Former O2 sales chief Amanda Lambert has been thrust into the spotlight after just one year at challenger network 3.
She has just moved into a powerful role at the operator, which will see her add retail to her sales director remit. She will report to sales and marketing director Marc Allera.
The move is part of a restructure at 3, intended to streamline its retail and online divisions more closely – areas of Lambert’s expertise from her time at O2.
3 has invested heavily in retail over the last few years, with some questioning the profitability of its stores. Lambert’s challenge now is to maximise the estate’s productivity as well as its profitability, while integrating the high street with online.
Lambert has overseen some big changes in her year at 3. She was originally employed as director of sales, with a remit including third-party channels, telesales, online and b2b channels.
And she has already made bold moves in that area, including cutting 26 of 3’s outbound telesales companies in September last year, instead managing them directly.
Telesales companies that survived the cull are now directly managed by 3. Lambert has merged dealer sales and telesales into one group, headed by Stuart Joce.
It is thought Lambert identified that a disproportional level of complaints were coming from third-party call centres, with the top two sites accounting for 35% of the complaints.
Half of the call centres lost in the cull were due to low volume, with the other half a result of large numbers of customers not paying their bills.
‘We had some quality issues so we brought distribution in,’ Lambert tells Mobile, adding that the network now deals with a third less people than it did before. 3 now manages all of its telesales directly.
More recently, the operator decided to combine its retail and online teams, but, Lambert insists, the move is not about cutting 3’s retail estate. It is combining the two – customers will research online and buy on the high street.
She says: ‘We are not cutting rationale around our direct channel strategy. Google says 78% of mobile consumers go online before they buy in store. It’s up to us to work on integrating the channels under one team.’
3’s website will change over the next three months. The company will also make sure its stores are on Google maps, a service that was not available for 3’s shops before.
Lambert says: ‘Online has continued to grow from ecommerce. There are people moving onto online shopping, but when you need to touch and feel a product, people are more happy with retail. They research online and then go to the high street.’
The company is now looking to grow third-party distribution, with mobile broadband being ‘key’, explains Lambert. She adds: ‘John Lewis is one of these – it is key because it sells laptops.’ 3 will also look at expanding its portfolio in electrical retailers such as Currys.
It currently stocks its mobile Wi-Fi device, Mi-Fi, in Currys, Carphone Warehouse and John Lewis.
The company has also increased its smartphone portfolio over the last year, due to ‘consumer demand’ for the devices.
Mobile broadband is a market that will continue to grow, says Lambert. ‘I would say from a broadband perspective there is room to grow – we now do in-car Wi-Fi, which was at the Gadget Show, and we are involved in the [Government Home Access] Becta scheme.’
Being the 3G market leader allows 3 to grow its mobile broadband base, says Lambert.
Voice is another potential area of growth for 3, she adds. ‘Compared with other operators, we have a smaller base of pay-as-you-go customers, so there is room to grow. The contract market is also better now. There was a stronger start this year than the beginning of last year.’
Lambert says there are ‘spots’ in the contract segment that 3 wants to grow and attract, adding: ‘All of our consumer segments are more savvy than those on other networks. ‘We have a better 3G network than other networks and that’s good if you are a heavy mobile internet user.’
3, which frequently emphasises its internet focus, offered free Skype to its customers last year. It now also offers free Twitter, which has seen ‘a significant increase’ in customers using the service, says Lambert.
Although 3 is the smallest network, its potential for expansion and even profitability are growing. Integrating online with the high street might mean 3’s internet dreams have only just begun.