1/20/2010 9:46:00 AM
'The churn in this market has to reduce'
When Orange veteran Guillaume van Gaver took on the role of VP of sales and loyalty late in 2009, he had a huge challenge ahead.
His predecessor, Jean-Pascal Van Overbeke, had been cited as the reason Orange hadn't been cut adrift of the market. The role of VP of sales and loyalty had been created as a new remit, covering all of Orange's sales and customer service points across mobile and broadband, in a bid to change the organisation's mentality.
Thankfully, van Gaver has this vision. Having spent 15 years working at Orange parent France Telecom Group, across five different countries, he knows how markets differ. Most recently, van Gaver worked at France Telecom's Egyptian operation where, as a Frenchman, he was the only expat.
He is keen to highlight how different the Egyptian market is from the UK's. In Egypt, he says, there is no middle class, so there are those who are very rich and own consumer handsets such as the iPhone, and then there are those who earn £50 per month, who have an entry level phone.
Van Gaver was chief of staff at France Telecom for six months. He joined last March after spending three years as head of marketing, sales and customer service at Egyptian mobile network Mobinil, in which France Telecom has a stake.
He made the move to Orange at a time of great transition for the operator. Shortly after his arrival on 1 September, the network announced the merger with T-Mobile that would change the industry forever. Orange then took on the iPhone and, late last year, announced Asda concessions in addition to the HMV partnership that it had revealed earlier in 2009.
Van Gaver enthuses on all of these things, as well as the people he works with that made them happen. Now his goal is to provide Orange customers with 'the best experience possible'. His role covers many areas, from customer retention and acquisition through to its indirect and direct channels, as well as the retail shop floor.
Plans have been laid out for all these areas, says van Gaver. UK operators, which are in the most competitive market he has seen, tend to have a strategy of acquisition rather than retention, he explains. For him, it's about the balance of both. Orange is going to go down the retention route, creating a customer experience to rival O2, which he sees as the operator's biggest competitor in that area.
'The churn in this marketplace has to reduce, it creates too much wastage for stakeholders,' says van Gaver. 'Competition is a great thing but when it creates churn there is wastage. Operators have aggressive acquisition strategies but customers want their loyalty recognised.'
Best possible experience
It is about making the best network experience possible, says van Gaver. The network has recently introduced HD Voice, which cuts out the majority of background noise to create a noticeably clearer call. This is all part of the customer experience strategy and will be embedded in future handsets. The operator is also working to ensure that all customers can make and receive calls from inside their house - a common complaint that affects all networks - with new technology that amplifies the signal.
The retail experience is part of this too. Van Gaver, who has been visiting stores and spending time on the shop floor with customers, is making sure that each person is treated with an extra five minutes of time, no matter what the cost. 'It's about making the retail experience great,' he explains.
As part of that experience, customers purchasing Orange's iPhone will have iTunes set up for them for free when they buy the phone in store, so the device is working when they leave. Customers who have the iPhone on other networks will also be able to have the Apple device set up in Orange stores, but at a charge.
Van Gaver is concerned with 'wastage'. With operators needing to cut costs across their businesses, especially with the threat of the reduction of termination rates, cutting plastic can be very effective.
Thousands of Sim cards are wasted each year, says van Gaver. This is in contrast to Egypt, where Sims are never given out for free. 'It's about Sim cards, chargers, recycled mobile phones - smart management of subsidies,' he says.
Orange has already made its Sim cards much smaller by cutting out most of the credit card plastic that is included in the box. The operator is also removing swipe cards and unnecessary cardboard that comes in the packs. And when there is a universal charger, there will be no need for one in the box either.
Instead, van Gaver estimates that the universal charger will retail at around £5 - a low cost for something that will not need replacing.
Lastly, van Gaver has been looking at Orange's retail strategy. The operator will be 'pragmatic' with its indirect channels, he explains, and will not cut them out. 'It's win-win,' he says, adding that with the relationships, winning is about loyal customers. 'We won't say we are just going to go direct,' he says.
'It's very different depending on products. Around 60% are direct but it depends on the products and the situation.'