THE EFFECT OF MTN CAMEROON’S 3G AND 4G INNOVATION ON CUSTOMERS’ SATISFACTION IN BUEA MUNICIPALITY
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Services are becoming driving forces to most economies. This has currently resulted to much attention on innovation for new services offered by firms to satisfy customer needs. Customer satisfaction and their behavioral intention play a critical role in firm’s performance and have been investigated carefully in both business and academic practices. This study examines the effect of service innovation on customer satisfaction in MTN Cameroon. The source of data collection was mainly primary and 300 questionnaires were administered to end users of MTN services in the Buea municipality. This was done to get feedback from customers on how they perceive service innovation. It was a quantitative study, so the researcher adopted descriptive statistics and product moment correlation coefficient to assess the relationship existing between service innovation and customer satisfaction. The findings revealed that, MTN services had greatly improved over the years. The 3G and 4G technology has improved signal quality, network coverage and internet speed. Despite these improvement, customers still expressed some dissatisfaction. Their expectations of being charged a lower cost for services provided by MTN has not been met. Also internet speed provided by MTN’s 4G technology is slow compared to similar services offered by Nextel 3G technology. In order to address these problems, MTN is required to put up the adequate infrastructure required to support the 3G and 4G technology. Poor network coverage is caused by network congestion and at times large building structure could also obstruct and affect the quality of signal. To solve this problem, MTN could build up many more network towers to reduce the number of customers depended on each tower. Also, network antennas planted among buildings should be taller than such buildings. Signal quality could improve if MTN constructs more telephone Exchange. Presently, MTN has a telephone exchange in Douala and Yaounde. If two more could be built in the western and north regions, then signal quality could greatly improve. Also, MTN could encourage customers to get updated phones which are more adapted to capturing better signal quality. This encouragement could come in the form of sensitizations or discounts.
1.1 Background of the Study
In todays globalized and competitive market environment, customers have become more demanding towards companies because of the increased abundance of choices that they now have. The intense competition has caused companies to face pricing pressures and slower growth rates (Johnson & Fornell, 1991) This has caused companies to move beyond price competition and to differentiate themselves by delivering high quality offerings (Cronin & Taylor, 1992). Within the service sector, this is about delivering excellent service quality that influences the customer’s perception of the service offering (Zeithaml, 1988). It has been argued that service quality with its traditional aspect of core and relational quality are no longer enough to be regarded as a competitive weapon (Kandampully & Duddy, 1999). Core quality (the more tangible/outcome aspects) has become the basic core attribute of the offering, which is expected by customers in general (Kandampully & Duddy, 1999). It is the basic and implicit aspect of the offering that is promised to the customer, which has to be delivered (McDougall & Levesque, 2000). From the customer’s perspective, it is not only “what is offered” that makes a service attractive, but “how it is offered”, referring to relational quality (the more intangible/relational aspects). Customers have thus not only become more critical about the core aspects of the service, as other firms have similar attributes in their offerings, but also by the way products and services are being offered in terms of customer services and relations (Kandampully & Duddy, 1999).
To remain competitive and survive, service companies are thus placing more attention on delivering excellent service quality that adds to or influences the customers perceived value of the offering as an experience judgment in an attempt to gain and increase customer satisfaction as the end evaluation of the offering (Parasuraman et al., 1985, 1988; Zeithaml, 1988; Cronin & Taylor, 1992; Oh, 2000). Service quality, perceived customer value and customer satisfaction are thus important concepts within this approach.
Nowadays customers are also comparing new features, options and service concepts between the different offerings. It is argued that increasingly the main differentiator of a service offering is its newness and innovation level, referring to service innovations (Botros, 2012). According to den Hertog (2000), in practice most service innovations appear to be a mix of changes and adaptations of existing services and that service innovation is a multidimensional phenomenon.
Today, companies face their toughest competition ever. Moving from a product-and-sales philosophy to a holistic marketing philosophy, gives them a better chance of outperforming the competition. The cornerstone of a well-conceived holistic marketing orientation is strong customer relationships. Marketers must connect with customers, informing them, engaging them, and maybe even energizing them in the process (Kotler Keller 2012). Customer centered companies are adept at building customer relationships, not just products and services. They now aim at acquiring skills in market engineering, not just product engineering. A pioneer in customer relationship management techniques is Harrah’s Entertainment whose experiences show that successful marketers are those who carefully manage their customer base.
Organizations also strive to create loyal customers which is at the heart of every business. Marketing experts Don Peppers and Martha Rogers explained that, the only value your company will ever create is the value that comes from potential and actual customers. Businesses succeed by getting, keeping, and growing customers. Customers are the only reason why people build factories, hire employees, schedule meetings, lay fiber-optic lines, or engage in any business activity. Without customers, you don’t have a business (Kotler, Armstrong 2010)
In the competitive business environment of today, generating and maintaining customer satisfaction and brand loyalty amongst consumers is challenging because consumer behavior keeps changing. The behavior of a consumer is dependent on factors which are cultural, social, personal and psychological to the consumer (Rebecca Knight, 2009). This implies that, what makes a consumer satisfied may not be capable of satisfying another consumer especially if their personality differs. These differences in personality places a challenge as to satisfying the need of every customer.
However, what remains common with most consumers is that they are value maximizers to the choices they make. They go for products with the highest perceived value at the lowest possible cost. According to Kotler, customer perceived value is based on the differences the customers get and the cost he or she assumes for different choices. Hence marketers can increase the value of the consumer offering by raising economic, functional or emotional benefits and/or reducing one or more cost (Philip Kotler 2002).
Although the customer centered firm seeks to create high customer satisfaction, it is not the ultimate goal of the organization. Increasing customer satisfaction by lowering prices or increasing perceived product attributes may result to lower profits meanwhile the purpose of marketing is to generate customer value profitably. With this in mind, marketers are required to make a very delicate balance. Hence marketer must continue to generate more customer value and satisfaction while making profits as well. Also every organization has many stakeholders including employees, dealers, suppliers and stockholders. Spending more to increase customer satisfaction might divert funds from increasing the satisfaction of these stakeholders. Ultimately, every organization must try to deliver a high level of customer satisfaction subject to also delivering acceptable levels of satisfaction to other stakeholders, given its total resources (Nicole Fallon, Dec, 2013).
Customer satisfaction is the extent to which a product’s perceived performance matches the buyer’s expectations (Philip Kotler 2002). If the product’s performance falls short of expectations, then the customer is dissatisfied. If performance matches expectations, the customer is satisfied. If product performance exceeds expectations, the customer is highly satisfied or delighted (Tam, J. L. M. (2000). Outstanding marketing companies go out of their way to keep important customers satisfied. This is because most studies show that, higher level of customer satisfaction leads to greater customer loyalty which in turn results to better company performance. Loyal customers do not only make repeat purchase but also become willing marketing partners and customer evangelist who spread the word about their good experiences to others.
Consumers usually face a broad array of products and services that might satisfy a given need. How do they choose among these many market offerings? Customers form expectations about the value and satisfaction that various market offerings will deliver and buy accordingly. Satisfied customers buy again and tell others about their good experiences. Dissatisfied customers on the other hand often switch to competitors and disparage the product to others (Philip Kotler, 2001) .Usually, consumer expectations result from past buying experiences, friend, marketers’ and competitors’ information and promises. If marketers raise expectations too high, the buyer is likely to be disappointed. If they set expectations too low, it won’t attract enough buyers though it will satisfy those who do buy. Some of today’s most successful companies are raising expectations and delivering performances to match these expectations. An example is the Korean automaker Kia which found success in the United States by launching low-cost, high-quality cars with enough reliability to offer 10-year, 100,000 mile warranties. Thus marketers must be careful to set the right level of expectations. If they set expectations too low, they may satisfy those who buy but fail to attract enough buyers. If they set expectations too high, buyers will be disappointed. It is worth noting that customer value and customer satisfaction are key building blocks for developing and managing customer relationships.
A dissatisfied consumer responds differently. Bad word of mouth often travels farther and faster than good word of mouth. It can quickly damage consumer attitudes about a company and its products. But companies cannot simply rely on dissatisfied customers to volunteer their complaints when they are dissatisfied. Most unhappy customers never tell the company about their problems. Infact, statistics show that 96% of unhappy customers do not compliant, however, 91% of those will simply leave and never come back. Therefore, a company should measure customer satisfaction regularly and should set up systems that encouragecustomers to complain. In this way, the company can learn how well it is doing and how it can improve.
Significant changes are occurring in the way in which companies are relating to their customers. Yesterday big companies focused on mass marketing to all customers at arm’s length. Today, companies are building deeper, more direct and lasting relationships with more carefully selected customers (Djellal & Gallouj, 2010; Durst & Mention, 2013). Few firms’ today still practice true mass marketing where selling is standardizes to every customer who comes along. Most marketers do not care about making relationships with every customer. Instead, they target fewer more profitable customers. A marketing analyst stated that, not all customers are worth your marketing efforts this statement is supported by another marketing expert that, some customers are even more costly to serve than to lose (Schwarz, Durst, & Bodendorf, 2012). Besides choosing customers more selectively, companies are now relating with chosen customers in deeper, more meaningful ways, rather than relying on one way mass media massages only.
Customer service used to be fairly simple. For the most part, you just had to be friendly and helpful to the people you did business with, and if someone wasn’t happy, you dealt with the problem and that was the end of it.There’s a lot more to it nowadays than doling out smiles and fielding the occasional angry phone call. Social media and mobile technology have enabled constant connectivity, giving customers access to public forums in which they can talk or complain about the products and services of a company (Cynthia Crossen, 2007). Only organizations that are willing to adapt and respond to this shift in business to consumer dynamics will survive. Smart business leaders know that customers are now in the driver’s seat when it comes to public brand perception. In effect, nothing a company does will stay hidden for long and the Internet has given consumers a powerful voice, of which they are not afraid to use. Robert Johnson, president and CEO of customer service Software Company mentioned that, in the past, if a customer had a problem with a product or company, there wasn’t much they could do about it, but today, through social media and product review sites the person can let the entire world know about a poor experience (James Chartrand, 2009). This type of consumer empowerment has only existed in the past few years. Consumer empowerment also means that customer expectations about when and how they communicate with brands are incredibly high. It’s not enough to provide business hours, phone number or email address for customer support one needs to go an extra mile to be where consumers are, right when they need you. Organizations no longer segment themself to those service practices they are comfortable with. Amir Zonozi, who is the chief strategy officer of social influencer engagement platform mentioned that, when a customer reaches out to you on Twitter, it needs to be solved on Twitter. When they reach out to you via email, it needs to be solved via email. Asking your customers to switch their preferred method of communication is taking your customer out of their comfort zone and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary (Zach Goldstein, 2014).
Social media can be a blessing for businesses that use it well, and a curse for those that don’t. But love it or hate it, it’s here to stay as a customer service channel, and business had better get on board if they want to keep up with consumer demands. Ignoring customer comments, whether positive or negative, won’t stop people from posting them, and this approach could even damage an organization’s reputation more than any product issue or poor experience.
Today, we have to embrace social media as an opportunity not only to connect directly with customer, but to publicly demonstrate our ability to quickly respond to clients with outstanding service. Every business makes mistakes, but what differentiates great customer care is when the public can see a response that really solves a problem and shows dedication to individual experiences. People care more about organizations which master responses than they do about the mistake or issue itself.
Simon Chkifati, 2006, co-founder of Luxor Limousines noted that successful companies have to be literate in all social media channels and know how to productively handle complaints on any of them. This means offering a personalized, relevant response to every customer inquiry. He continued that, generic responses to customer issues are no longer effective because customers now expect a more tailored approach. A bad customer experience gets broadcast for all to see online not just today, but for years, if not forever. Likewise, a great customer experience becomes an online beacon attracting customers far and wide for a long time.
As brands and communications channels have multiplied, the complexity of satisfaction assessments and loyalty has grown exponentially. With greater choice in almost every category has come a sense that poor product performance need not be tolerated. However, if choice feels excessive, harried consumers may simply buy what they know instead of wading into the pros and cons of a new decision. To manage brands effectively today, marketers need to have a holistic picture of all the connections between consumers and brands and the real factors driving not just current purchase decisions but also the long-term health of the brand. Despite the conventional wisdom that brand loyalty is on the decline, a new study by IBM Institute illuminates that brand loyalty is still critical, though more challenging to cultivate. Consumer behavior patterns demonstrate that consumers will continue to buy products from a company that has fostered a trusting relationship. Brand loyalty is extremely beneficial to businesses as it leads to repeat purchases by consumers, higher revenues, and customer referrals. Establishing brand loyalty can help companies reap huge benefits. The advantages of having a loyal customer base can really push a business past its competitors and give it the competitive advantage it needs to succeed in the marketplace. No matter what industry you’re in, it’s more worth it than ever to invest the necessary time and resources into providing the best possible customer service. Being customer-centric is one of the most significant goals for forward-looking businesses to shape a digital future (Pearl Zhu, 1999) however, traditional innovation works on the basis of intuition almost exclusively. That’s why it has such a high failure rate. There are two areas where innovation can raise customer satisfaction directly which are product design and in customer service, at all stages from pre-sales to after. Innovation leads to customer delight in either or both areas. However, a company needs to focus on innovation in those areas to achieve the desired result. So, it’s about smart and effective innovation in the specific areas that affect customer satisfaction. The level of increased customer satisfaction would be also based on both the industry and the area in which the innovation is occurring. However, when thinking of innovation, one often think of large-scale innovation which is important, but most customer service impressions occur in the “last mile” of service, the real innovation needs to occur in those very moments too. Innovation links directly with customer satisfaction. Good design thinking starting with a customer empathy map. The opportunity for the innovative company is not to launch a plethora of features and products that overwhelm the consumer, but rather provide a few really value-added products that are delightful, well thought out with the end user in mind, provide simplicity of selection, usage, and outstanding reliability (Barry Schwartz 2014). These products need to solve a problem and help improve the customer life experience. Although the two concepts-innovation and customer satisfaction are not linked automatically, if customer centricity drives the innovation/innovative process there should be a clear impact and it should be measurable.
1.2 Problem Statement
Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Therefore, meeting their needs and ensuring their satisfaction is imperative. Unless an organization cares about its customers, customers won’t reciprocate in a similar manner (McDougall & Levesque, 2000). Fierce market competition necessitates that organizations constantly improve their relationship with customers. This can translate into efficient customer lifecycle management by evoking a positive experience across the customer journey.
While acquiring new customers is essential, organizations must lay emphasis on retaining existing ones and creating loyal customers who ensure stable business operations. The better the relationship customers share with an organization, the greater their potential to generate revenue for the business. In fact, Garner, 2000, states that 20% of the current customers in an organization generate about 80% of the profits.
Though most organizations are aware of the fact that customers are key to the success of every business, they are still faced with the difficulty of satisfying their customers and creating loyalty amongst them in order to retain them. This is because organizations have not been able to establish a baseline for customer satisfaction that identifies sources of customer dissatisfaction and measures to satisfy it (Kandampully & Duddy, 2012).
Dissatisfied customers are detrimental to organizations so they ought to be handled with care. But unfortunately, most organizations do not know how to identify them and hence cannot handle them. This group of customers will hardly table complaints. Instead, they leave quietly and simply share their bad experiences with other customers. Research shows that, customers turn to tell twice as many persons a bad experience with customer service than a good one (Flint, Woodruff, & Gardial, 2002).
Though maintaining customer satisfaction is hard work, organizations have to continuously do everything possible to make customers satisfied or loyal to their brands even if it will requires the use of extra resources. This is because the benefits of keeping satisfied or loyal customers turns out to be cost effective. By cultivating customer loyalty, businesses are creating an army of strong promoters that can outshine their best marketing efforts. These net promoters can help save huge advertising and marketing costs for enterprises as word-of-mouth is a powerful and cost-effective marketing tool. Moreover, customer retention efforts are cheaper than acquiring new customers. Building loyalty forms a solid customer base helping the business to grow exponentially.
Satisfied customers insulate your business from competitors. According to Barry Schwartz 2009, although the two concepts-innovation and customer satisfaction are not linked automatically, if customer centricity drives the innovative process there should be a clear impact and it should be measurable.
Innovation in services has become a topical issue in the society. However, analytical and detailed discussion about the nature of service innovations and their emergence is only beginning. This situation is not different in the telecom sector of Cameroon. In today’s globalised and competitive market environment, customers have become more demanding towards companies in this sector because of the increased abundance of choices that they now have. This intense competition has caused companies to face pricing pressures and to improve services through innovation. (Johnson & Fornell, 1991; Fornell, Johnson, Anderson, Cha, & Bryant, 1996). This has led companies to move beyond price competition and to differentiate themselves by delivering high quality offerings (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1985, 1988, 1991; Cronin & Taylor, 1992). Service innovation had been neglected by most organizations in Cameroon. Though it existed in the telecom industry, it was slowed. Over the last decade, last decade, service innovation has increase within this sector. This increase came as a result of high level of competition within firms in the telecom sector and high expectations from customers. In the rapidly changing Telecom environment with its low switching costs, excellent customer service is vital to retaining customers and developing profitable customer relationships (Bolton, 2001). Tools like Net Promoter Score are being adopted to augment traditional measure of customer satisfaction. In the telecom industry there are specific challenges in delivering great service. Different demands and usage patterns from different customer segments. For instance, teenage consumers are focused on voice, text, and ringtone. The young adult segment, on the other hand, are heavy users of mobile social networks, apps, and multi-media messaging. And older consumers and small businesses tend to be heavy voice-only users. Also, there exist different contact channel preferences among different consumers and a different style and language requirements among different segments or geographies. MTN Cameroon have taken these differences into consideration and are becoming more innovative in order to address these differences so that they could satisfy and retain their customers. The most recent innovation in the telecom industry is the 3G and 4G technology. Three (3) was the first UK company to introduce the 3G network. It had as objective to increase network coverage to cover over 97% of rural area, it had to improve signal quality and also to make internet accessible everywhere for everyone. This innovation was successful and remains popular even after the coming of 4G technology.
MTN Cameroon adopted the 3G technology in 2015 and few months later, the 4G network was introduced. It is worth noting that, this innovation came up fifteen years after MTN has been operating on 2G. This study seeks to investigate if the 3G and 4G technology adopted by MTN Cameroon is to fight completion or to improve customer satisfaction. This current study therefore attempts to address the following issues:
1.3 Research Questions
To what extent does signal quality and network coverage affect customer satisfaction?
What is the effect of perceived value on customer satisfaction?
What is the effect of customer services on customer satisfaction?
How has service innovation affected customer loyalty
1.4 Objective of Study
The main objective of the study is to assess the impact of service innovation on customer satisfaction. Specifically, the study seeks to:
1) Examine the effect of signal quality and network coverage on customer satisfaction
- Assess the influence of customer services on customer satisfaction.
- Assess the impact of service innovation on customer satisfaction.
- Investigate how perceived value affects customer satisfaction.
- Discuss findings, make conclusion and recommendations.
FURTHER READINGS: SIMILAR PROJECT TOPICS WITH MATERIALS ON MARKETING