Struggle for ISPs
A decade ago in Nepal, we were in search for a good cable TV provider which would not bail out. When dad religiously followed Ramdev every morning, mom cried watching dramas every night and children flipped between Cartoon Network and WWE every other minute of the day. Today, we are in search for a good internet service provider ISP business that will continue to work during load shedding, stream YouTube videos without a pause and load Facebook instantly and also provide information security. We no longer think about the long phone bills from international calls while talking to loved ones abroad; we protect our phones from the rain before we even protect ourselves.
Basically, times have changed. Internet has become such an integral part of our lives, at home and at work; Google has become a verb; Facebook has become an identity; Choosing an ISP has become a headache but still the struggle for ISPs will get real. With around 43 ISPs registered in the Internet Service Provider’s Association of Nepal, it has become harder for customers to choose an ISP.. In August 1998, there were only 7000 internet users in Nepal. By November 2015, there were over 11 million internet users: a 44.11% market penetration.
The increase in revenue provides no incentives for ISPs to excel. Instead, being good enough has become a norm. This can become problematic when competition rises further. Hence, the strategy of ISPs need to change from just focusing on gaining new customers to retaining existing ones. In order to gain a competitive edge, every ISP needs to provide services that are better than others’. But providers need to keep in mind that it is not just about providing better services but providing the kind of services customers need, want, and prefer.
Condition Of ISP Business in Nepal
In a customer preference survey conducted by greentick amongst 150 internet users, 54% of the participants did not want to change their ISP mainly because they were satisfied with their service provider. However, only 18% believe that there were no other better ISPs to change to. Such responses hint that ISPs are good enough but they lack the x-factor to outperform their competitors. Conversely, 46% of the participants wanted to change their ISPs. Having an acceptable performance will no longer cut it, ISPs will have to satisfy customers in a way that the customers are not only keen on remaining with the ISP but also promoting it.
Just ask your friend about their ISP. At the end of the conversation, you will probably not be convinced that their ISP is the “one”. Customers expressing sentiments of satisfaction or complaints while talking about their ISPs is a common phenomenon around the world. Yet, in a market like that of Nepal which relies heavily on word of mouth for revenue generation, the inability of ISPs to transform their customers to promoters can accelerate expenses and loss as fast as the consumer base increases.
While providers understand the need to retain customers and decrease churn rates, very few take initiatives in this regard because of the nature of the market. So, how can ISPs gain a competitive edge? ISPs need to know what the customers want. Our survey reveals that the majority of the participants are not satisfied. And want to change their ISP because of the poor quality of internet service and bad customer service. Hence, while it is important to strive to provide high quality products as promised to the customers, it is equally important to assess how providers interact with their customers.
What should be done to improve ISP business and information security
Providing new technologies will add a competitive edge. But ISPs need to consistently deliver on the basics while taking the extra step to please their customers both directly and indirectly, online and offline, and pre-sales and post-sales. The focus on relationship development can change ISPs passive customers to promoters. The initiative from ISPs to transform customers to promoters can add value, not just by generating higher revenue but also establishing a better brand image.
As mentioned earlier, understanding what the customers need is key but in order to maximize impact, ISPs need to follow through on this information. Collecting data on different customer segments should be followed by analysis. As a customer, we get annoyed filling out numerous surveys all the time for different brands but seeing the data being used to drive better services incentivizes us. They need to reformulate their strategies and products as per the findings. In the process of doing this, providers need to increase awareness of the company and the services they provide.
Traditional marketing methods can come in handy. But the nature of the market in Nepal and the trends in social media show that creating platforms, incentives and motivation for customers and employees to talk about their positive experiences can be even more effective in generating more sales. Hence, shaping positive experiences for all those involved is pivotal for ISPs. It can be achieved by educating your customers about the services you sell to them. Also, recommending services that are most suitable for the customers, making sure the customers are able to make full use of the services and providing smooth installation and after sales service. Awareness and trust between ISPs and its customers will help set realistic expectation on both sides. These are fundamental elements that takes time and energy to develop.
When the basics settle down, ISP business need to think about increasing information security and how they can exceed customer expectations in a manner its competitors have not done so. This focus on innovation and development should be accompanied by an emphasis on creating a hassle free experience for the customers. Whether it be quickly solving their issues or making payments easy. The ease in accessing providers is crucial in determining churn rates. Hence, understanding the most effective media for business-customer interaction will help make business operations more efficient. If an ISP shapes their business around their customers along with their products, you may hear positive things about that ISP the next time you ask your friend.
To ensure that the customers become promoters, ISPs need to make the customers feel “special”. Customers need to know how much they mean to a provider. Spending resources in such initiatives may seem like an added expense; but providers need to see it as long term investment on their business.
Hence, ISPs in Nepal need to differentiate themselves from the crowd. They need to follow trends and set new ones. The mentality of being “good enough” has become as old as dial up internet. ISPs need to consider both internal and external factors. They need to think outside the box and look beyond the horizons for feasible strategies. They need to fight for the largest share of the pie. In order to do so strengthening capacity is not enough. They need to win hearts. Till then, we will keep searching for an excellent ISP that not only provides high quality internet service. But also, listens to our problems, addresses our issues and values us.