Customer comes first

He likes his doubles with pepper sauce and no longer uses Waze to get around the country. He participated in all things Carnival (including J’Ouvert) yet his biggest fear is getting too attached to our twin-island republic. And it’s only been a year living here for 38-year-old Russian, Jabbor Kayumov, CEO of Digicel. “You all are blessed. I don’t know how much you realise that. Oil and gas. A good economy. Beaches. Sunshine. You have the best weather in the Caribbean.” And while he says that he doesn’t miss Russia that much – especially its harsh winters – he does admit that he has been working very hard over the past year.

Customer service is a core priority. Kayumov made a recent call on social media for Digicel customers to contact him directly to get their issues resolved. He has a specific e-mail address that he spends time daily going through and either responds directly or forwards to the people who can help.

“When I came here, the first impression was that customer service in Trinidad was different to what I was used to. Customer needs and customer centricity isn’t just a word or words. Everybody should be really addressing their customers’ needs, especially when it comes to problems or failures the customer may have had. Customer care and customer centricity is a big topic here at Digicel. We are very interested in hearing our customers, working with their complaints and hearing the roots or the gaps. From the business operation itself to not giving the customer a bad experience, it is all about a continued improvement of process. We have kicked off many processes that allow us to identify those gaps and areas where we can be a bit more efficient and customer-centric with any of our services and products,” explained Kayumov.

Digicel CEO Jabbor Kayumov, who has been in TT for a year, is working on making the company's operations more customer-centric. Photo by Michelle A Eng Leang

But separate from customer service, what is Kayumov’s overall view of the last 12 months, not only at the helm of Digicel but compared to his home country, Russia? “There were so many things you can fix and you can do differently to break the traditional way of doing business. With all the new trends in the industry, getting online, becoming agile and becoming digital, Trinidad is the perfect market to make things happen in the new way. I have been experiencing many good moments on changing things. At Digicel, we are at the beginning of this journey. We took just the first steps with building up the base to really become digital in the full meaning of this word.”

Giving TT a communications boost

Kayumov admitted to not knowing about TT when he was exploring the role but he was aware of Digicel. “When I was going through the company profile, I saw that it was not a traditional telco where it’s only mobile service that the company is providing. What Digicel does is provide fibre to homes and to businesses. Then there’s home and entertainment, so content and media business.” What really got Kayumov interested was the fact that Digicel’s arm in TT was a sort of hub for business solutions and information and communication technology (ICT).

“It was a kind of centre for research and development, to come up with proper ICT solutions for the corporate segment and business houses. It is not that simple but it is not that complex. It’s really the wider scope of the telecoms industry, which is not always present in many other countries. So, having home and entertainment, the media business and ICT solutions, where you are actually competing with big vendors like Fujitsu and Huawei and many others, was very interesting from an experience perspective. I have worked in many traditional companies and many digital companies, but I didn’t work, for example, in home and entertainment or media that much. So, from a professional perspective it was a good chance for me to expand my portfolio of skills.”

Digicel CEO Jabbor Kayumov says with all the new technological trends, TT is the perfect market to make things happen in a new way. Photo courtesy Digicel

Kayumov recalls his experience in Moscow, Russia’s capital, as a consumer. “Everything is digitised. You can schedule appointments with your doctor online. You can order your passport online. You can pay your taxes online. You can see all your bills online and you can pay them all online. Just with a few clicks. The government is also really digitised. Most of the services are in the cloud. So, from an opportunity perspective, Trinidad has great potential when it comes to its economic resources and its human resources, as well. The education and knowledge levels of the people here is on quite a high level.”

He believes that if TT can do the right things, including having companies like Digicel enabling the intentions of the government when it comes to digitising most processes, it will contribute to further development of the GDP and overall growth of the economy.

“Digicel is already providing solutions to other Caribbean markets and it’s not only mobile things. When it comes to digital government, you will need a strong partner or enabler who will come with the right solution, which is the right fit to a specific country.”

Keeping up with lightning-fast evolution

When it comes to taking advantage of all things digital, Kayumov sees it all revolving around simplifying a lot of bureaucratic processes and digitising them as well. “It depends on the willingness and readiness of the government to make it happen. How strongly they wish to do it. There are so many partners, Digicel is not the only one. The gap between the traditional way of doing business and the digital point even for the government, is not that big to be covered. It can be so quick, and you will not realise how quickly it is moving. Even a few years ago, we never thought that LTE speed would be provided and people would be watching movies in high definition on small-screen devices wherever they went. The technology is moving quite fast. It’s all about the will and ambition you have in terms of making things happen. Digicel Trinidad has a lot of expertise in-house and we service a lot of other countries so, I think it is a great opportunity for all stakeholders here – both business and Government – to actually start leveraging this opportunity into those initiatives they want to accomplish”.

A handset on the Digicel network. Photo by Michelle A Eng Leang

Streamlining services for high-speed customer satisfaction

But what about the local small business? Our micro entrepreneurs? Were they on the Digicel radar as well? “One of the services that we have in-house that we are providing to small and medium business is called Business Essential. It’s IT security and internet broadband. It’s a managed service where small businesses don’t need to spend their resources on any IT administration. We are managing their services, end-to-end and they have access to the global network, so they don’t need to bother themselves with anything else.”

Kayumov is aware that customer needs are changing every single day. “What we are trying to do differently at Digicel, is we are working very closely with our customer base, from the consumer all the way to corporate clients, small, medium or large enterprises to understand their needs, understand their capability, their budget and coming up with a solution that is going to fit them. Our solutions can be customised. We have products that are already built so they might fit their needs. In the case that it is not fitting, and it needs to be customised, we have a team behind that who will work out any specific solution and we are actually moving towards simplifying all those solutions.”

So, what’s next for Digicel? “We are a premier operator providing the best quality of service the best quality of product. If you check our LTE speed, it’s the best. If you check the quality of the picture you are getting on our home entertainment product it’s the best and the technology behind that is the best. We are working on the customer experience so our customers will get any information they need from a few clicks and they don’t need even to call our customer care. It’s all about simplifying the processes and making it more customer-centric, so they can understand that they are our primary focus. If you compare the Trini customer today to the Trini customer ten years ago, demand has increased dramatically. Now, everyone wants LTE speed all over the place. They aren’t really satisfied with 4G or 3G. The expectations are really high so meeting those expectations is a challenge but we are fully committed to addressing it and that’s what the game is about.”

From content delivery to content creation

Kayumov sees Digicel Trinidad as having a good balance between technology and human capital. “I think at this stage I am having a lot of confidence in my team here in Trinidad. We went through this upgrade exercise where we upgraded our network and it is actually brand new, which means it is the latest technology.” But it still boils down to what the customer wants here in Trinidad. “If you deep dive into customer needs, you will realise that customers need interpersonal communication, to talk to their family and friends, so they are hunting for a good experience when it comes to that. When they are online, they are hunting for content. They are looking for short videos, they are looking for news. They are always looking for something more with content. And where telecoms worked traditionally as enablers, providing the pipe for the water, we are now stepping in and have the ambition to start providing our customers with content. So, we are working on content production. I wouldn’t say we are HBO and going to start producing a Game of Thrones, but we might come up with some content, very local but provoking high levels of interest.”

It’s all about reading the needs of customers in terms of their news preference, their content preference, their channel preferences and find a way to address those. “One of the biggest requests I’ve been hearing since I’ve come here is that our home and entertainment doesn’t have the English Premier League. People need that content. They are happy with the speed they are getting now. They can actually browse and watch anything they want through the internet and they’ve been happy with the hundreds of different channels we have and our different packages. But what they have really been missing is the English Premier League and the ability to watch it live. I can tease you a bit and say that we are working on that and very soon we are going to come up with a solution so that everyone in TT will have access to this high-quality content.”

As for his favourite football team, Kayumov says Liverpool. “I am a football fan and I am actually falling in love with Liverpool. I wouldn’t say I am a fan of a specific team. I am a fan of the game itself but I think I am at the age where you start building up your preferences and what you buy as a customer, because I am the customer when it comes to this content. You start buying the brand stories and Liverpool has a great story and they have been doing a great job.”

Kayumov believes that you cannot sell an empty story. “You have to walk the talk. Digicel itself has a great story as a company and I fell in love with this company in the year that I have been with them. And I am not talking only about Trinidad but in general. Digicel has a great spirit and is very committed to the Caribbean, and I think this commitment combined with this great spirit, can actually face any challenge and evolve itself to any need this market may have.”


"Customer comes first"

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