BSNL has been reporting straight losses consecutively for four years now. Though, loss for last financial year (2012-13) of Rs. 7884 Cr was lesser than the loss in 2011-12 (Rs. 8851 Cr), it is reported that it would take few more years for BSNL to be profitable again.
While BSNL can get bailouts from Government like any ailing PSU, no amount of bailout would help in the longer run. A company of BSNL's stature must look to build up revenues by virtue of its core strengths.
In this post we make efforts to note BSNL's strengths and provide suggestions on how they can be leveraged to turn profitable in the long run.
- People trust BSNL - The first and foremost thing, trust is really important for any company to gain and retain customers. BSNL is renowned for transparent billing, no hidden costs and minimal pesky marketing calls.
- Vast infrastructure - PAN India 3G network which is being expanded on aggressive note
- Government backing - many government schemes like rural broadband network get rolled out through BSNL. Now this can cause fund crunch if funds don't reach on time but BSNL must take care to see that such things don't happen!
- BSNL offices at prime locations in every town and city including metros
These core strengths must be effectively utilized inorder to turn profitable. We suggest following measures for improving things.
Improve customer care
When people trust a brand and avail their services, it is the brand's responsibility to serve them in an efficient manner. BSNL ironically is currently well known for poor customer support. Any article from us on BSNL garners at least one negative comment about the poor support. Being a BSNL customer myself I have experienced this over the years. Some common experiences are:
- Long waiting times (even > 15 minutes) to talk to customer care executives and after an executive is reached the call gets put on hold or even disconnected suddenly
- Sub par communication skills of call center executives. Even after choosing English as communication language at IVR, they speak in local language. Quality of English is poor.
- Apart from tariff benefits I was never able to get satisfactory answers to queries. Most of the times I was asked to call after few hours with reasoning of server down.
- Fake assurances of issue would be solved in 24 hours, and they keep adding 24 hours thereafter even without registering a complaint - reasoning server down! Have experienced this both in Karnataka and AP. Last experience was some six months ago in AP.
Some aspects above have improved, particularly in Karnataka, but the situation remains largely same in other circles like AP. Having experienced this, I stopped calling customer care for matters like billing/recharge issues - used to take a top-down approach of calling top level officials. Such approaches from multiple customers would not only hamper the work of top officials but also make the whole concept of call center useless. To make customers happy:
- BSNL must improve skill sets of customer care executives - lame excuses like server down are no more acceptable.
- Provide a website which works for logging complaints. Logged complaints must be addressed on time with timely updates till then. Read Online Recharge Woes with BSNL Portal
- Log on to social media - how about centralized twitter and facebook accounts for PAN India customers with a dedicated team who can escalate issues, call back customers and solve problems. Private operators do this in a good way. Though they appear to use bots sometimes, issues get solved within said time often.
- Provide modern means of support - like online chat system. In the age of instant messaging customers would certainly welcome this.
- A proper feedback mechanism to rate call center executives. Though an SMS comes after call, not sure if the responses are looked onto!
First step towards marketing is having a good looking, up-to-date website. Though the main website was revamped, circle websites have dated (read 1990s) looks. The circle specific websites serve little purpose and given the little publicity they receive little customers know about their existence. The answer lies in the integration of all websites. BSNL can showcase themselves as one big brand. Merge all websites into one - circle specific, commerce (portal.bsnl.in) and customer care (selfcare portals - currently each zone has one). This is how private operators have it. This integration will make things easier - one team for maintenance, consistent look across sites, customers can be given unified login benefits.
The social media accounts meant for customer care can be used for brand building. Web advertisements, newspaper ads, outdoor hoardings are other avenues. Email marketing can be done, but this must be done very professionally - emails must not be sent everyday for instance. Again design matters here.
Leverage Core Strengths
Core strength of any organization is its employees. Employees can build or break a brand. So like every brand BSNL must make efforts to keep employees happy and also leverage them for building the brand. Inorder to motivate people to do more, an overhaul of HR policies like aligning them to modern corporate practices might be necessary - accelerated growth options, attractive perks, recognitions in the form of awards etc.
Almost everyone is on social media these days. Positive/informative posts from employees will certainly help BSNL build an identity amongst the net savvy public. This will also provide a sense of achievement and celebrity status to employees. Employee unions who are often considered as trouble makers by calling for strikes can be taken into confidence to talk about the brand. The word of mouth still remains a powerful medium in attracting people to make a choice. Imagine every employee bringing one new customer into BSNL family.
Avoid corruption: Linemen who are often contract employees must be trained not to demand money. While this does not happen everywhere they are still known to disrupt landline connections if not paid for their 'services'(!). While it is possible to bring such issues to notice of higher officials, public generally do not go the extra mile or sometimes do not know whom to contact.
One of the core strengths BSNL has is its vast infrastructure - telecom towers, fiber optic network, buildings in prime locations. This infrastructure can be smartly encashed. Some of these are already being done, but those arrangements can be increased.
- Tower sharing agreements with other cellular operators - BSNL is in a unique position here as they probably own a large share of cell towers in rural areas. Though this may lead to an opinion that BSNL would lose customers that can anyway happen. Private operators who are generally aggressive will set up towers independently!
- Routing other network traffic through BSNL's vast fiber optic network
- Buildings in prime locations can be leased out for commercial purposes. Recently AP BSNL floated EOI notice for installing ATMs at BSNL office premises.
- Concentrate on Enterprise segment - happy enterprise customers can bring in big revenues. BSNL has necessary capabilities to provide end-to-end enterprise solutions in the form of attractive tier wise offerings (small, mid, large, very large segments). Primary enterprise need is dedicated full-time support which any telecom service provider must provide.
- While increasing tariffs is an option, attractive tariffs are the one which makes the difference - this is good for individual customers.
- Concentrate on improving data network - BSNL already has the base ingredient, lowest data tariffs in industry. With the spurt in smartphones and tablets 3G coverage is becoming more and more important.
- Convenience factor for customers:
- BSNL probably has the lowest density of retailer network - this makes it increasingly difficult to get a top-up/recharge done. On the other hand, recharges for private operators can be done at almost every corner shop. This demand supply gap and one poor experience will make a person not to choose/recommend BSNL. So dealer/franchisee network must be strengthened.
- SMS based special benefits activation: While similar benefits are available across circles in terms of tariffs, SMS/USSD based activation is available only in handful of circles. Karnataka and Kerala allow almost every STV activation by SMS while AP and Maharashtra allow minimal. Uniformity all over is important.
- PAN India tariff rollouts do not happen on the same day even after announcement by Corporate office. Circle websites fail to notify announcements on time. This is where a centralized single website can benefit.
- Recently BSNL announced the go green initiative - despite of registering for the facility, I got a print bill this month. Such fails are not desirable.
- Cell towers can be powered by renewable sources of energy thus reducing dependency on electricity and hence cutting down power bills.
- Mounting dues must be brought down - this alone can bring in crores to BSNL.
- Introduce a BSNL Wallet - like Airtel money!
- Shut down loss making telephone exchanges or the ones which bring less revenue - many people opt for landline just due to broadband benefits through such exchanges (mainly rural). 3G data cards at special prices could be encouraged at such places.
- Introduce certificate courses for interested at competitive prices. As of now BSNL is providing internship opportunities to technology students.
From our readers responses at different times, we believe they are still ready to accept BSNL as their preferred service provider. Good luck BSNL for the turnaround! As a reader what you think ? Do you have any suggestion that can make BSNL back in track do let us know via comments.