4 tips for mobile carriers in developing countries to regain lapsed prepaid users

Globally the multiple SIM phenomenon remains high in mobile markets, especially across Africa. Users change operator because they wish to take advantage of the best voice and data promotions of the moment and get better coverage.

Consequently, more and more prepaid SIM cards become unused — dormant or silent– and stop generating revenues. Operators are used to decommissioning the dormant SIM cards (i.e. dissociating phone numbers from SIM cards) in order to free phone numbers and other network resources for new users, thus losing customer information and damaging their ability to regain users later.

With increased competition and on-going risks of disintermediation, mobile operators increasingly need to re-establish trustful ties with lost users.

1. Sell new SIM cards to churned users.

Here’s the usual never-ending case: a user buys a prepaid SIM card from your network, uses it until the credit is exhausted, then stops. Then the operator decommissions this SIM. Eventually, once the user is considered as churned, you hook him/her again with a new promotion and sell another SIM card. Thus the user has to restart the full SIM enrollment process as a normal user, causing dissatisfaction (e.g. move to a Point of Sales).

In highly penetrated prepaid markets, SIM cards have mainly become a basic promotion tool for re-engaging returning users… before they go dormant again.

There are three other ways to recapture the lapsed users before they churn.

2. Target dormant users with win back promotions.

Several operators try to recapture users by running regular SIM churn back –or win back– campaigns; users who have not used their SIM for one or two months are offered specific promotions for any new prepaid recharge. Bangladesh’s Airtel Robi Axiata is one of the experts: just watch some of their TV ads.

If it aims at achieving the operator revenues and market share targets and does not require to re-issue a new SIM, this method can become expensive due to the marketing budget required. In addition, a certain level of dead weight effect is unavoidable.

3. Reactivate the SIM at the IT-equipped retail stores.

Some other operators, particularly in Africa, have developed customized IT-based solutions able to reactivate the dormant SIM card (i.e. re-associate a phone number). Nevertheless it requires users to go back to the crowded points of sales (PoS), which must be computerized to execute such a process. Needless to mention the cost for deploying and maintaining such this IT network across all the PoS.

4. Instantly reactivate the SIM anywhere, anytime

A better use case is the following: when a user re-inserts her/his dormant SIM in her/his phone (e.g. to check the credit balance), s/he is immediately asked to select the new phone number and the preferred incentives.

The benefits for operators are four-fold:

  • Allow users to instantly rejoin anytime, anywhere.
  • Stop buying SIMs for returning users.
  • Relieve points of sales : self-care removes queues and workload,
  • Massively reduce subscriber reacquisition costs

What’s your view on user reacquisition and SIM reactivation, and the response of mobile network operators?