As an Airtel employee, I had always thought that there was better scope for a great online interface. In the era of ecommerce, the website was a disgrace to the otherwise superb technology interface of Airtel, let alone an app interface. Last month, when Flipkart and Myntra closed their mobile website and shifted to app only versions, I wondered whether Airtel had missed the ‘app’ bus. But thankfully, there have been some great developments recently namely
1) My Airtel App-for customers
2) Improved and elegantly designed Airtel site for all
3) Airtel Genie and Airtel IT app-for employees
I updated the App from Google Play, and then registered my number with an OTP. To my surprise, I noticed an awesome interface with the latest unpaid bill as a reminder on top! That too saved as ‘Anandh Gurgaon Bill’ with awesome options to get coupons. Though not on the same scale as Paytm/Freecharge, it is still trying to drive recharges through own platforms, as also give a better customer experience.
The three features I most like are
1) Proactive bill reminders on top of the app with the cute ‘ringing bell’ symbol albeit silent one!
2) Option to apply for a new service and (presumably) get a call back-this is much better than having to call 121 or Google for online form submission.
3) Options to get coupons through recharge without any service charge/handling charge like done for Freecharge.
Some points of improvement could be
1) Adding new numbers(prepaid/postpaid/DTH/Fixed line) could be more intuitive.
2) Updating registered phone number of other services through the app
3) There should not be any need to enter the details all over again while re-updating the app. In my case, this seems to have happened.
In this electronic age where customers get freebies from utility and retail companies to transact online, it is not the case with telecom companies which still depend on retailer driven recharges, and channel partner driven acquisitions. Of course, a lot of this is due to the prepaid nature of business and rural/financial inclusion, where telecom companies need to be accessible to all and sundry and this is only possible through multi retailer outlets like retailers. But there is still room for improvement like focusing on own base, employee/customer driven referrals and own channel fulfillment through own retail, ARC etc. This would albeit lead to channel conflict but there are precedents for this. For example, the financial services sector was heavily dependent on channel partners to source credit cards and loans, but with the wide proliferation of bank branches and ATMs, banks now encourage customers to apply online or at ATMs, to get reduced/waived processing fees. Suppose this works for telecom postpaid/broadband acquisitions, then the impact could be immense.
Of course, the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. Customers need to be comfortable interacting directly with the company and that too online. For this, things like Airtel My App is a great start. Do visit http://www.airtel.in/myairtel to download the app and see more.