The perception of quality functions as an important variable used in the determination of the value of any product or service under consideration for purchase decisions. Starting from the year 1958 when telecommunication service gained foothold in Nigeria up to the year 2001, the telecommunication industry in the country operated solely as a state monopoly trading under the brand name, Nigerian Telecommunication Limited (NITEL}. During this period, consumers were not so much concerned about the quality of service where available.
However, when the sector was deregulated with the privatisation of NITEL and licenses for global system of mobile communication (GSM) were auctioned in the year 2001 ushering in a competitive market, the scenario changed dramatically. The citizenry expected a significantly improved quality of service comparable to that obtainable in developed markets but were disappointed by the poor quality obtainable from service providers in the country. Accordingly, consumers concern for quality service can be said to be a recent development in the Nigerian telecommunication market.
The disappointment with the poor quality service was exacerbated by the relatively high charges compared to that obtainable in other climes which consumers have to contend with amid unsuccessful calls, drop calls, unsolicited advertisement messages and weak signals among other challenges. Such development led to complain and agitations for better quality service as existing practice fall short of informed marketing practice advocated by experts.
‘Marketers who don’t learn the language of quality
improvement, manufacturing and operations will become as obsolete as buggy whips; for the days of functional marketing are gone. We can no longer afford to think of ourselves as marketing researchers, advertisers, direct marketers and strategic marketers, but we have to think of ourselves as customers’ satisfiers and advocates who focus on the whole processes’ (Kotler 2000:57).
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Accordingly, it is apparent that telecommunication service providers in Nigeria do not project themselves as customers’ satisfiers and advocates, for their backwater treatment of consumers’ concerns for quality improvement in their operational activities but seem focused only on shareholders profit goals
Before the advent of GSM in Nigeria, only few corporate organisations with the necessary financial means to establish their private telecommunication network operated alongside the national carrier, NITEL. Such organisations were largely multinational corporations and the quality of their service was not of public interest. However, the quality of telecommunication service of such companies was determined by their desired standard consistent with funding provided by top management and its importance to their business operations. These were however all linked to the NITEL for their external service.
The arrival of GSM service in Nigeria in the year 2001 saw the emergence of three operators namely Mtel, MTN and ECONET. The latter transformed through Vodacom, Celtel and Zain and is now branded Airtel following series of change in its controlling interest. Other players that later entered the market include Globacom (2003) and Etisalat (2008). Visafone (2007), the only operator in the Coded Division Multiple Access (CDMA) segment of the market evolved as a product of the acquisition of three other CDMA networks that had being in existence for about eight years before its emergence.