Chra Hussain, CCO of Asiacell, talks technology, team building, and always ensuring the customer comes first.
Plenty of companies, having attained a clear lead in their industry, might be tempted to take it easy and enjoy the view from the top of the hill. The ones that stay at the top of the latter, however, know that being number one takes just as much, if not more work than being a challenger.
Asiacell is the undisputed market leader in Iraq’s telecom sector, and invests heavily in making sure things stay that way. “Asiacell is king in terms of its position as the leading player in the Iraqi telecom sector,” says Chra Hussain, Asiacell’s Chief Commercial Officer, who explains that the company “maintains this position through its unmatched digital resources and technical know-how.”
As a result, Asiacell’s network delivers the fastest, most reliable connectivity in the country to the largest number of people. The company serves a growing subscriber base of more than 14.7mn Iraqis across all 19 of the country’s governorates who - Hussain is quick to emphasise - are the leading priority for the carrier. “We are a service company. Everything we do is about enhancing the customer experience. Our staff is in a constant state of training and development to keep up with the latest trends in customer service,” she says. “Ensuring that our service remains the best in the market is our priority here at Asiacell, and our network is continuing to consistently improve and develop all over Iraq.”
Continuous Improvement - Internally and in the Community
In order to ensure that its customer experience remains the best available to Iraqi consumers, Asiacell is driven by a doctrine of continuous improvement and training, in order to better understand, build relationships with, and serve its customers.
“We are developing a full digital transformation strategy across both sales and customer care, which will be our main segments of focus for the foreseeable future,” says Hussain. “Beyond the technical side of things, Asiacell is committed to serving communities. We are here to serve Iraq by supporting culture, the arts, sports, and youth development throughout the country.”
In May of 2021, Asiacell announced a collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme in Iraq, signing a two year memorandum of understanding (MoU) to boost youth employment and strengthen Iraq’s micro, small, and medium enterprises. The initiative will support local startups looking to solve local challenges, connecting them with potential investors, and promoting opportunities for long-term, sustainable youth employment.
“Along with my team, I have been developing new partnerships and programs supporting many initiatives which aim to help the Iraqi youth to harness their fullest potential,” says Hussain.
Hussain has also been driving a culture of learning, improvement, and customer centricity within Asiacell itself. “Almost every company will claim that it has a customer-first philosophy. A closer look under the hood often reveals that internal efficiency or profit, rather than the customer’s needs, are the true driving forces behind these companies,” she says. “Asiacell’s mindset starts from the promise that everyone in the company is here to serve the customer, from the CEO to the customer service representative to the data analytics professional.”
Asiacell’s staff is in a constant state of training and development to keep up with the latest trends in customer service, and the company is heavily focused on leveraging technology to better understand and listen to its customer base. “Asiacell is making considerable efforts to know and understand its customers by constantly improving our channels for customer feedback. That feedback then goes into the customisation and personalisation of our services in order to make sure that we are doing our best to meet those customers’ needs,” says Hussain. “It’s about creating an adaptive learning process focussed on serving the customer better for everything the company does.”
She emphasises that any effective approach to designing new services requires solid customer insights to understand what customers are looking for in a telecommunications provider. At Asiacell, that commitment to understanding customers’ needs and wants is baked into operations at a fundamental level. “Asiacell is the only telecom company in Iraq that conducts extensive user research before even generating its first design specifications for a new product,” she explains.
Whether it’s the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, or agile organisational methodologies, Hussain stresses the fact that “Continuous improvement is key to the success of any digital transformation mission.”
Leveraging AI to Better Understand and Serve the Customer
“These days, customers have incredibly high expectations of online retailers, and the most successful companies are the ones that can tailor their offerings and customer communication channels to meet those customers’ every need,” says Hussain. “It can take just one minor inconvenience on that customer journey to lose a buyer and gain a negative review.”
In the pursuit of customer experience perfection, Asiacell has invested heavily in AI-backed customer experience technology over the past few years, allowing the company to “listen more closely to what their customers want than ever before.” Hussain continues: “By adopting AI solutions, Asiacell has been able to eliminate much of the guesswork when it comes to understanding our customers. The technology has allowed us to develop personalised experiences by delivering relevant messages to consumers at the right time. It also helps us listen more closely to what our customers actually want from us.”
An added benefit, she explains, is that AI has allowed Asiacell to automate a lot of its mundane processes at scale, freeing up valuable human hours that staff can spend on other areas of the business, like innovation, relationship management, and customer retention.
Partnering for Success
Iraq, Hussain explains, is not without its share of infrastructure challenges. Over a decade of political instability and conflict have left the country with holes in its network coverage, and connectivity that, in some places, lags behind other markets. In order to surge ahead in the quest to deliver globally competitive mobile network coverage to Iraqi citizens, Asiacell has leveraged its partner ecosystem to great effect.
“We have widened our network enormously with a substantial chain of partners,” Hussain says. In addition to network optimisation projects with Nokia and a user experience partnership with Ericsson, Asiacell has developed a strong relationship with Chinese tech giant Huawei, as a keystone partner in the ongoing development of its network coverage.
“Our relationship with Huawei is very solid and our partnership has been nothing less than a huge success,” says Hussain. “Huawei helped Asiacell with the development of our infrastructure in Iraq, which enabled us to take the leap to 4G. We are grateful for the fruits that the partnership has yielded. China is a major global player these days when it comes to technology, especially telecommunications.”
Building for the Future
As the decade continues, Asiacell plans to hold onto its position as Iraq’s number one telecom carrier, leveraging cutting edge technology, a strong partner ecosystem, and a relentless focus on improving its customer experience. From a customer service point of view, Asiacell is in the process of transforming its touchpoints. “We have added many new customer service channels, such as kiosks, a WhatsApp channel, and many more still to come,” explains Hussain. “We’re also developing more digital payment options for our customers.”
Going forward, Asiacell is committed to maintaining its status as the best telecommunications company in Iraq. “We are the country’s only nationwide telecom company, and we’re very proud of that fact,” says Hussain, who concludes: “We take pride in the fact that we are serving our own people, who remain our only priority.”