BAKU, Azerbaijan, July 8
CEO of Azerbaijani Nar mobile operator (Azerfon LLC) Gunnar Pahnke answered Trend's questions about the company's current and future projects, plans to implement a 5G network in the country, implementation of innovations, strategy, and development of the company's services, as well as current work in the territories of Azerbaijan, previously liberated from Armenian occupation.
What projects Nar is currently working on?
Our focus in Nar is to deliver value for money to our customers. What value means, this we only define from the customer perspective. We aim to become the most customer-centric mobile operator in Azerbaijan. The concept of customer centricity is guiding us with respect to all our priorities, esp. when defining our offers and when designing the processes of interaction with our customers - Providing the best customer experience is our passion - and our commitment to our customers!
We currently follow 4 pillars with regards to customer-centricity:
We started and continue to modernize all our sales and service centers offering a completely new shopping and service experience for our customers. In line with increasing Smartphone penetration, we offer to our customers more effective ways of being in touch with us than visiting our service centers or calling the call center: the ‘Nar+’ self-care application allows the customer a very convenient and easy to use way to control and manage his account according to his personal needs. We removed any possibility of involuntary subscription by applying strict control over third-party value-added service – thus avoiding any unexpected cost for our customers – we will stick to this approach as well in the future. Our customers can continue to trust us! Our tariffs will always reflect real customer needs, offer more and more flexibility, and are transparent and easy to use – without any hidden cost
Are there plans to increase the number of 4G base stations this year? Is it possible to talk about the implementation of the 5G project in the near future?
We are operating 8,760 base stations with 2G, 3G, and 4G technology providing 88.8 percent geographical coverage and 99.9 percent population coverage. More than 1.1 million subscribers are using our 4G services. We are proud of this great result and are the biggest operator in the country in this regard.
Apart from that, Nar launched its network in the liberated districts. Thus, 2G, 3G, and 4G technology base stations have already been installed in Khojavand and Jabrayil districts as well as in Shusha city, including Jidir Plain. Following our plan, we are going to deploy further base stations in the other regions, as well to provide the liberated territories with a modern state-of-the-art network.
As for the 5G technology: first of all, it is very important to highlight, that our 4G network is already 5G-ready. Upgrading it to 5G will be not a major effort and we will do it at the moment, the demand will be there. Our focus is on consumers and small and medium businesses. These customers enjoy currently great data speed fully matching their needs. Once 5G technology becomes relevant, we will of course introduce it fast, especially in those areas, in the beginning mainly business customers will have the specific need for the new technology – 5G is only a question of the right timing.
What can you say about the company's customer satisfaction and service development strategies?
High customer satisfaction is the indicator to measure the success of our customer-centric strategy. That we are on the right track is confirmed by the fact, that for the last 2 years, our customers evaluated us as the best mobile operator in terms of NPS (Net Promoter Score). NPS indicates the customer satisfaction measured in surveys performed by 3rd party providers every year. For the last two years, we have been the leader in NPS results in the country. As a result, our customer base continues to grow. Customers trust Nar and appreciate our offering and the way we communicate with them.
Secondly, with regards to customer service, we clearly follow a strategy of offering to the customers any feedback channel they would like to use. We do not force any customer to use a specific channel. So, if one wants to call our Call Center 777, of course, s/he can do this. Still, in the first quarter of the year, more than half a million customers called to our Call Center. What is important to us is, that whatever channel our customers choose, we want them to be satisfied and experience the best service we can provide. We are very proud that we measure the satisfaction of every customer calling our Call Center and achieve a level of 90 percent today. Of course, we aim to further increase this indicator, but 90 percent is already a very good result. I assume that in this respect, we are the benchmark in Azerbaijan as well.
But the Call Center is not the only way to get in touch with us. As I already mentioned, we have as well the priority to digitalize all customer touchpoints. Beyond our ‘Nar+’ e-care application - where we have resolved in the first quarter almost 50,000 online chat requests, there is as well a similar number of social media inquiries with 45,000 requests. We resolve these requests usually within 6 minutes!
Last but not least, we implemented mainly during the pandemic our ‘Sayyar Nar’ service to deliver required goods such as SIM cards directly to our customers. We intend to make the life of our customers easy – if they cannot come to us, we come to them!
Are there any plans to introduce new prefixes other than the existing 070 and 077?
The current range, which we have, the 070 and 077, deliver enough capacity to the customers.
Do you plan to launch an unlimited internet tariff package in the future? If so, in what period, if not, why?
Actually, it is important to say that we have already unlimited offers in place. It is correct that this is currently mainly the unlimited night tariff. As I already explained, this is mainly because of the nature of the mobile network where all customers share the available capacity. We try to avoid that a small number of customers who are using unlimited tariffs worsen the experience of all the others. In addition, the majority of customers have the opportunity to use fixed networks at home or work for extensive data usage. And this reflects as well the normal behavior of customers when using data-intensive applications, such as IPTV or YouTube. In the particular video, services are best watched on a big screen at home, less on the go. This is, why I think it is important to understand that mobile network usage is in general different from the fixed network usage – thus there is not a general need for unlimited data on mobile. However, we know, that there is a specific customer segment, which needs the mobile network to fulfill many data consumption needs. This is mainly relevant for customers, who do not have a properly fixed network available. We see as an example that many unlimited night users are users, who do not have the opportunity to switch to Wi-Fi. For these customers, we are responding to their need to offer such tariffs. On the other side, for the large majority of customers, the size of current data packs in the market fully covers their current needs, e.g. we offer a 40 GB pack. In addition, we offer a so-called study pack with 50 GB usage for MS Teams and Zoom – an offer that obviously became necessary during the pandemic with a sudden need for homeschooling. Overall, we observe, that customers are well equipped with the offers we currently provide – but of course, we are observing closely the development of the customer needs and react fast, in case specific usage patterns will change.
Are there any plans to open new service centers in the regions?
We do not stop with the 22 new Nar centers and shops, which we have redesigned and opened already. 10 of them are located in Baku and 12 in the regions. We will further roll out this concept and bring this to the whole country. In the final stage, we will have around 70 service centers providing services according to the new shop concept we have. This will be a unique experience for our customers to enjoy a completely different customer service in the telecommunications sector across entire Azerbaijan. This is our commitment!
What social projects have been implemented by the company?
In the last 6 years, we invested 6.6 million AZN ($3.8 million) into social projects. I find this a very impressive and important amount. Over the last years, we have always followed three different directions of our CSR policy and we will maintain these directions for the future.
The first one is that we support education. Few examples in this regard are our cooperation which we have with different universities. Secondly, our heart is with people with disabilities. We have always been committed to supporting their emancipation, trying to integrate them into the social life of the country. We want to act here as an example and have employed ourselves people with disabilities at Nar. The third direction is that we are dedicated to national heritage and patriotism. We have been supporting in the past military servicemen, for example. Of course, especially during the Karabakh War, we focused on the support of participants of that war and we are investing in bringing state-of-the-art infrastructure back to the liberated territories. There is a clear commitment that we are in the stage of rolling out our network there.
These are three directions of our CSR policy that we are engaged to continue in the future as well.