Best in Class
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Donovan Smith
Airtel Ghana has confirmed its impressive and rapid national rise to prominence in the telecoms market as the country’s leader in data and digital innovation and the second largest operator in terms of network coverage.
The accolade is inevitably a step towards the Company’s ultimate goal of becoming the market leader in the future, but has been somewhat cast to the background of Airtel’s extensive list of 2015 success stories, obscured by a plethora of significant investments, subscriber statistics, several awards for the Company and its acclaimed Managing Director (MD).
Since Lucy Quist joined the business in April, 2014, the improvements instilled into Airtel Ghana’s operations have not only elevated the Company to new heights in the sector, but has been recognised as such via vastly increased consumer interest and numerous awards.
Running parallel with this industry success has been an equally prevalent strive for wider community enrichment, partnering with world renowned organisations in an attempt to bridge the skills and tech knowledge gap that still exists within Ghana.
First and foremost in 2015 though, a concerted drive towards infrastructural improvements was seen across its fibre and fixed-line networks, as well as through the digitisation of huge projects in the data space.
As a result, customers are now enjoying 3.75G in some areas of the country and download speeds of up to 42mps via extensive fibre enhancements.
“The thinking, when I joined the business, was initially around a repositioning of the Company, knowing that the industry was quite saturated and we needed a strategic move to set us apart from the competition,” Quist recalls. “This strategic move was around four pillars: high value customers; data; Airtel Money and the SME market.”
2015 proved to be a phenomenal year across all highlighted fronts; Airtel becoming the fastest growing telecoms Company in the market, and driven by an unparalleled commitment to segmentation and creating bespoke and customisable solutions tailored to the varying needs of its customers, nationwide.
Investments and innovations
The digital footprint that has subsequently been produced, and that will undoubtedly continue to evolve into 2016, has laid the foundations for a plethora of complementary value-added services to further differentiate Airtel from its competitors in the quest for optimum customer experience.
Embracing the most modern of technologies, it is a commitment to innovation which has driven the strategy, with a team working tirelessly behind the scenes to come up with revolutionary products and services.
Quist explains: “For example, we have invested a lot into making our services more inclusive, through initiatives like offering free Facebook to our customers across the network; giving people opportunities to learn and discover and network where they wouldn’t have been able to before.
“Additionally through Facebook, I am quite confident that we are the first in the world to allow customers the ability to buy data bundles through the platform; an initiative that was developed in-house as an innovative way to give our customers more access to data if they want to access a link or page outside Facebook.”
Continuing on the theme of applications and technological accessibility, the Airtel Care App has also been launched to not only allow customers to reach Airtel’s customer experience team members when needed, but to aid the Company’s monitoring and managing of its customers; providing a continuous platform for communication between the two.
“Another service we have added is Airtel Premier,” Quist continues, “which is geared towards our high value customers and provides them not only with great telecom products, but also adds extra value to their lives through lifestyle offers such as access to more than 700 VIP airport lounges all over the world, or getting discounts at spas, restaurants and hotels or even getting better deals with car dealerships.
“It’s all about looking beyond the obvious and beyond what is on offer today, to make the most of our investments and innovations to set us apart from the competition.”
Unparalleled business solutions
One of the key drivers for Airtel Ghana’s growth has been its “superior offerings for enterprise customers”.
“Airtel Business is our unparalleled business solutions that provides custom-made, cutting-edge end-to-end enterprise solutions to cater to the communication, connectivity and collaborative needs of all businesses; small, medium or large,” Quist emphasises.
Under Airtel Business’ suite, the Company segments customers and provides services under Home Business Solutions, Small and Medium Enterprises, Large Corporates and Multinationals.
Research shows that 92 percent of companies registered in Ghana are micro, small and medium scale enterprises and 75 percent of these contribute to Ghana’s GDP.
Quist continues: “Empowering these SME’s with targeted solutions ensures that they can expand, employ more people and continue to contribute significantly to economic growth. We are happy to be leading and shaping the SME space in Ghana.”
A significant component of this differentiation over the past 18 months for Airtel has been the optimisation of its Airtel Money service, which has witnessed a first-of-its-kind introduction of contactless payments in the country.
Once again being tailored to the present and future needs of its ever-growing customer base, the innovation has since branched out even further to incorporate key partnerships with banks, which allows customers to conveniently connect their bank accounts with their mobile money wallets and is just one of numerous additions that Airtel is aggressively marketing to a diverse and expectant population.
“We have done a lot of the obvious marketing in terms of above-the-line communications when it comes to these new products, but sometimes customers need that face-to-face interaction too and that’s what we’re focused on, in providing an understanding of the solutions we provide,” Quist says.
Close communication with the business domain has proven especially pivotal in getting these services off the ground, with the initial education repaid with each enterprise client becoming an ambassador for the products’ subsequent filtering into the market.
It also brings into play the facet which Quist believes is most critical to Airtel’s current success, in the form of the people bringing said solutions to the attention of Ghana.
The MD continues: “Any growth plan has to start with people and my number one focus has been to make sure we have the right people on board in every role.
“We have a niche offering with a strong focus on changing the market, so it is vital that we have the right people in place on the front line, speaking with customers, engaging with them, and ensuring they can best communicate our offering.”
Airtel’s personnel strategy as a whole is in-keeping with a strong local agenda, with the gap continuously being bridged between the continentally-renowned brand and the communities in which it operates; all with a view to creating the best shareholder and customer value possible.
This local focus also embraces a strong dedication to corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, encouraging Airtel employees to nominate and earmark people in need in their own areas, before Airtel steps in to offer sustainable, long-term aid on an ongoing basis.
Quist notes: “Overall, across both CSR and our network improvements, it’s always about people coming up with new ideas, and our differentiator comes from our willingness to try new things and to innovate over and above. That, along with our main differentiator which is our people, is why customers are attracted to the Airtel brand.”
Moving forward, Airtel’s drive towards enhanced digital saturation looks set to continue as one of the continent’s most influential business leaders capitalises on the positive 18 months of progress already achieved.
“We have built a best-in-class team here at Airtel Ghana, where we have brought in fresh energy, passion, self-belief and commitment in working closely with our customers,” Quist concludes. “Our staff don’t want to sit in a nice air-conditioned office, they want to be out in the streets meeting customers and setting up activities because that’s what they’re passionate about.
“When we launch products, we go out into the streets, speak to customers and engage with them as part of the launching process, which can only be achieved when you have those kinds of people within the organisation.
“Ghana is an extremely dynamic telecoms market, and is certainly the country to watch from a telecoms industry solutions point of view on the continent. And in this mature market, we plan on Airtel leading the way.”