Phone Co-op goes on the acquisition trail

Phone Co-op goes on the acquisition trail

EE MVNO The Phone Co-op is on the hunt for mobile dealerships to boost its retail and b2b business as part of a push for growth in the mobile sector.

The Chipping Norton-based telecoms co-operative, which offers mobile as well as fixed and broadband services, is looking to acquire both consumer and b2b mobile dealers’ customer bases.

The Phone Co-op, which also has offices in Manchester and London, launched in 1998 as the UK’s only telecoms co-operative. As a cooperative it is owned by its customers and distributes any profits that are not re-invested into the business back to members via a dividend based on each member’s spend.

Last year, the Phone Co-op adopted the Co-operative brand under a brand licensing agreement. Its three divisions now trade as the Co-operative Phone and Broadband, the Co-operative Business Telecoms and the Co-operative Mobile, which is an EE MVNO.

The three businesses have a 23,000 strong base of fixed, broadband and mobile customers, of which 10% take mobile products. The mobile business has around 3,400 connections and 2,270 MVNO customers, of which 1,479 also take fixed line and/or broadband products.

Founder and CEO Vivian Woodell said the business was gunning for both acquisitive and organic growth in the mobile sector, with plans for its mobile business to deliver at least a third of the Co-operative’s annual turnover by 2016.

Woodell told Mobile: ‘We are absolutely looking to acquire more mobile bases but they must be the right fit. As a co-operative it is important that they match our ethos. We want customers who are consistent with our values of trust and honesty and we have rejected a number of companies that were not a good fit.’

Woodell points to its acquisition of Saga Telephone Services in 2010 as an example. ‘That brought us long term, good quality customers who were looking for a service they can trust.’

Churn levels are low, currently 1% a month, which Woodell put down to customer loyalty: ‘Our USP is about trust. Our customers own us. Our customers don’t get a different person at a call centre every time they call. Ours is a small friendly culture and our customers chose us because of our cooperative values and ethics. Even the fact that we treat our staff well is an important factor for our customers.’

Phone Co-op’s b2b customers are largely co-operatives, charities and other not-for-profit organisations. These include Midcounties, Channel Islands, Southern, East of England, and Radstock Co-operative Societies, Suma Wholefoods, Christian Aid, Amnesty International and Unison.

The business is set to boost staff numbers, which currently number 59, taking on a residential marketing campaign manager and a business marketing manager to drive cross selling across its residential and b2b customer bases. It recently signed an eight year deal with Community Network, to provide its telephone conferencing services to other charities. ‘That brings us another 1,000 plus customers to cross sell into,’ said Woodell.

Author: Carol Millett

Written by Mobile Today
Mobile Today


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