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November 21, 2010

Worst marketing practices of Indian Mobile service operators – Part I

When they are good they are good and when they are bad they are very bad. The mobile boys have also given us lots of bad marketing practices in a cut throat rate race for acquiring and retaining numbers. 
1. Selling of phone numbers for a very cheap price: Funnily enough the customers that the mobile service operators have acquired with so much of pain and effort are given off at a very cheap price to SMS operators. These SMS operators then harass the customers which all types of unwanted products and services.
2. Number Portability: The worst thing about having a mobile connection in India is that the customer so wedded to the operator for life. The mobile number becomes the extension of the customer’s personality and he/she does not want to take a new connection for his entire social network and friends know him/her by that number. The TRAI (Telecom regulation Authority of India) wanted to introduce a number portability scheme where the customer can if he wants change his service provider without changing the number. And Presto all the service operators came together to protect their (un)holy turf. Leaving the customer with no choice they are fighting tool and nail to see that the scheme of number portability scheme is not introduced. In this war for profits the customer is left holding the bag. He can’t do anything but to curse his fate for choosing the service operator that he is struck with.
3. Auto cut off:  One o the annoying thing about mobile calls is that the calls get cut abruptly which is popularly called call hanging. It is said that the cutting off is because of faulty network and cell transfers from one cell tower to another. But critics point out that call hanging does not happen with land line networks. They allege that the call hanging is a way of getting extra revenue. When a call gets hung up the customer has no choice but to makes another call.
4. Silence is YES: An issue that was very contentious and which went to the court of law. A customer gets a SMS which says “get your favorite ring tone at Rs 30/- per month. If you want to subscribe to this service send a SMS to this number”. The catch is the customer may simply ignore the SMS. The operator immediately deducts Rs 30/- from the user’s balance. This deduction goes unnoticed in the post paid connections but in pre paid where balances are used very carefully and judiciously this comes as a big blow. Finally the judicial system in India has to intervene and clarify that Silence is actually no and just because the customer kept silent it can’t be taken as an affirmative action.
An affirmative action has to be confirmed with sending of a SMS to the number mentioned. But in a country that is so illiterate it is very difficult for the user to understand so much of technical talk. The user is hassled and suddenly he/she gets a SMS. The SMS prompts the user to press the Yes button and he/she innocently presses the Yes button. The service is immediately activated. Once the service is activated it is very difficult for it to be deactivated. Calls to the customer care center are usually not very helpful. The customer care centers become helpful only if the caller becomes belligerent and threatens legal action or cancellation of service.

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