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'Customer Satisfaction is our Priority,' Prithpal Singh, Chairman & Managing Director, BSNL

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VoicenData Bureau
New Update

BSNL might soon see a cultural makeover if the new CMD, Prithpal Singh is

able to realize his vision. Singh wants to present a friendly face of the

organization to customers. He is optimistic about his chances. After all, in his

previous stint as Director Operations his major focus was to improve customer

satisfaction levels. It was under his initiative that customer service centers

were set up across the country. As CMD, he has a number of initiatives up his

sleeves to make life easier for the BSNL customer. The only hurdle is attitude.

This, Singh says is being taken care of by regularly drilling its employees

about the virtues of customer orientation. As the organization gears up to face

competition in the wake of privatization, Singh is positive that the

organization's employees and mindshare would be an asset in the competitive

scenario.

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As you don the mantle of the new CMD of BSNL what are your priorities?



Prithpal Singh (PS): There have been several ongoing projects, which I had been
heading as Director Operations. So one of the first priorities will be to

continue to ensure customer satisfaction. BSNL, being a leading player in the

telecommunication space in the country, we plan to continue being that way.

The other priority is the interconnect issue. All the private operators now

need to have an interconnect pact with us since we are the incumbent service

operator. We are already in talks with a number of service providers.

What were the specific projects that you had worked on as Director

Operations?



My focus as Director Operations was to enhance customer satisfaction. To

that extent, we have opened customer service centers and now we have around

32,000 centers across the country. We have at least one customer service center

in each SDCA (Short distance charging area).

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The other focus area during my tenure as Director Operation was to increase

the availability of ISDN lines. There were not too many ISDN lines earlier but

in the last one and a half years the number of ISDN lines have almost doubled

from 10,000 plus to 25,000 or so.

How are you going ensure customer satisfaction?



We have to devote all our energies to ensure maximum customer satisfaction.
Therefore, we are upgrading our customer service centers. We have also initiated

a focus on the call centers and all the service related issues would be handled

through the call centers. We have a total of 1500 call centers. Each circle will

have its own call center. Later we shall have a center at the national level

also since certain issues can be taken care of only at the central level. What I

would really like to point out here is that we have given a huge thrust to the

computerization in the organization. As far as fault control is concerned, the

entire system (the # 198) has been computerized. The other service, which is

getting computerized, is directory inquiry. About 95 percent of the service are

computerized now. In addition, we are going to have a national directory

service, which would also be computerized. Most of these are on the website

also. You can also do a search either by location or by the name of the person

you want to find.

So how are you going about manning the call centers? Are you recruiting

new people or looking at existing employees?




No, we are reskilling our existing employees and we are providing them
attitudinal and behavioral training. We have a huge employee base, which is our

strength, and we want to leverage that to our advantage. The training is

undertaken both internally as well as outsourced.

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How are you handling the ticklish issue of interconnect? Any time frame?



We are getting ready and as and when these service operators approach us we

are discussing with them and finalizing the issue. We have a model for

interconnect and depending on the number of service we shall work out the

arrangement. In fact TRAI is also working on the interconnect model. Based on

the model we can work out certain costs. We are in the process of discussing

interconnect issues with both cellular and basic service providers.

Don't you think there is an inherent contradiction in your plans to launch

WiLL services vis-à-vis cellular services?



No, the services are targeted at two different categories of people who have

different needs. There is no contradiction in the scope of the services.

When do you plan to launch your GSM services?



We plan to launch it by August this year. We want to have a complete coverage
when we launch and not just in one or two places. Besides, our services will be

available with complete value additions from day one. We plan to cover 1000

cities during this year with an investment of Rs 2,000 crore.

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We want to launch the service as early as possible since there has already

been a lot of delay. Currently we have the advantage of having a huge mindshare.

People today are asking for BSNL cellular services and we are eager to

capitalize on that demand. And it is not only in GSM, even in fixed services we

have undertaken a number of initiatives. We are also installing a new billing

solution for our fixed line services of that customers can have itemized

billing. We have issued instructions to provide free answering machines to all

fixed line subscribers. And we are also going to provide SMS type of services to

our fixed line subscribers, so there are a number of initiatives for the fixed

line subscribers. We are also trying to work out new tariff packages for fixed

subscribers.

Where you could lose out is the attitude of your employees who lack

customer orientation. What are you doing about that?




There is already a change seen in the customer orientation amongst senior level
people. I admit that at the grassroot level there are still some problems. So,

we are imparting training to the employees so that they can imbibe the new

culture. In every in-house course, seminar and platform there is an hour long

lecture on behavioral training. We hope that gradually an environment will be

created bringing about a change in the mindset of employees. This year we have

also initiated reward schemes at the national level for best customer service

center, best SSA, best officer and the like. We hope such incentives would bring

about a qualitative change in the different parameters like whether the faults

have reduced and the area has improved. We have made targets that are more

stringent. Earlier the fault rate was 14-15 per 100. Now we have said that the

fault rate should come down to less than 10 per 100 per month.

How do you view the problems faced by the PCOs? Are they still important

in your scheme of things?



PCOs no doubt are and shall continue to remain a part of our family. They

have played a very important role in providing accessibility to a phone line. It

is true that with falling tariffs and increase of teledensity they are facing

problems. However, it will not be possible for us to increase the margins for

them. PCOs have to learn to re-invent themselves. They have to help themselves.

We are also willing to help them. PCOs should also undertake some marketing

activities like informing their customers that tariffs have come down and people

can now talk more for less rates.

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They can diversify their offerings from BSNL. For instance, they can scale

their operations to become cyber cafes, they can provide ISDN connections or

they can sell VCC cards, etc. PCO owners can supplement their income by setting

up automatic phones also. They can provide cards for that.

Even if we change our model to set up bulk franchising of pay phones, we

shall give preference to our existing PCO owners.

(CNS)

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