Gerardo Suarez Napolitano, CEO of Tuenti Ecuador, reflects upon the Telefonica offshoot’s rapid growth, 100% digital offerings and agile methodology...
The global business landscape is being continually shaped and reshaped by evolving customer demand. In the telecommunications space, the rise of social media and digital communication is provoking radical shifts in the way that operators approach new and existing markets.
Tuenti came into being in 2006 as a social networking service targeting young people in Spain. Between 2009 and 2012, it attracted more than 15mn registered users, becoming known as the Spanish Facebook. Seeking new markets and customers, the company has transformed its offering over the past decade, now operating as a private brand which operates as an independent business unit of multinational telecom giant Telefónica. The firm offers mobile telephone services accessible anywhere on any device with the strong digital operation.
The Tuenti brand entered the Ecuadorian market in 2015 with the goal of capturing the millennial and centennial market through a roster of simple, affordable plans as an alternative to traditional mobile carriers. “We started out with a plan to reach 500,000 customers in five years. Four and a half years into that plan, we have more than 900,000,” says Gerardo Suárez Napolitano, CEO of Tuenti Ecuador. We sat down with Suárez Napolitano to discuss the strategies behind Tuenti Ecuador’s dramatic growth, and the company’s vision for the future.
“When we were starting out with Tuenti Ecuador, we wondered if it was possible to create a new telco brand that was different from what millennials and centennials were accustomed to in Ecuador,” recalls Suárez Napolitano. “To accomplish this, we thoroughly investigated what was positive and negative about these users’ experiences. We became obsessed with their wants and needs. From those inputs we created the Tuenti experience, which is the sum of an attractive commercial offering and a very simple product to use.” Tuenti´s team operates in accordance with three central rules for creating a superior telecommunications product: be data centric, be pro client and keep it simple. “Our target demographic wants data, so that’s at the heart of everything we offer. We also value our loyal customers as much as we value our new ones, so long-term Tuenti customers will always have access to the same great offerings we present to our newest customers. Lastly, we don’t do small print or hidden conditions; our offering is so simple that our customers will always understand, remember, and hopefully love it,” says Suárez Napolitano. “When we designed the product we dedicated a lot of time to constantly achieving innovations that make the experience easier and easier.”
At the heart of Tuenti Ecuador’s success is a dedication to agility, simplicity and a constant focus on improving the product. “Our User Experience (UX) is at the heart of everything we do.” The simplicity of Tuenti Ecuador’s digital products also affords the company the opportunity for laser focus on the intricacies of its offering. “Although the products we offer may be simple, when we change and improve those projects - offering new integrations, promotions, etc - we work through those changes in great detail, investing time in test environments and, in many cases, we integrate the developments in phases to ensure the best possible results,” Suárez Napolitano explains.
The company eschews a physical presence, instead embracing a 100% digital offering delivered through channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Web Chat and the Tuenti Chat App. “We know that the best customer service is the customer service that doesn’t happen because the client doesn’t need it, so we make it as easy as possible for them to find the answers to their problems without having to pick up the phone. We don’t have any physical care centres,” says Suárez Napolitano. “Instead, we have an omnichannel customer service offering supported by our own proprietary chat bot that allows us to optimise our service and increase customer satisfaction.” As a result, Tuenti Ecuador has been recognised as having the best digital customer service record in the market reaching 72% of NPS (Net Promoted Score), and internally the company has achieved a 60% level of automation regarding customer service.
Agility and innovation are impossible, however, without deep, meaningful understanding of the target market. Súarez Napolitano prides his team on being young, diverse and creative. “Meeting and exceeding the goals of our business plan has been due to the amazing work of our team,” he says. “To create this team, we sought to integrate a diverse mixture of talents, incorporate a large percentage of millennials into the company, hire people with experience inside and outside the telco sector, as well as people from different geographies of the country, and ensure an even mix of genders.” This small and diverse team has been essential to Tuenti Ecuador adopting a successful digital strategy, with the agility to evolve and suit the needs of a market based on clear understanding of consumer demand. This agile methodology is not restricted to the company’s internal operations. Suárez Napolitano explains that, through Tuenti Ecuador’s relationships - all of which are based on a commitment to maximizing agility - with a growing network of close partners, the company has dramatically improved the quality of its offering and reduced delivery times across its supply chain.
Tuenti Ecuador has become the preferred brand for millennials and centennials in the telco industry. The company’s brand communication and media strategy are based on awareness, consideration, performance and loyalty. Continuously, the firm creates campaigns with direct collaboration from Facebook Creative Shop and Google Excellence who guide them in the best practices of creative execution and media.
Looking to the future, Suárez Napolitano sees Ecuador as a place of limitless potential. “In 2020, there are three key areas we will be pursuing: ensuring that the Tuenti team continues to operate with the same passion, humility and individualistic spirit that has seen us change and grow to become the preferred brand for the country’s young people; expand the capabilities - and therefore the user base - of our digital platforms; and develop new business avenues that aligns with and expands our current offering,” he enthuses, adding that Tuenti Ecuador is a business that celebrates success, takes risks, learns from its failures, and constantly innovates. He laughs, adding one final thought: “Less PowerPoint, more action.”