Sigve Brekke with “Love DTAC” backdrop. Photo credit: DTAC

Can Sigve Fix DTAC?

Thailand telecom industry got a breaking news in early September 2014. John Eddy Abdullah, DTAC CEO quit for unknown reason and Sigve Brekke returned to be acting CEO.

See this news from Bloomberg

Some background for the story

DTAC is a Telenor company which is #2 mobile operators in Thailand. Sigve Brekke (@sigve_telenor) was an ex-CEO of DTAC, he was very famous for Thais since he appeared on many DTAC commercials and also appeared on a full-length film.

During Sigve’s era, DTAC became a big name for Thai households for its heartful customer services and innovative marketing (think about Richard Branson’s Virgin). However, once Sigve left DTAC for a bigger post in Telenor Asia (mainly in India), DTAC had been in decline. The quality of service drops and ex-customers are furious about that.

Thai mobile subscribers since 2011 (B.E. 2554). Chart by @arjin.

DTAC subscribers number might increase but the overall Thai mobile market has been growing every year. We might not be able to track DTAC declination statistically but most of my friends who used to be DTAC customers now switched.

Now Sigve is back and he has a plan for reviving DTAC into the glorious era again. Can he fix DTAC in the end?

Disclaimer: I have never been a DTAC customer but my wife was, now she switched to other operator because of many problems with DTAC services.

What is DTAC’s problems?

I wrote a lengthy article about DTAC downfall in 2012 (unfortunately it’s in Thai). The points in this article are still applicable for 2014 situation. In summary, DTAC’s problems are:

  • Network Failures: several region-wide/nationwide network failure incidents
  • Quality of Network Service: the quality of 3G data services are not good, compared with competitors (now seems to be fixed)
  • Some annoying marketing tactics e.g. spam SMS, charging customers for premium services without consent
  • Fail marketing campaigns: a very good mobile plans (cheap phone with cheap tariff) for only new customers, not applicable for old-time loyal customers
  • Bad customer supports: the call center service can’t fix your problem, didn’t follow up your issues and didn’t return your call

In total: Once the quality of services dropped, the ‘feel good’ emotional marketing strategy created severe backfires from customers who really love DTAC in the past.

Two CEO after Sigve tried to fix these problems (or made them worse?) but now they are gone. Sigve is returning as an interim CEO while DTAC board is trying to find a new CEO.

I think Sigve will have 3–6 months to run DTAC exclusively. He did this job before and done it brilliantly. Now it’s his turn to do it again.

Photo credit: DTAC

How to Fix DTAC?

Sigve definitely know a lot better than me on how to run DTAC but here are my shortlist anyway.

  • Fix your customer service: every company has problems and we customers know about that, the decisive point is how the company responses to these problems. DTAC fails severely on this aspect. I propose Mr. Sigve to create an independent unit to audit customer service team. If DTAC service officers don’t call you back or follow your cases, don’t process to the next bullet.
  • Stop all annoying marketing tactics: mobile premium services are obsolete. Everybody has smartphones. You should shutdown all SMS, MMS, ringtones, music download, short news and focus only on data services (and on-the-top counterpart). If your customers receive annoying messages from 3rd party, cancel your contract with that company immediately. If DTAC people (or contractors) call your customers to sell top-up services, fire them, shut that unit down. Your company sells a ‘feel good experience’ as core product, don’t let ‘feel bad’ non-core products unnecessarily bring you down.
  • Improve network quality: this is endless task for mobile operator but you have no other choice as a mobile operator. At least, the quality of network should be on par with competitors. DTAC customers complain about slow data service all the time on various social media channels, you just talk with them, use this crowdsourcing data to improve your network.
  • Improve operational efficiency: I believe that major portion of DTAC problems come from the inefficiency of internal operations (e.g. front desk did not forward customer issue to responsible unit for whatever reasons). This kind of problem happens all the time with any given company. It’s a hard problem but Sigve needs to fix this to improve the overall operation efficiency.
  • Sincere marketing: Sigve knows this best and we expect him to do it again. We need a sincere, genuine DTAC style, marketing campaign to please everyone. It doesn’t need to be big givings, a small but essential campaign can serve the purpose. Use your creativity, not money.
  • Talk to angry customers: I propose a Reddit-style Ask-Me-Anything communication plan. Let Sigve talks directly with angry customers on any social media channel (can be either Pantip, Facebook or Twitter). Create a special task force to solve their problem within 24 hrs. (at least you’d response them personally, every case in the given time period). DTAC needs to withstand a very big fire but what you get is real user problems and the return of user trusts.

I wish DTAC well but you need to start listening all complaints and feedback. The return of Sigve is the best chance in recent years to fix your reputation again. Please don’t pretend there are no problem at all but start listening and fix things.

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