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Wataniya improves customer satisfaction with collect calls

Kuwaiti operator introduces new service to build customer retention ahead of Saudi Telecom service launch

Wataniya Telecom, Kuwait's second mobile operator, launched a collect call service early March, amid a greater move to improve customer retention and brand awareness.

Pre-paid accounts make up about 80% of Wataniya's 1,198,000-strong customer base, and Scott Gegenheimer, general manager and CEO, said the key to sustaining growth would be to offer these subscribers added value for money.

"I have a different view on prepaid versus postpaid. There's no difference to me between pre-paid and post-paid, it's just a matter of payment terms," he told CommsMEA.

"A lot of people say the exact opposite, saying the ARPU is much higher [on post-paid contracts], so let's force the customer to go to there. I think that's the wrong mentality: I think it hurts customers to push them over there as it causes problems."

The collect call service allows subscribers to make a reverse-charge call from any mobile phone, and is hoped to lead to improved customer satisfaction. "The misperception is that they think it's for low-end incomes because they run out of money," Gegenheimer continued.

"But generally, most people on a prepaid at some point run out of money. We've got a good 10% of our network spending upwards of over Kd100 (US$375) a month on prepaid, but they sometimes run out.

"People are much happier spending more money on pre-paid as long as they know the numbers and controlling it, as opposed to spending a little less but then getting a shock at the end of the month because they don't realise what they're spending," he added.

The operator, which boasts a 43.3% market share - second to Kuwait's dominant operator, Zain - is preparing for entry of a third mobile player in the sector. Saudi operator STC paid $900 million for a 26% stake in the new mobile licence and is expected to launch operations later this year.

"Our expectation is for STC to come at the end of Q3 or beginning of Q4. We are gearing up towards this," he said.

Gegenheimer also said promotional activities would form a crucial part of its strategy this year. Wataniya recently gave over 200 customers free talk time as part of its Winner lucky draw series, with a first place prize of 500KD ($1,873) of free call credit.

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