Vodafone UK’s drive to overhaul its customer processes is 50% of the way through its change programme, according to the operator’s CEO Guy Laurence.
In an interview with Mobile last week, Laurence said: ‘The reason we had to fix our customer processes is that we have the most legacy IT in the industry, because we’ve been around the longest. Our IT needed substantial upgrading. But sorting out IT takes time and customer processes are very complex in a business this big. My view is that we are about 50% of the way through that. There is still a long way to go.’
Laurence took over as CEO of Vodafone UK in January 2009 at a time when the network had been pushed into second place by O2 and later third place thanks to the Orange/T-Mobile merger. The operator also faced declining revenues, falling customer numbers and increasing criticism for its overly corporate image and poor customer relations.
Laurence concedes that the perception of the company was ‘by and large accurate, so the solution was to tackle those problems’. He added that his main task was to overhaul the customer processes from end-to-end, starting with the basics.
‘Where we are in our change model is focusing on getting the customer experience right. Bolting the fancy stuff on afterwards is not the big ticket issue financially or in any other way. It is about getting the basics right and that takes time,’ said Laurence.
He agreed that quite a lot of Vodafone’s customer facing processes were ‘sub-optimal’, as he tactfully put it. ‘Previously, the investment was never in sorting those things out; the view was, “we’ve got a call centre to do that”. But no, we have to sort the customer process issues out, so that the call centres can focus on adding value and not being a fire extinguisher.’
Laurence was swift to overhaul the company’s indirect channels, returning to Carphone Warehouse, strengthening the deal with Phones 4u and working to make the company easier to deal with for distributors and dealers, particularly in the enterprise space.
Other issues Laurence is in the process of tackling are speed to market with products and services, especially on the web; breaking the silo working mentality between departments; refreshing the ‘fragmented’ approach to advertising and marketing; and dealing with Vodafone’s poor reputation for rewarding its customers.
One aspect Vodafone has got right, Laurence said, is its network, which he insists is the best for coverage and reliability. Vodafone is the first network to fully integrate its 2G and 3G networks, completed over a year ago now. This puts it in a strong position to scale up the network to deal with the explosion in data communications. Vodafone is now using this strength as a key message in its advertising campaigns.
Laurence outlined his priorities going forward: ‘We need to continue to focus on improving the customer experience; sort out our pay-as-you-go offering, especially in terms of improving customer rewards; bringing our One Net converged services product into the market properly and start scaling it up; and exploit the new opportunities that are out there with things like M2M.’
He added: ‘None of it is rocket science, but there are only a certain number of things you can get done at any one time.’
For the full Guy Laurence interview, see next week’s Mobile.