. Shown in Table –1

Table-1                                    Cell Phone Companies and their Market Shares in Bangladesh

Cell Phone Service Providers

Total Number of Users/ Market Share

Remarks

Grameen Phone (GP)

4800,000 +

D-Juice is a Co-Brand of GP targeted for the younger generations.

D-Juice (GP)

650,000 +                   Total = 5450,000 + (51%)

Aktel

2500,000 +  (23%)

Banglalink

1000,000 +  (09%)

Previously known as Sheba Telecom sold out to Orascom Telecom.

Citycell

1500,000 +  (14%)

Only the company following the CDMA Technology.

Tele talk and other  private phones

>300,000 (3%)

Other phones include land phones / Wireless phones etc.

Total Cell phone market

10,750,000

A significant number of users do have more than one Sims.

Data collected on November 2005; Sources: Dealers in Chittagong.

In Bangladesh the CDM technology seems not popular due to confinement of customer choices- customers cannot maneuver with their selection of variety of sets, nor the City ell company follows the policy of pro-customer strategy.  Although the Citycell was the pioneer in this business, due to their technological (CDM) inconvenience and pricing policy they could lead the market, although they have enjoyed monopoly market for quite a long period of time. With the GSM technology the rest of the cell phone Operators have got a good penetration in the market with their innovative and timely market intervention, segmentation and strategy.

 

 

Emotional Market segmentation and Value based strategy:

Presently the three GSM type of Cell phone companies e.g., GP, Aktel, and Banglalink are following the market strategy with the mix of Yield Management and demographic emotional aspects. Grameen was the first to adopt the strategy based on human values, offering specific time zone discount prices for all users. Than Aktel  introduced the similar strategy targeting a significant number of customer segments. Then the Banglalink and GP’s co-product D-juice started targeting the youth segments of the society who are supposed to have special relationship/friendship or romantic relationshiips. Citycell was the last to realize the strategy and took a further step ahead.   

Table –2   Cell Phone Companies and their competitive tools or Marketing strategy

Cell Phone Companies

Type of Packages offered based on the Demographic emotions

Grameen  Phone (GP)

**My time

My choice

*F&F

Between 3 GP nos.

G-G

Free Call time

Cheaper rate SMS

** Fixed time zone discounted rate

*Between 2 same lines, Discounted rate

D-Juice (GP Co-Brand)

*U & I

Per call basis tariff

D-D

Free Call time

Aktel

**Your time

*F&F

Per call basis tariff

A-A

Free  Call time

Cheaper rate SMS

Banglalink

Morning time

Night time

*F&F

B-B

Free  Call time

Free  SMS

Cheaper rate SMS

Reduced  rate handsets Bundle offer

Citycell

Toll Free night calling

*One 2  One

C-C

Free Call time

Free  SMS

Cheaper rate SMS

Reduced  rate handsets Bundle offer

Note: A= Aktel, B=Banglalink, C= Citycell, F= Friends & friends, G= Grameen phone.

In July 2006 the students of  Southern University Bangladesh in Chittagong conducted a Survey on Cell phone users with a sample population size of 95.  Some of their findings are depicted  here.

·                 According to the study among three classes of mobile phone users viz., Self-employed, Students and Service-holders Aktel prepaid turned out to be the most widely used cell phone lines (37%), second position is held by Grameen prepaid 31%.

·                 Aktel prepaid  found to be the most popular among the Self -employed people   (34%),  2nd GP Prepaid (22%), 3rd GP postpaid  (19%);  for students  students both GP and Aktel prepaid are most popular  (35% each, i.e., 70%); and for the Service holders Aktel prepaid again came out as the most popular (40%),  2nd is GP prepaid (35%).  But , if the customer spending per month is taken into consideration,  Aktel prepaid earns the most 35% of the total monthly bill basis. Nevertheless, if post and prepaid bills considered together Grameen phone occupied the number one position (44%).

·                 The study also depicted that most of the time (61-90%) cell phones are used for official or professional purposes in the case of Service-holders and Self-employed persons, which is not the same in the case of Student class.

·                 In Bangladesh according to the study Grameen phone occupies the popularity in the criteria of Network and Customer care service which is voted by the other Cell phone users’ by perceptions. But ambiguity and disagreement also found when Convenience factor matters. Yet, Teletalk turned out to be the best Convenient in the eye of other cell phone users’ perceptions, though the Citycell and Bangla link users supported themselves as the best convenient service provider cellphone companies.

·                 Customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction really matters in the success and sustainability of cell phone business in the long run. But the study shows among the satisfied Aktel users 5% expressed their views for changing the line, which is 13% for Grameen Phone, and 14% for Bangla link users for one or other reasons.  While among the non-satisfied users, 3% Aktel , 2%  GP  customers turned out to be indifferent.  The study shows there are reasons and more deep rooted perceptions and emotions are engrooved among the customers decision making processes regarding the customers service. Customer loyalty is not automatically correlated or guaranteed with the customer satisfactions.

Pricing Strategy or Bluffing:

All the price rates of all the companies are not transparent.  For example when the call rate offered is said to be the lowest as Tk. 0.30, doesn’t mean as flat as it seems- one might ask the clarification if it is for between the same company or is it for per minute or per pulse. If it is per pulse, then it means different rate per minute for different companies, as the pulses are varied from one to another.  Moreover, when the package order is offered for Tk. 300/- , one needs to be clarified if it includes any hidden expenses to be borne by the customers in the future or is it just the installment of the total price, which might be three or four folds of the face installment value.  

Customers would argue why one would pay for 60 seconds when used only 10seconds! Now Aktel have come to answer that question offering per second pulse. But it is to be noted all the packages don’t have the same symmetrical facilities or features as seems, meaning there remained marketers jobs to be remained for ever…grabbing one aspect at a time rather than adopting “ keeping all eggs in one basket” strategy. That’s why it is to be studied yet how many Sims of different companies now  a days the users are holding as it is very much  common to have more than one Sims. So, in other words Users are switching or increasing will remain be the question.  But the Service providers job is to bring out the savings out of the customers pocket, no matter who he / she is using. 

Contd.

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