The Managing Director, BCX Nigeria, Mr. Ayo Adegboye, spoke with Emma Okonji about the sundry challenges of technology business in 2017, and the need to boost customer satisfaction with tech solutions. Excerpts:
What are your views about the expected growth of technology business in 2018?
Well I can say technology business is picking up gradually, more so that we just came out of recession last year, and for obvious reasons, 2018 will be an exciting year for technology business in Nigeria because it is a preparatory year for elections that are coming up next year, where there will be expectations and promises of new things to come. BCX as a technology company, is looking forward to a fruitful 2018, in terms of doing technology business. The expectations are high and we are looking up to 2018 for a prosperous business environment.
So what are the expectations from BCX, as your company winds up the current financial year, in preparation for a new financial year?
Our expectations are always high achievable and we have maintained that over the years. One of our expectations has always been that we attain a high level of customer satisfaction and we have been meeting that expectation consecutively, even as the level keeps growing yearly. We have repositioned our business to become trusted advisers to customers and that has kept us going and our business is looking good by the day.
Part of our expectations is to maintain that level of preferred customer advisory body, which we have attained over the years. It is not an easy task to maintain a certain position in business because of opposition and market competition.
So we want to remain at the top, providing the best of services to customers. Our dream is to maintain customer satisfaction level and remain the trusted advisors to all our customers, including new and intending customers. In going the extra mile, we have commissioned our customer satisfaction survey and index and we are beginning to have close interaction with customers, with a view to knowing them better, understand their business better, as well as their challenges and provide the necessary support for their business growth.
We visit our customers from time to time to discuss their business prospects and challenges and make input on how best to grow their businesses and we want to maintain that customer relationship in 2018.
Would you say that your set goals for the financial year that is gradually coming to an end, have been full achieved?
To a greater extent, yes, our goals have been achieved, but this applies to only those within our control. For those we could not achieve, we had to adjust to find a way around it. But I must say that our financial year that is winding up has been very exciting and attractive to customers.
Would you like to share some of your business challenges and strategies to overcome them?
When we started this financial year, the biggest challenge we had was forex, which affected businesses, but that has improved in the last eight months. We had issues with the instability of foreign exchange rate, which of course affected our kind of business, that has to do with purchase of foreign equipment and software solutions to serve our customers better. But in all of that, I need to commend the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), the government agency that is responsible the regulations of importation of software and hardware into the country. They did extremely well last year in ensuring that foreign software did not unduly compete with locally developed software.
Last year BCX entered into business partnerships with global technology companies like Dell EMC, among others. What value did such partnerships bring to the BCX business?
You are right that we had some partnerships with global technology companies last year, and I am pleased to inform the public that such collaborations were the best things that happened to BCX last year as a technology company. Dell EMC for instance has been a wonderful partner to BCX and the collaboration added to our bottomline business, contributing good percentage of out total revenue.
What motivated such partnerships in the first instance?
Several factors led us into such partnerships and one of them is customers' request. Again the partnership with the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), boils down to our business relationship with the OEMs. The essence is to further drive professionalism in BCX, since the OEMs are business focussed, resilient and professionals in their kind of business. It was a good collaboration, because the OEMs needed partners like BCX to further drive their businesses.
Last year the technology industry witnessed a lot of merger and acquisition. What does this potend for the industry?
Merger and acquisition in any kind of business is the key to business growth and sustainability, the reason being that there is strength in number. Today we are in the era of convergence where software applications are running under one platform and technology companies that have similar operations are coming together to form stronger synergy in the name of convergence. So I see more of such convergence between operators and systems this year, because that is what is actually trending and driving the industry globally, and Nigeria should not be an exception. Both the software and hardware solutions are beginning to converge because the world today is all about technology convergence because the future is about cloud and big data.
Last year, BCX won the Cisco Services Partner Award in Dallas, Texas. How did BCX win such rear award, being the only Cisco partner from Nigeria that won it, and what value will the award add to BCX business?
It was actually a rear award but we were able to win it and we were excited about it. For me it is a function of being fully dedicated to customer service, which we handle with all amount of passion in us as a technology company. It is a result of hardwork, investment, commitment and dedication to customer that earned us the award as the best service partner for Cisco.
Addressing the issue you raised on the value of the award, I can categorically tell you that the award will boost customer confidence in BCX, being a global award that portrays BCX as highly professional in customer service delivery. What customers want is a trusted solution provider that will help grow their business, and the award has proved us to be a trusted solution provider that customers could rely on.
We have since dedicated the award to our customers who are the reason for our being in business.
BCX is in a business where there are other competitors. How has market competition enhanced or marred the technology business?
Competition is good in any business and BCX is not afraid of competition, neither do we focus on our competitors in order to do what we are supposed to do. For me as Managing Director of BCX, my competitors do not exist and that is the same philosophy that the entire staff members of BCX have because our focus is on our customers and not on our competitors.
How has BCX been able to train its staff in line with its philosophy and ideologies?
Our staff members are exposed to best training in line with the company's philosophy that is built around customer satisfaction. We have put in lots of efforts about employee engagement, and we constantly engage our employees.
Technology businesses are shrinking in recent times, owing to the harsh business environment, coupled with global technology evolution. How has BCX managed to remain afloat in business in spite of the challenges?
Our business model is clear, which centres around change based on current situation. So our strategies have made us to remain in business all these while, despite the challenges in the technology business. We adapt easily to change and we are constantly innovating in our business.
The telecoms industry is fraught with challenges that are affecting the industry. Could that be likened to the technology industry?
The challenges currently going in the telecoms sector could be attributed to the end of the era of telecoms boom. During the boom, telecoms operators were the only provider of telecoms services to customers and they controlled the service charges paid by subscribers. But today, the situation has changed with technology disruptions, based on the evolution of new technologies that enable different operators to offer free telecoms services like Over the Top Technology (OTT) that offers free WhatsApp, Skype calls and chats. As such, revenue is diving and the operators need to innovate and think of new revenue streams for their business. For us in the technology industry, we are innovating and also changing with technology trends.
Technology is evolving and also adding value to business, but some operators are still slow to adapt to change because they felt that technology is expensive. What is the implication of this?
I feel sorry for any operator or technology company that refuses to adapt to technology evolution because of fear high cost. Most organisations see technology solution as too extensive and will not want to invest in technology. I see such as taking huge risk because they will be left behind and the implication is that they will soon be out of business because they will not be able to sustain their business.
So what are the new technologies that BCX is bringing to the table in 2018?
For 2018, we will be leveraging on new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, big data and cloud computing and these are the new evolution of technology advancement and growth across globe. These technologies are expensive but we will ensure that we remove the high cost for customers and make business a lot easier for our customers.
How is the BCX global brand identity influencing business growth in BCX Nigeria?
Being a member of the BCX global brand identity, it gives us the opportunity to tap from the expertise of the global body and it also exposes BCX Nigeria to global best practices. We have access to the poll of professionals at the global level and this is a plus for the BCX Nigeria business in terms of offering best customer services to our local customers.