Companies are increasingly using social media to communicate with their customers. Nokia Siemens Networks is one of the latest to get in on the game by developing a Facebook application for users of the social networking site to monitor their mobile bills via the site. Marc Veelenturf, the head of business solutions organisation for the Middle East and Africa at Nokia Siemens Networks, talks about the application.
Why did you develop this app?
Most [telecommunications] operators are looking to differentiate themselves, and one of the best [ways to set themselves apart] is by providing a better customer experience. We did a questionnaire … and saw that around 50 per cent of people are leaving or moving to a competitor because they [cannot see] how much they're paying for an SMS or how much they get charged for overseas roaming. What this gives is almost a complete transparency between the telco offering it and the end-user.
But the vast majority of people use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, so people will not necessarily want to be bombarded with offers.
People will be looking for how much they have spent on their telephone bill. Instead of going to the traditional portal websites, this is an opportunity to see your telephone bill in Facebook.
Telecoms operators have to sign up to the app first, so have you managed to get Etisalat or du on board?
Nobody has signed up yet. We're just testing it, but we hope in the next few months to get a few customers on board. We are talking to all our existing clients in the Middle East. I'm a strong believer that there will be an uptake. If you look at customer experience, it is one of the major objectives of every telco … their major focus is to enhance customer experience.
Would a user see adverts from other telecoms operators?
No. It is not a marketing tool. This is a tool to find out what your bill is or what the offers are.
People have a lot of personal information on their Facebook accounts. Is this app going to be used as a way for companies to find out more about their customers?
Definitely not, because it doesn't give the telco any access to people's Facebook. Privacy and knowledge is very important. However, the telco has a lot of information about your billing: when you travel, who you are phoning and which phone you have. What we are trying to do [in using] a tool like this is provide a better understanding of the customer and a better interaction between the telco and the customer.