Cellular companies building bridges after failure during the Mumbai deluge

Cellular companies building bridges after failure during the Mumbai deluge

Author | Saurabh Niranjan Turakhia | Saturday, Aug 20,2005 7:53 AM

Cellular companies building bridges after failure during the Mumbai deluge

The record-setting rains on July 26 in Mumbai not only disrupted people’s lives and threw the entire metropolis out of gear, the mobile networks, too, couldn’t withstand the onslaught from the heavens above.

The resilience of Mumbaikars put India’s financial capital back on track in no time, and despite the metro suffering losses of between Rs 9,000 crore and Rs 10,000 crore, the Sensex remained above the 7,500-mark.

The deluge over, now mobile network companies are scrambling to rebuild customer confidence and are sparing no efforts to market their strengths to their customers.

Harit Nagpal, Operations Director, Orange, while admitting the failure of Orange network in certain parts of Mumbai, said, “Our network promise remains unchanged. Even in the campaign, if one observes carefully, it can be seen that the dog struggles while climbing the stairs, but eventually makes it.”

Reliance Infocomm introduced several advertisements in dailies communicating the network and service advantages of Reliance that helped during the troublesome rains. When contacted, Head of Corporate Communications for Reliance Infocomm said, “The best endorsement we could get was from our own users. The address book facility saved contacts for so many Reliance customers and was of great use.”

He added that the launch of specific services and the occurrence of heavy rains were highly coincidental and that the launch was not planned.

Giving his stand on giving free services, Nagpal said, “We are against providing free products or service as it leads to over usage and hence, congestion. We constantly requested our customers to keep the talks to the minimum in order to keep the traffic in control.”

It is interesting to note that Airtel had declared free service for a limited time to its customers after the deluge affected Mumbai. The cellular operator also had an SMS from one its customers published in an advertisement a day after the heavy downpour.

Jayant Khosla, CEO, Airtel, Mumbai Circle, explained, “The ‘Salaam Mumbai’ campaign was to communicate the customer-obsessed approach and network reliability based on the unsolicited customer testimonials received during one of the toughest times the city has ever seen. The main aim of the exercise was to educate and inform the customers about the quality of our service and demonstrate our ability to sustain the faith of our customers.”

Orange offered quite a few services after understanding various kinds of problems customers in Mumbai faced. These included extension of due dates for bills by a week, free SIM card exchanges, extended working timings for shops, updates on road traffic, extension of validity for pre-paid customers and incoming calls service activated for those whose pre-paid cards had expired.

When asked how difficult it was to live up to a promise made through a campaign, Khosla said, “It is not difficult if standards of performance are set. Because of the inherent strength of our capacity and disaster recovery planning, we are confident that the Airtel network will continue to deliver under all circumstances. Airtel has a robust mobile infrastructure that brings unmatched connectivity on a congestion free 2.5G, GPRS network with superior voice clarity.”

On crisis handling, Orange’s Nagpal said, “There are two ways to go about it: One is to deny the failure and say that all is well. The other is to honestly admit the failure and then work towards correcting the damage. We prefer the latter and this was conveyed through our campaigns on the front pages of dailies, which aimed to strike the chord with our customers and convey that we care for them.”

Thus, the mobile network companies ensured that they did enough to get the consumer attention, be it through free services or due date relief, conveying strengths or assuring support. Quite a few lessons here for those unaware of how to handle crises and turn them into good opportunities to get closer to the consumer.

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