Business, Marketing, Planning, Strategy

Customer Retention Strategy at Airtel

I am a big fan of Airtel in many ways! They have a wonderful mobile network, probably the best in the country. They have also tried to provide good broadband services, which is commendable. One thing in which Airtel is really bad is ….. customer service.

  1. Initially it was the number of call center employees. Whenever you would call up Airtel you will enter a never ending queue where no one will ever answer your phone.
  2. To counter this, they removed the easy option to go to a customer service operator from the menu and placed it somewhere where hard to find. Thus you could get a lot of automated help (which was useless) but to speak to a customer care operative you had to hunt through all the menu choices.
  3. There was also a phase where an operator would promise you something but then the promise was never kept. Moreover there was no way to accuse Airtel when the promise was not kept. Thus Airtel started a wonderful concept of Transaction ID where every conversation with the customer service operator gets a Transaction ID for future reference.

I was really surprised with something which happened a couple of days ago while interaction with Airtel. I wanted to change the broadband plan in Delhi since there was not going to be too much usage on it. I wanted to get the Broadband top-up plan but the customer service agent said that it was not possible. After much debate I decided to just disconnect the Airtel Broadband plan as the customer agent was hell bent to sell me a plan which I did not want. When I finally asked for my broadband connection to be disconnected and keeping only a voice plan the magic happened! My call was forwarded to the Customer Retention Department! At the customer retention department I was offered a sort of custom made plan which catered to my needs, did not overcharge me, and was perfectly suited. I opted for it and stayed with Airtel. Please note the plan was not offered to me earlier, and only when I opted for disconnection did I get this plan.

What is Airtel actually achieving from this? To use the principal of Consumer surplus in this context, Airtel is trying to capture almost the entire consumer surplus. A user who does not like Airtel plans but does not want to switch will keep overpaying. When the user falls into the category where he wants to not use Airtel and will fall off their userlist they provide him an alternate thus avoiding losing him to competition. They still capture the consumer surplus with an alternate supply line which is not visible to all customers! Brilliant! The strategy is pretty good except that people in India tend to talk around πŸ™‚

A good strategy by Airtel. When other competitors specially the Government owned companies are not even providing the basic details online or over the phone, Airtel has masterminded a technique to get a lot of customers.

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10 thoughts on “Customer Retention Strategy at Airtel

  1. Very true Shubham. I guess this is the biggest difference between companies in the B2B segment and B2C segment. Since Airtel has such a huge “customer” base, which is the long tail of Indian customers, they really don’t bother much about losing people, in cases where people do not even go through the last bit of good experience that you did have. Airtel takes their customers for granted. In fact, not only did they give you your customized plan eventually, they also ensured that they are able to make you a good word of mouth marketer of Airtel. I am a great example of a person who overpays by having an Airtel connection πŸ™‚ The signal in Mumbai for Airtel is really terrible, yet I do not find time over the week to switch to a better service provider (I love the ZooZoos ;-))

  2. All the same, Airtel has huge issues – during peak hours – Airtel dropped calls like crazy – my experience from IIMC – u cudnt connect from Mum to Cal on an airtel connection.

    I also had a pathetic experience with airtel customer care when I had to return a card. But that must be true for most mobile firms I believe.

    Yet, Airtel is pretty decent in terms of network etc, but its quality of service has to improve with time, especially in this exponential growth stage for telecom.

  3. suryadeep says:

    Nice one Subham. From my experience Vodafone has a much better network as well as customer service but they are not so adept at increasing the customer base. Airtel has definitely mastered this art.

  4. Oh Relaince also does the similar things… u can keep cursing the Customer Care dept and nobody bothers and when u reach retention department..All is well. πŸ™‚

  5. San Ideos says:

    Its a supplier’s market in India(guess that’s what they call it). There are too many people. Dispensable customers. Airtel cannot shift the broadband connection to my new apartment. They say that it may take up to 3 months to do that. But they would not agree to hold on to my connection for the next 3 months. They are forcing me to either close the connection or pay for the 3 months even of I get no service.

  6. Shubham
    You should try *9* or *0* at all possible levels in IVRs;works most of the times to escape the series of IVR menus and get a human being on the other end.


  7. pradeep says:

    I cant help but notice the glaring flaw in the way you guys think, when airtel clearly violates ethics and tries to cheat customers into paying more than for services , you laud it as being “brilliant”. I guess this is what more of the B-Schools teach their students, increase profit margins at any cost.
    I sincerely hope this would change , and take focus to the greater good of the humanity instead of greed and personal gains.

  8. Gaurav choudhari says:

    this idea sounds good to run the business frm Airtel’s view!!

    But actually i didn’t like the idea. its purely my openion, and can differ from others.

    This kind of attitude by the service provider shows the typical ” chalta hai tab tak chalo” kind of Indian approach. So that, till u can pull the matter pull it, if it really gonna break then only change urself.

    It is not fair for those people ,cant giveup the service( for some reason), so they cant threaten Airtel and thus they cant get,which soemone else is getting by threatening to drop the service..

    how do u feel, if u goto a bike showroom, and some customer is demanding for some extra discounts/ extra accessories but dealer denies for it. So the finally the customer who is standing before u, shows his willingness to not to buy the bike if the discount is not offered. and fianlly dealer agrees after a lot of argument.

    But suppose, we assume that u need to buy the bike, cant afford to go home without buying it, then in that case u are not being offered those incentives which other guy got it!!

    I dont have any issues with author, as he got the what he wanted from Airtel ,so he is happy. But if we look from other cuatomer’s perspective then, they are not receiving those perks! this is unfair for the rest of the customers!

    somewhere we can relate it to the local vegsellers, where ones need to argue with them and bargain to bring down the price. if show that u will walk away without buying it if it is not offered at price u want then the veg-seller agrees for ur price.
    but at the same,time he tries to fool the people who cant bargain and rather he tries to compensate the loss which he made he earlier case by seling vegetable at higehr price to the next customer.
    i feel, there is a resemblence in what airtel is doing and what i have mentioned in the abobe para.

    Comments are welcome!

  9. Tarun Daga says:

    I don’t think what Airtel is doing can be termed as unethical. In simple terms as hinted by Gaurav it is pure bargaining. Who doesn’t bargain in this world. We all want to earn the maximum profit. We settle for those prices which we think are justifiable to us, if it is not then we would definitely not buy it or switch over. Everyone is trying to cash in on this perspective. Tell me if I or any any one of you are running a business what would be our objective. Wouldn’t we then want to gain the maximum profit? Wouldn’t we then offer different prices to different consumers seeing the future business which can be done with them? Wouldn’t we charge a premium where we can and even when we know that we can enjoy this premium in future as well? Don’t we all in our conscious or unconscious mind crave for the ROI? The only difference is the level of ROI differs from individual to individual.
    Further going we should not forget that this is a consumer’s Era. We should try and cash in. We should make our friends and others aware of such thing. Talk about these things and let everyone enjoy the benefits. I was not aware of such a practice by Airtel but now through this discussion i am aware and would definitely get the best deal from them in future. This is what we need to do.
    To sum it up would like to say that this is in no way unfair for the customers, they need to be educated and smart enough. The power is in the hand of consumers so why not use it. Why don’t we claim for our right. We have things in placed but the “chalta hai attitude” is what should be changed. How many times have we given suggestion or written a mail where the companies ask for feedback? The only reply we have is that no one will even read it. Is that really true? Who knows? We never use Consumer Forum to complaint. Why??
    I guess i have taken this discussion way to forward and deviated from the main topic. Just my thoughts nothing personal.

    P.S.- These were just my views. There may be a better way to look at this topic. So guys keep writing.

  10. sahil sonkar says:

    Dear friends you all are wrong Airtel just makes fool i knw this better than a custmor b’coz i work with Airtel as a retention executive they offered 20% rebate only for period of 6 months , there minimum unlimited plan in Retention is 399 with basic speed 128 kbps + 10.3 service tax this plans attracts the custmors most but its my view airtel is the most worst service provider in india b’coz they mainy work to extend revenue

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