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Refocused consumer offering from Neotel

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Neotel, today unveiled a refocused consumer offering that offers ordinary South Africans improved access to affordable voice and entry level broadband data products. The company has also enhanced some of its existing packages and announced measures to improve customer service, while reaffirming its commitment to the consumer market.

Neotel’s revised offerings are based on customer feedback and market research and follow a comprehensive review of all the systems and processes that ultimately impact on retail customers.

‚Neotel takes its commitments to the consumer market extremely seriously,‚ says Neotel MD and CEO Ajay Pandey. ‚We’ve been listening to what our customers and the market have been telling us and we’ve taken heed of the feedback. For the past several months we’ve been working hard to refocus our consumer business and enhance the customer’s service experience,‚ he says.

The salient features of the revised offer, several of which challenge industry conventions, include:

¬∑ Identical voice tariffs across all prepaid and post-paid packages ‚ an industry first:

· Availability of prepaid options for both voice as well as high speed data services:

· Free Neotel to Neotel calls between 18h00 to 07h00 daily, all day on weekends and public holidays:

· An affordable entry-level high speed data service (R99 p/m: free 500MB Data: free 500 SMS p/m):

· A new home phone at a reduced price of R399:

· Increase in bundled minutes and data allowance of additional 500 MB on most existing packages, resulting in significant savings for consumers.

Following the launch of Neotel’s pre-paid offer in August the company has also introduced smaller denomination recharge vouchers (R25, R50, R100 and R200) that will make it more affordable for customers. Recharge vouchers can be purchased at Sasol forecourt petrol stations as well as Neotel stores and will soon be available through additional retail outlets. Discussions are also underway with leading financial institutions to allow airtime to be purchased via them.

Customer service improvements

Billing issues, a common source of frustration for customers, will soon be a thing of the past as a result of a new best-of-breed billing system that has dramatically improved billing accuracy and information. Customers have already begun experiencing quicker turnarounds in query and complaint resolution following a total overhaul of the systems and processes in the customer call centre. This has included an upgrade to the CRM system as well as the establishment of a dedicated complaints team to address escalations and identify root causes of service failures to prevent recurrences.

There is huge focus on training and upskilling call centre staff and this is already yielding positive results with a noticeable improvement in customer satisfaction ratings over the last three months.

‚This is an ongoing process and we are confident we are moving in the right direction,‚ says Pandey.

Although Neotel has decided to discontinue some of its high-end CDMA packages (NeoConnect Prime 10G, 15G and Unlimited, as well as NeoFlex Data 10G and 15G), products such as NeoBroadband Wimax which are targeted specifically at the larger fixed data user, provide compelling alternatives.

‚While our CDMA network is appropriate for the majority of our customers, we have started moving high-end broadband users to Wimax where they will be assured of high speed for both downloads and uploads. At the same time, this is alleviating the strain on the CDMA network which has improved bandwidth speeds for our normal to moderate users,‚ says Pandey.

‚There remains a significant portion of the population who need entry-level products. We see a gap for differentiated, affordably priced voice and data offerings, and we believe we are best placed to satisfy this demand as we continue to grow our network,‚ he says.

The revised consumer offer is available with immediate effect and is coverage dependant. Consumers can consult coverage maps and get more information on the Neotel website www.neotel.co.za

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Telcos want one face

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The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

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Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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