Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mobilink - Horrible Customer Relationship Management

Mobilink is the largest mobile service provider in Pakistan, although its quickly been loosing its market share to its competitors (Ufone, Warid, Telenor and Zong). If I were to analyze mobilink, here are my thoughts:

1. Slow mover. They've been around for the longest time. They were successful in out smarting Paktel and some other company - but it was an easy win given the lack of decent management in any one of those firms.
But even with this advantage, they've been caught with their pants down ever since the new telco's arrived in Pakistan. Their customer base was just itching to jump ship and couldnt be more glad with competition arriving
2. Good enterprise penetration. This is probably the only plus for mobilink as they've managed to hold on to the enterprise market. But slowly and surely, their higher rates and lack of good customer service will catch up
3. Quality and Coverage. Their call quality and coverage isnt all that great, but hey neither is that of the others - so not much competition!
4. GPRS/Edge. Telenor's the clear leader in launching of edge services, but mobilink does seem to have awaken to the need. They're still playing catch up though
5. Blackberry. Mobilink was first to launch exclusive blackberry service and held the monopoly in Pakistan for some years. Only recently has Ufone entered this market. I'm not a crackberry person, so not something I get high on
6. Little connection with the young crowd. My firm deals with a certain telco product and so I know from at least some data that we have that mobilink has lost the touch with the younger crowd. Its a matter of time before this crowd gets into the enterprise and drive out mobilink from there as well!An Advertisement by mobilink - better spend the money upgrading that CRM!

In the end, if you're wondering why I decided to leave, well I got a call barring error one fine day while making an international call. Since I've been a mobilink post-paid user for 3 years, I thought it must be some mistake. But to my surprise on calling their helpdesk I was told to increase my security (I used a CC, so all they had to do was get pre-authorization on it), but to treat a premium user who has paid his bills for 3 years on time like this just made my blood boil.
I got hold of the supervisor, gave him a good lecture on customer service and he had my international dialing turned on in a few hours.
Then a few days later I get a call from a mobilink agent asking me to verify:
1. My name
2. My NIC
3. Other numbers being used in the house
4. Other telco providers whose SIM was being used in my family (I told the agent to mind their business on that one)
5. Address

Then a few hours later, their courier came by to verify the home address in person AND got my NIC number as well.

A few days later, I get a call by another mobilink CSR asking the SAME questions. I was a little perturbed but cooperated. Then a few days later my international dialing gets turned off again! I call the helpdesk only to find out that the PTCL number I had on file could not be verified. Well, the morons in PTCL had equally lousy service and so i decided to stop paying my bills to them. And since when is there a requirement to have a working PTCL (Land line) number to get a cell? I'm told by mobilink its a PTA requirement??. Anyhow I ask that next time they feel like disconnecting my service they should atleast call and inform me before carrying the disconnection out. In case you're wondering I gave them my office PTCL and got international dialing enabled.

Ahh - I wish that were the end, but then I get a call a few days back by mobilink asking the SAME questions. I was fuming and told the lady to type in "customer refuses to answer the same questions he's answered twice already. If the CRM does not work, then its not the customers fault. There ought to be laws against such harrasments!". Anyway, the courier guy came to my house after a few hours and I sent my house maid to sign off on the letter attesting I lived in the house.
Then today I figured my international calling was disconnected AGAIN!! So I've gone to ufone and gotten my number transferred and am now going to campaign for others to do the same!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Economic slump, Hyper Inflation and Possible Fears - Pakistan

For the past few months we here in Pakistan have experienced a lot. From a rapid devaluation of the Rupee (30%), frequent power outages, terrorism and then economic slow down. What we have NOT experienced is a responsible fiscal policy by the current PPP government.
Pakistan, as is the rest of the world, going through troubled financial times. The processed goods sector here, which is the textile industry given its single largest share in exports, has taken a huge hit. Europe and the US are all going through "shrinkages" in economies leaving retail vendors there to be extremely price sensitive in addition to a reduced turnaround in sales. There is nothing anyone can do about this.
The software export industry (offshore software firms) was probably a couple hundred million, maximum a billion. The too may shrink due to the hit enterprise focused firms have taken since a lot of them have shut down (I've heard Fannie May and Freddie Mac had some software components being built out of Pakistan). Although a number of commentators have speculated that offshoring may grow due to this downturn for cost saving reasons, I'm beginning to speculate it will grow as a percentage but will shrink in absolute terms.
Agriculture, this is probably the most painful topic. Pakistan being an agriculture based economy has the dumbest minds focused on increasing the productivity. From the feudals who own the lands, the politicians responsible for the relevant ministries to the "scientist" involved in tactical matters. We've had GM seeds grown here without any prior impact analysis. We've used pesticides without concern for environmental impacts. We've created a system where large land owners (read feudals), get prefrential treatment even though agriculture output from their lands is lowest in terms of output/hecter (need to verify this statement!). And then water shortage in this area thanks to India and power shortages in running tube wells.

This leaves little breathing space for a government known more its lack of competence and merit (read part about giving government jobs on nepotism!). If Hyperinflation sets in, it will impact:
  1. Money holding costs - holding onto cash is a costly and risky proposition, thereby forcing individuals and firms to be nonliquid- from the frying pan to the fire.
  2. Large risk premiums to cater to unknown inflation rates - causes inefficiency in the system
  3. Misallocation of input and output goods - again causes high inefficiency in the system
  4. Contineous adjustment costs - hiring/firing, changing listed prices and misc activities to publish price change
*Read more on such costs from here.

Now that Pakistan's gotten a few Billion (7) from IMF, it must act quickly to announce a strategic economic growth plan. Otherwise we're just waiting for the sky to fall in a few months once the temporary relief from the loan dies down.