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New media fuels handset sales

Arab customers are among the most tech-literate in the world, and they are very discerning about what they buy and how their device may or may not work, according to Axiom Telecom's Operations Manager Jamal Al-Bugami.
Serving about 100,000 customers in 2012, Axiom presented a unique service where its mission is to offer a unique service that encourages customers to have latest gadgets in their palms with value for their money on their old devices, Al-Bugami told Diana Al-Jassem of Arab News in an exclusive interview. Axiom Telecom is ramping up their business like never before, Al-Bugami said. "We now hold 40 percent of the Saudi handset market, based on revenue generated to date, and 20 new stores were opened across the region in 2012, which is a 25 percent increase.”
Al-Bugami noted that Axiom Telecom recorded SR 3 billion sales, which is 36 percent higher compared to 2011.

Following is the text of the interview:

How could you describe the competition among mobile and communication companies in the GCC market generally and Saudi market particularly?
Speaking from a retail perspective, there is a strong, healthy competition right across Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the GCC. And we welcome that. We cannot be in a position where we become complacent. We need to continually assess the playing field and adapt for the better. Only then we can provide world-class services to our customers.

We noticed a massive change in the world of mobile sales during the past 10 years due to the globalization and the introduction of smartphones. Amid a tough competition in sales of smartphones, what are your expectations for their sales in the coming years?
The boom of smartphones will continue for a long time in the Middle East. This is one of the most tech-hungry parts of the world, and the demand for better connectivity and mobility is only going to rise and rise. In part, this will be fueled by a host of new and attractive offerings from regional telecom operators in the coming years.

How do you describe the interest in the field of mobile testing? And what is the exact difference between mobile testing and mobile application testing?
Mobile device testing is hugely important as it provides essential quality assurance for the hardware and software of our smart phones and tablets. Testing is multifaceted and encompasses research and development (R&D), factory testing and certificate testing. Mobile application testing entails an assessment of app functionality, usability and consistency. In an era of ever proliferating data and tech ubiquity, this is a considerable challenge. Mobile devices are markedly different in size and capabilities, operating systems are idiosyncratic and mobile networks offer variable platforms the mobile experience. Getting the right balance is tricky but essential for ease of use and enduring app success. As a company that always puts the customer experience first, Axiom Telecom is committed to closely following developments in both fields, including training our support staff to react appropriately to any issues related to either hardware or software.

What kind of deals Axiom Telecom is looking at to expand its sales in Saudi Arabia, and how do you evaluate the growth of Saudi telecom market compared to other GCC markets?
In line with our business plan, we are scaling up our operations across the region, and Saudi Arabia is one of our absolute key markets. This is a country with an extremely tech savvy population and a desire not only for best-in-class devices, but also a support network that ensures they are covered for any eventuality and kept in the loop about the latest developments. This is where Axiom Telecom already stands out from the crowd, and we will do everything we can to continue to gain momentum and build on this solid foundation.

Axiom Telecom claims that its specialized Solution Bays have knowledgeable staff to demonstrate the latest solutions to consumers, including software and applications such as GPS, email, and music. Could you give us more details about these solutions and the awareness level of Arab customers?
Arab customers are among the most tech-literates in the world, and they are very discerning about what they buy and how their device may or may not work. This is exactly why our Solution Bays are so important. Our experts, especially the trained staff, know how to hone in on the details that matter, whether they are dealing with a mobile newcomer or anw ardent tech-head, and talk about all the issues and crucially hold in-store demonstrations. This ensures the customer purchases a device that best suits their lifestyle and/or business needs. We get repeat business because people trust us and we know what we are talking about. Our Solution Bays feed into our over-arching dedication to customer engagement. In order to provide the best possible retail experience, whether in-store or online, we need to have open lines of communication, and we need to be nimble and adaptive. Our strategy here includes a comprehensive, cutting-edge CRM system and a dedicated call center open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week and 3 p.m. to 10 a.m. on Fridays. Customer complaints and feedback are processed instantly and acted upon without lag-time, and questions for more information are answered on the spot. We actively follow-up with customers to ensure they are satisfied. We are also extremely active in the social media space. Axiom customers want to engage with us and we have responded by creating a community that is both vibrant and fulfilling. This includes the usual communicative channels, but we also go above and beyond to offer informative e-newsletters, games, applications, ringtones and wallpapers. At Axiom, we gain the respect of our customers because we never subject them to spam or insult their intelligence. We give them exclusive, peerless content, support and insight. Above all, we keep listening to what they say. All of our service and product innovations are traceable back to customer needs.

Axiom Telecom was the first Saudi retailer to stock the Google Nexus 7. Tell us about this new service, and what new services Axiom Telecom is going to launch for the Saudi customers?
Google Nexus 7 is an important addition to a burgeoning global tablet market, so we were delighted to be the first in the Kingdom to stock it. In 2012, we were also one of the first retailers in the world to sell the Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Blackberry 9220, Blackberry 9320, Blackberry Porsche, and one of the first in the region to bring coveted devices like Samsung Galaxy Camera and iPad Mini to our customers. Axiom is an authorized distributor for Blackberry & Samsung. In the coming year, Axiom Telecom intends to continue selling new releases ahead of the competition, as well as add to our long list of value-added support services. This will include in-store innovations and device-specific offerings.

How does Axiom Telecom keep ranking number one in communication market despite the tough competition in retail sector?
The Axiom shopping experience is carefully and intricately evolved with the customer in mind. We know that people do not want to wait for the latest and greatest products, so all the stops are pulled out to provide people what they want, when they want it – without compromising on a full spectrum of customer support. Our retail stores serve customers for the latest and innovating smart phones and tablets, and continuously strive to fulfill Saudi Arabia's growing market demand by a sophisticated business plan relentlessly focused on continuous improvement. For example, we are one of the few brands in the region to have invested heavily in systems such as the Toyota Production System (TPS), as well as cutting-edge business philosophies such as 5s, Kaizen, Hoshin and A3. To date, the Kaizen system alone has resulted in savings of more than SR 1 million through waste elimination. Furthermore, Axiom Telecom is certified to the ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 international standards for quality and environmental management.

Have political changes in Middle East affected the mobile and Internet growth since 2011?
Political developments in the Middle East have significantly boosted mobile and Internet uptake. Populations, particularly the young, are more connected than ever before and are determined to use the technology to debate, socialize and share ideas. For the region's business sector - from large corporations to SMEs and individuals — it is also proving to be particularly important in driving innovation, and creating much needed jobs.

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