While it’s no secret to most Australians, Vodafone has in the past had a shocking record when it comes to dealing with customer support and service issues. Their most well known and publicised public relations meltdown, last hit the headlines back in 2010.
Back then Vodafone Australia technicians faced a hell of a time dealing with increased demand on their network which was not expected to result in an epic failure as users watched the entire network come to a grinding halt, along with their mobile phone connectivity.
But that was back then and this is now, so have things for Vodafone Australia customers changed for the better, or is it still the same old story when it comes to customer service?
Vodafone is investing in 5G and customer support
Vodafone Australia chief executive Inaki Berroeta was quoted as saying recently that Vodafone is gearing up for the launch of their next generation 5G network and will be one of their primary focuses in the coming year ahead.
According to Vodafone Australia, 2018 will be a turning point for their national carrier broadband network, investing in infrastructure and making solid gains across the country.
Mr Berroeta in a recent interview discussing Vodafone Australia and their 2016 ambitions said that slashing the current level of customer complaints through the use of increased automation systems was one of their top priorities.
After tackling customer support and service issues, next on the agenda for this year is their continued work on fixed-line broadband products and their ongoing investment in 5G mobile services.
Can Vodafone change the market through expansion?
Vodafone Australia is one of the major role players in changing the way in which Australian consumers react to their products and services usage. Vodafone is planning to expand on their increased subscriber revenue growth over the next year as well as reducing pricing on their SIM only and prepaid plans to increase competition in the market.
By aggressively reducing prepaid and SIM only plan to price, Vodafone hopes to target rivals Telstra and Optus and sway more customers over to the Vodafone brand, arguably a task which they might find difficult to accomplish.
Mr Berroeta, chief executive of Vodafone Australia is nearing his second anniversary at the company in his role as acting chief, who was appointed to the role in March of 2014.
His tenure came during a difficult time for the company, part way through a three-year transformation period of trying to return the carrier back to profitable while trying to win back customers which left in droves, no thanks to the massive network failure which resulted in more than two million customers leaving for other networks.
Mr Berroeta, who is nearing his second anniversary as Vodafone chief, was appointed in March 2014 when the telco was part way through a three-year transformation to make it profitable and win back customers after network failures resulted in more than two million customers quitting.
“We’ve spent a couple of years upgrading and improving our infrastructure,” Mr Berroeta said.
“We haven’t stopped and … the pace at which we continue to improve our network remains and the reason for that is because we’re already looking into 5G. I think that by 2020 we will have 5G in Australia. We’re aiming for that.”
“We at Vodafone need to be looking into what that represents for our customers.” – Mr Berroeta, CE, Vodafone Australia.
Vodafone’s strategic plan and what it means for users
Last month Vodafone had their long-term strategic plan approved by their joint owners, Vodafone Group and Hutchison Whampoa. This has enabled the company to progress with their ambitious 2020 business goals.
Their recent partnership with TPG Telecom has enabled the national carrier to connect the fibre-optic network which is operated by TPG to the Vodafone cell towers.
Vodafone Australia is planning to launch a new range of roaming plans later this month as it changes the amount it spends in traditional advertising, in an effort to focus on new media such as the online social media networks.
In an ever changing world, this makes sense from a marketing perspective, with so many people now days glued to their smartphones and tablet devices, browsing the social media networks.
Vodafone Australia plans to focus on funding the creation of content for their social media networks and partners as well as personalised advertising.
The My Vodafone App for customer complaints
Mr Berroeta said the company finished the year with 3.5 complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman per 10,000 customers and would aim to slash that even further through self-service options like the MyVodafone app.
Currently, around 50 percent of Vodafone Australia’s subscribers use the self-service help App, titled “My Vodafone“, allowing the company to semi-automate the process, instead of being overwhelmed by customer complaints and enquiries.
The App has also been reported in helping to reduce costs for Vodafone, which enables them to redirect more urgent calls to their call centre staff and boost the satisfaction levels of their paying customers.
“The results we have seen in the past six months for small to medium businesses have also been impressive and it opens the way for us to continue even further [this] year,” he said. “We also need to become a much more segmented company in terms of looking at different Australians.”
This could result in highly personalised plans that are targeted at different demographics of the Australian society. For example groups which could stand to benefit from this are students (especially those which need large amounts of data for research purposes), farmers and families.
While it is true that in recent months Vodafone Australia has greatly improved their customer support, they still have a long way to go if they want to win back all of their previous customers, especially in today’s marketplace which offers a lot of competition from big and smaller players, typically around data inclusions. As for their announcement that they plan to have 5G network capabilities enabled on their network by 2020, that will be remained to be seen, as we have all heard the telcos talk about this before, with the ready date slipping further away each time.
One additional question that tends not to get asked is ‘do we really need this?’ 5G speeds are, no doubt, much, much faster than the 4G that we have become used to. So – what will 5G give us that 4G does not ? Answers have often been hard to come by. There are a plethora of 4G options. Resellers on the Vodafone network ( TPG, CMobile Red, Lebara), Optus network ( Amaysim, Bendigo Mobile>, OVO) and Telstra (TeleChoice, Boost Mobile and CMobile Blue ) as well as all the tier 1 carriers all offer it. From my point of view, securing a decent deal on 4G data is of far more importance than discussing 5G technology, the need for which has not yet been established.