There is obviously a caveat when interpreting the title of this article: in the final analysis subscriber numbers tell a better story about which MNO is loved the most. On that score Econet is loved in Zimbabwe to the moon and back BUT:
The Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) recently made public the results of their recent consumer satisfaction survey. Here’s a table pulled from the presentation by the Director General of POTRAZ:
The question asked above was: To what extent are you satisfied by your main service provider? Respondents had to rate their MNO on a 7 point scale:
- Extremely Dissatisfied
- Dissatisfied to some extent
- Not sure
- Satisfied to some extent
- Very Satisfied
Same difference but seen differently
One thing that has to be said when it comes to mobile telephony in Zimbabwe generally is that it is a fairly boring space. Service offerings are almost exactly the same and the pricing is controlled so tightly that all the service providers essentially charge the same standard fees.
However, the table above shows that the perceptions are quite different:
- Telecel despite hemorrhaging subscribers (market share) for the past few years is still considered fair by their remaining subscribers.
- NetOne is actually loved by their corporate clients and considered more than fair by their consumer customers.
- Econet subscribers scored the MNO lowly on the metrics that measure trust and fairness.
I am generally mistrustful of consumer surveys and such. I have participated on surveys on both sides of the questionnaire a number of times and I know that how a question is asked has a lot of bearing on how it’s answered. I for example don’t know how the question on T’s and C’s was asked (I haven’t received the actual questionnaire used yet). However, if the sector regulator is satisfied by the findings we have to trust that this report is scientifically sound.
Another thing to note is that this survey was done in 2018 when NetOne’s OneFusion was still OneFusion (you know what I mean). This was before the most recent price changes by the MNO’s and so if the same questions are to be asked those same consumers today, the perceptions on price and affordability would most likely be similar and equally poor.
Jobs to be done
Telecel has to take the table above as inspiration. Despite their myriad problems particularly in their boardroom, their customers seem to love them and trust them still. This is a good base to build from and to start a meaningful challenge for the market. Of course this is hard to do because of the associated network effects in telecoms but I don’t think it’s unrealistic for them to start off by vying to be SIM 2 in our dual SIM phones…
In terms of network quality or the perception thereof, NetOne has been on the ascendancy over the past few months. I think if the survey is to be done today, NetOne would score even higher on those metrics than what’s above. Their job to do is simple: they have to press on it.
Changing the composition of OneFusion was quite the bold move by them and it doesn’t seem they have been damaged by it much- good for them. They now have to come up with a stronger reason for customers to stay on their network and to switch to them. Not necessarily a resurrected Fusion but a differentiating value proposition that just makes it obvious to stick to NetOne. So far my expectations on that front have not been met satisfactorily. I think NetOne can really be stronger than they are right now.
Some of the reasons for the indifferent or even negative perception towards have to do with the fact that they have a dominant position in the market. Generally: David – Good, Goliath – Bad. This is not the full story though because the question was asked Econet’s own subscribers. Alarm bells should sound in Msasa when customers sound like they are suffering through their relationship with Econet.
The quality of service has been poor lately as well and it looks like this has not been lost on Econet customers. This one is a hard one to solve in an environment of almost no forex like we are in right now. I think this is one of the reasons why Econet launched Omni Contact, a standalone BPO business. I am told they are attracting some good international business there and maybe it could bring in some much needed foreign currency.
Yo Mix seems to be Econet’s opportunity to flip the script of being perceived as the least affordable option for mobile telephony. When they relaunched Yo Mix it seemed to be a joke and a shell of what the pilot had been and customers were not amused. Now, it seems they have tweaked it just right and their customers are happy.
Perhaps their most immediate job to be done is to push Yo Mix which they are already doing. They should make Yo Mix available via USSD so that subscribers who are on and only care about social bundles can use it to customise their bundles without needing to download another app – a task that needs more than social bundles.
The DG said it right
Dr Gift Machengete, the Director General of POTRAZ deserves the last word in this article. This is part of his exhortation to telecom operators when he launched the report:
I would like to exhort all operators to take the findings seriously, be they favourable to you or not, remembering that your most unhappy consumers are your greatest source of learning and self-improvement.