TBY talks to M. Hassan Shanesaz Zadeh, President & Founder of the Shatel Group of Companies, on improving customer service in the ICT sector and the need for good partnerships at the local level.
THE BUSINESS YEAR How is Shatel Group looking to shape its customer strategy?
M. H. SHANESAZ ZADEH Customer satisfaction is one of the leading priorities of this organization. Shatel is a service-based company targeting customers that are comparatively more familiar with modern technologies. These customers know how to evaluate a service provider and are willing to spend money to choose the right vendor. Therefore, we have to do our best to focus on our abilities to provide customers with services. We use many strategies to achieve this, including using fully integrated professional ICT systems to interact with clients, such as a customer portal, call center, request tracking, online chat, and intelligent troubleshooting. We also promote flexibility and honesty among our staff and operate with transparency toward our clients. We are constantly innovating after-sales services, and operate a complaint management system as well as offer motivational targets in order to make sure our staff members are as helpful as possible. We emphasize the importance of customer satisfaction at Shatel, and have established an education center running 80-hour courses over the course of a year in order to train the Shatel team. We are an EFQM-awarded company, and are proud of our organizational excellence and the fact that we are able to maintain and increase our market share.
How can you overcome the challenges in the internet sector?
We are facing many challenges in this market as we have to procure the required facilities and infrastructure from local telecommunications companies that have recently been granted the same license as we have now for high-speed internet services. In fact, we have to compete with companies that have exclusive access to telecommunications infrastructure that also match our own needs, such as space, power, and transmission bandwidth in local exchange points in cities. Considering the paradox that on average we are paying approximately 35% to 40% of our revenue to our rivals, you can imagine how difficult it is to convince these telecommunications companies to allow us access to the required facilities. However, we have at least 100,000 prospective subscribers in the queue waiting for our ADSL services. In spite of this unequal competition with telecommunications companies that are owned by the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI), we are applying a differentiation strategy as well as a customer-relations strategy to succeed in the market. We are more agile and flexible in offering new services to customers. We have stocked enough network and access devices and offered various and more efficient products and services to the market. To give another example, we have 160 customer support engineers in Tehran and 400 engineers in other provinces who are supporting our subscribers around the clock. These are some of the approaches that we have selected to differentiate our services from other market players. Moreover, partnership with telecommunications companies is one of the options that we’re focusing on, and we have had a very good experience in Mazandaran province. The result of this partnership was very fruitful for the people, Shatel, and also the local telecommunications company. For the time being, Shatel has a market share of more than 50%.
How does Shatel look to provide high-quality services in such a tough market?
For high-quality services in the internet market, you need to have high-quality technology, devices, human resources, and effective policies for service management. As the market leader, using state-of-the-art technologies and choosing the best vendors have always been two of Shatel’s main principles. We have hunted for the best personnel and also trained employees ourselves. We even have close relationships with well-known Iranian universities to run exclusive customized courses for Shatel’s supervisors and managers. In terms of service management, we are fully aware of global benchmarks. For the time being, different departments such as market R&D, technical R&D, quality management, and product marketing are responsible for helping the service management in our company. Moreover, we have different committees to enhance service quality as much as possible.
What services does Shatel offer to corporate clients?
Around 30% of our high-speed internet service customers are corporates. We provide them with different high-speed internet services over DSL, leased lines, or point-to-point wireless technologies. In addition, there are 500 enterprises using our dedicated internet services. As a VoIP carrier company, we also supply international origination and termination telephone call services. We are a partner of Kaspersky Lab in Iran, and its bundled security services are another value-added service we provide to both our corporate clients and home users.
Which areas of the local ICT sector do you feel are in need of investment?
The number of high-speed internet users in Iran is less than 2 million among a population of over 70 million. However, we think that potential in the market is as much as 8 million to 9 million. This means that there is room for substantial investment and growth.
How do you assess the digital divide here in Iran, and what strategies are you implementing in order to integrate more users?
There is a huge gap between urban and rural areas in terms of access to the internet. Even the small- and medium-sized cities have this problem. The highest portions of high-speed internet users are concentrated in few major cities such as Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Qom, Tabriz, and Shiraz. The main problem is lack of core infrastructure in small cities and villages. We are willing to launch our services in these areas, but there are two challenges: a lack of infrastructure and the high expenditure needed for bandwidth transmission. The strategy that we found useful and effective was by forming a partnership with a local telecommunications company. We started a partnership with the Telecommunication Company of Mazandaran that bore fruitful results for all stakeholders. At the moment, the internet penetration rate in this region is the highest in Iran. It is the only province that people in all areas have access to the internet.
What is your strategy for 2013?
Our generic strategy is growth, and we shall continue our aggressive marketing strategies. The main factors forming this strategy are launching new value-added services, offering the best quality after-sales services, and investing in human resources.
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© The Business Year - September 2012