Week in Review: Can Celcom nail its overall customer experience goal?

  • Focus on speed, overall coverage, convenience, transparent offerings
  • Price war continues with rival postpaid plan from US$7 a month

(With this being the Labour Day Weekend in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, our Week in Review is published today instead of its usual Friday slot.)

HOW does a telco that has lost almost 3 million subscriptions over two years, and in the process drop from No 1 to No 3, do to make a comeback?

In the case of Celcom Axiata Bhd, it first did the most obvious and replaced its CEO. In came German, Michael Kuehner, last September, who has had previous experience working in Malaysia for five years and was already in the Axiata Group as CEO of its Bangladesh unit, Robi Axiata.

And what has Kuehner been focusing on to regain customers? He tells DNA editor, Goh Thean Eu the focus has been on customer and dealer experience.

Interestingly, Kuehner did not talk about the network, a factor that surveys globally show is a key deciding factor when consumers make decisions around which operator to use.  Yet Celcom has been improving their network but this has become a hygiene factor among consumers, especially urban ones. The overall customer experience is what consumers look for today, with data connectivity a key factor in their mobile experience.

Which is why all the four main operators in Malaysia have postpaid plans that offer not just data but unlimited voice and SMS. They can afford to do that as usage has shifted to data. And the price war continues with U Mobile, the fourth operator, having a postpaid plan that starts from as low as US$7 (RM30) a month.

But Celcom and Kuehner can’t afford to match that as it will be a losing proposition for them. He says that the customer has to decide if the service against the value is worth it. “It is always the balance of experience I get, the speed, the overall coverage and that all together, which makes the customer experience,” he says.

It is now for the customer to decide if the work Celcom has been doing in the background has indeed translated to a customer experience that has made using Celcom easy, fast and transparent to them. Once Celcom nails this, Kuehner believes that they will win higher customer respect, get more customers who will eventually spend more on its network.

The early signs are promising from the postpaid segment with Celcom now just 10,000 behind Maxis Bhd's 2.97 million postpaid customers as of December 31, 2016 with 2.96 million customers. Will this momentum continue? What’s coming next from its competitors?

As always, the Malaysian mobile market is always an exciting space to cover with the four operators, including Digi, competing ferociously. And do look out for our 4th annual Telco Deep Dive as well next month where we will look at various issues around the Malaysian telco space and also a look at which telcos from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore are analysts most bullish about.

With that I wish you a restful Labour Day weekend and have a productive week ahead.

Editor’s Picks:

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Malaysia's domestic focused SMEs lack motivation, expertise in going digital 

Bringing out the best in entrepreneurs

Malaysia’s data centre blues: A spanner in the nation’s dreams (Part 2)

Worst is over for Celcom, now all set to regain lost momentum

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From connected cars to data-led Insurtech: The journey of AXA Singapore’s Celine Le Cotonnec


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