MNP & Customer Loyalty Test

MNP (Mobile Number Portability) is now a reality in India.

After a long series of pulls and pushes, MNP has finally arrived. I am sure there were technological issues and challenges in implementing MNP across so many telecom operators, and the delay is mostly due to these issues. However, I am also absolutely sure that the incumbent operators were unduly worried about the new operators and wanted to delay the MNP implementation till they actually get stronger in their customer loyalty programs, VIP customer service and customer retention.

These things do happen all over the world, even in developed countries, so the India story is not really surprising.

What was surprising is this – not many people, be the users or the media, were protesting over the delay. There was no public interest litigation against the delay, trying to take the Dept of Telecom to task at the altar of the Supreme Court. Of course, there is enough litigation already going on concerning the 2G spectrum allocation scandal, so one more would not have mattered at all. However, no one complained apparently about the repeated MNP delays.

Well, now that MNP has truly arrived, we have to wait and see what would the users do. It is projected that one out of every six cell phone users will try to switch their providers, mostly because of their current poor quality service provider. However we have to wait and see. It appears that it is indeed very easy to transfer between operators (just costs INR 19 – USD 0.4 or 40 US Cents !) by following a few simple steps which have been widely published in the newspapers.

I am thinking of doing something about my operators (I have more than one). If I do shift, will that benefit me in some way ? It would take some time to have a deterministic answer to that question. But surely the existing operators are trying hard. One of them keeps sending SMS text messages, offering various concessions. But when I call their customer service, I do not get a resolution for the problem raised. I did get commitments, that I would get a call back in two hours, etc., but that never happens.

What this shows is that Customer Loyalty is going to be under some serious stress when it comes to the telecom user base. It has been a seller’s market so far, now it is really turning the page towards more of a consumer-driven, buyer’s market out there in telecom.

Hopefully, that will be good news for consumers.


Vijay Srinivasan
22nd January 2011


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