The research set out to:
- Study large-scale, live deployment of ICTs to manage customer relations in the delivery of telecom services by operators acting as agents of governments;
- Study how customer relations are managed in electricity supply, a similar public-utility service, directly provided by government and by agents of government (with emphasis on BOP micro enterprises in cities);
- Draw lessons on how customer relations in the telecom and electricity industries can be further improved, exploiting the near-ubiquity of voice/SMS connectivity and related functionalities;
- Communicate the combined lessons from telecom and electricity industries to decision makers with authority over government services of different types.
Desk research, interviews, big-data analysis (using software), and demand-side or user studies will be used for the research. The questions about how customer relations are managed in the mobile telecom and electricity industries in the three countries where the research is conducted will be answered in the following stages:
- Desk research on current practices and interviews of key individuals in the supplier organizations will be conducted.
- In the case of two mobile operators in Sri Lanka who have consented to permit access to internal customer transaction-generated data (“big data”), the findings from the desk research and interviews will be supplemented by analysis of big data.
- In addition to anonymized data regarding how different customers interact with suppliers, the operators have consented to permit randomized controlled trials that will enable the testing of the efficacy of different modalities of handling customer interactions.
- In all cases and all countries, a demand-side analysis will be conducted using qualitative and quantitative methods:
- On the qualitative side, the empirical methodologies of ethnography and participant observation, including techniques such as wallet-mapping, phone-tours, and usage interviews will be used. In addition, interaction design, service design and user experience design methodologies will be used to identify specific “pain-points,” “failure cases,” and “scenarios-of-use” that cumulatively describe the consumer experience.
- On the quantitative side, a survey of urban poor micro-entrepreneurs will be conducted in at least one city in India and Sri Lanka (and budget permitting, in Bangladesh/Bhutan) to find out current level of ICT and electricity use, as well the functional issues faced in consuming government services.