Network quality is perhaps the biggest driving force of Ghana's highly competitive telecoms sector; as it is fundamental to customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Vodafone is keenly aware of this, and has consistently met all the key network quality benchmarks set up by the National Communications Authority (NCA).
Vodafone, Ghana's award-winning and only female Chief Technology Officer in Ghana's competitive telecoms sector, Patricia Obo-Nai, in a media interaction, explains that in the last three years, Vodafone Ghana has made a conscious decision to invest not just in its brand and market, but to build a network that is reliable, sound and stable. 'Vodafone indeed invested millions into expanding its sites, which have grown from around 300 to about 1,600 sites across the country today', she said.
Constant monitoring of the network by a dedicated team, who address problems as they surface, has also accounted for the superior performance, says Ms. Obo-Nai.
'We've put in a lot of monitoring tools, and we monitor from both the network and customer perspectives. We always know what the customer is expecting and have dedicated teams to satisfy their needs.'
She defines network quality as customers being able to talk on the network. 'When a customer picks his phone he should be able to connect quickly, he should be able to access a channel and then talk. Whilst talking, there should be clarity; he must hear what the other person is saying and be heard as well. He doesn't expect his call to drop, so he should be able to drive or walk around and have a continuous talk. If you're able to deliver these things to the subscriber then you have delivered him a quality service,' she emphasised.
Vodafone Ghana, in June 2013 launched a year-long network quality campaign to reiterate its commitment to having a reliable network that helps its customers achieve their life goals, whether with regard to work or family.
'Our core customer targets are 'progression seekers', who want to achieve a lot and require a very reliable connection to the people and things that are important to them. So they need a network that they can trust, that provides great value, and a brand that is innovative. They also demand the best customer service and CSR that is meaningful.
'Our Network Reliability campaign is to emphasise all these things that they are already experiencing,' Patricia remarked.
Several factors affect the quality of a network, including fibre cuts and thefts, difficulties in acquiring land to set up a site and the type of handset used by a subscriber.
Patricia says though Vodafone has many times suffered fibre cuts on its network, 'we always make sure we find alternative paths for our traffic when there is a cut in order to keep the customer connected, while we commission a team to go and fix the problem.'
But sometimes a hitch in the network arises nonetheless and the subscriber would expect a quick resolution so he can continue to enjoy the best quality service. This is where customer service and communication is important, Patricia emphasises.
'If you look on our social media pages, you will see that Vodafone has the most open approach to these issues. Part of reliability is about being open about the problem and letting customers know where it is happening, when it is happening and how it is going to be fixed. The approach is through all of our channels, so we loop in our call centre and our shops. If it will take three days to fix, we say it will take three days. We are very open and transparent about this.'
Patricia, who was last year voted the Best Female Technologist in the telecoms industry at the second edition of the Mobileworld Ghana Telecom Awards, says she's not only motivated by regulatory requirements to build and maintain a reliable network. 'If the NCA does not hold me to account,' she says, 'I still have a responsibility to my customers and to the wider Vodafone Group. At the end of every third quarter, an independent body is sent to me and they drive-test my network and measure me against Group standards. Therefore my team and I have an inner objective to please the customer and achieve the global standard. It's a big brand and you cannot afford to deliver just anything.'
Though network quality is a basic indicator of the value a subscriber derives from an operator, Vodafone's leadership in the telecoms space extends beyond its superior network.
At last year's Mobileworld Ghana Telecom Awards, Vodafone harvested six awards, including Patricia's.
This year, at the third edition of the same event, Vodafone again bagged six honours: Best Telecoms Brand for the third year running; Best Internet Service Provider; Most Innovative Telecoms Company; Best Corporate Social Responsibility Programme (Vodafone HealthLine); and Outstanding Contribution to Marketing and the Industry, awarded to Chief Marketing Officer, Uche Ofodile and former CEO Kyle Whitehill respectively.
'We have secured the leadership and our greatest motivation and challenge is to maintain it,' says an elated Patricia.
'We won't go for mediocrity. We're going to make sure that we are consistently reliable, and we'll stay at the top.'