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Virgin Mobile MEA has established a stellar reputation ever since its inception in 2006 and serves now millions of customers across five markets. In order to know more about the MVNO’s latest activities and achievements, Telecom Review spoke to Erik Dudman Nielsen, Group CEO, Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa.

Virgin Mobile MEA has been at the forefront of enriching customer experiences with its digitized services and customer-centric approach. How do your available initiatives actually enrich the customer experience and, in your opinion, what more could be done to optimize them even more?

We’re proud to have made a meaningful impact on the industry, launching the region’s first mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) with the FRiENDi brand in Oman, followed by bringing the first, fully digital service with the launch of our Virgin Mobile brand in UAE and KSA, now serving more than 3 million customers across the three markets.

Our core objective has always been to provide our customers with an outstanding experience, and to achieve this, Virgin Mobile is dedicated to driving two core focuses on our business – segmentation and digitalization: dedicated target segmentation to drive customer insights and create propositions to address the needs of specific market segments, delivered with an unwavering focus on customer experience through our unique digital platforms.

Segmentation enables us to develop marketing strategies and service offerings that target sub-segments of the telecom market, thereby reaching out to a wide scale of different customer segments - proven by our own dual brand strategy with FRiENDi Mobile and Virgin Mobile, which allows Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa to deliver bespoke services and experiences targeted at different customer groups, thereby meeting the specific needs of those audiences to create high customer satisfaction.

We are continually looking at new ways we can innovate to provide the very best product and customer experience for our users and to achieve this, we actively listen to our customers to ensure that the Virgin Mobile app and services are carefully designed to cater to the needs of our customers. For example, we have recently launched a brand loyalty program in the UAE to reward loyal customers, as well as introducing a digital payments option in Oman for our FRiENDi customers, in response to demand for non-physical recharge options during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We have also expanded our fully digital proposition even further with the launch of some exciting new services, aimed at promoting the use of eSIM to give a 100% end-to-end digital service. For example, in KSA we have just launched a partnership with launching eSIM with Absher, a smartphone application which allows citizens and residents in Saudi Arabia to use a variety of governmental services, including ID services. This partnership means that the entire sign-up process can now be done 100% digitally via the Virgin Mobile app when using an eSIM, as Absher digitally verifies the customers ID.

What has Virgin Mobile MEA been working on recently?

We are now turning our attention to helping other operators develop their own portfolio of digital services across the region.

As an MVNO operating in multiple countries, we are expert in systems integration and have the agility to move quickly to address consumer trends. By connecting with existing mobile networks, we bring new innovations and features to the market much faster than traditional telcos, enabling us to complement operator offerings by developing marketing strategies and service offerings that target sub-segments of the telecom market.

With the ability and expertise to commercially deploy our digital platform – not only have we built a digital platform to deliver a world class digital experience that can be quickly and easily replicated for other markets, but we also have the experience and learnings too, which translates into a knowledge of running a digital commercial operation, reducing the risk for MNOs looking to going digital, and allowing us to deliver a digital platform with speed and efficiency. The cost of building a digital proposition from scratch is not insignificant, and often such programmes can face major challenges both in securing resources and in integrating these platforms with inflexible legacy systems. These are some of the headaches we are trying to remove.

As an MVNO, we have always had to focus on our internal efficiencies to manage costs and improve speed to market. So, when we built a digital platform to deliver a world class digital experience, we built it with the intention of having it quickly and easily replicable for other markets, with the ability to deploy within a few months depending on the level of integration complexity.

We are very excited that, following a call for application in November 2019, we have been awarded a license to launch both our Virgin Mobile and FRiENDi mobile brands in Kuwait. We were the only successful MVNO to obtain the new telecommunications license and this is the first new MVNO license to be granted to any operator in the Middle East region since our own game changing entry into the UAE, with our innovative B-Brand partnership with EITC.

Given the current climate, what does the future look like for telcos in the region?

Undoubtedly, the Covid 19 pandemic has sharpened consumers’ appetites for digital services. Likewise, it has highlighted the importance of telcos continuing with their own digitalisation efforts. Connectivity has been the very lifeblood that has enabled people to live full, remote, digital lives during the pandemic. Consumers will continue to demand similar interactions in the post-pandemic world and, as a result, telcos across the region are looking to fast track their own digitalisation initiatives.

Operators clearly understand the need to deliver superior digital experience. However, they also acknowledge the challenges of legacy systems & lack of relevant skills, besides any innovation & culture limitations, which is where B-Brand models and Virgin Mobile’s digital expertise come into play.

We have seen across all sectors that customers rate digital experience. Digital experience drives higher NPS over a traditional experience, resulting in higher recommendation and revenues – indeed digital service NPS scores are on average four times higher than standard mobile operator NPS scores. This increase in customer satisfaction stems from giving customers genuine convenience, genuine simplicity.

2021 will be a true turning point for the telco industry as it chooses to seize the unlimited opportunities presented by the shift towards digitalisation. Going forward, a critical success factor for mobile operators will be in the way in which they embrace the new digital world and adapt from traditional model and instead move towards an agile, digital business model.

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