Vodafone: Walking the Talk

A while ago I’ve had an interesting experience as a Vodafone customer, the second biggest mobile operator on the Romanian market. I was called by a customer representative to be offered a new mobile services subscription, in his words, a better and cheaper offer for me as a customer. The person was trying to sell me one of Vodafone’s current post-paid subscription plans, telling me it had better tariffs and better facilities than the one I was having at that moment.

On an unaware customer, the company’s care for one’s financials might seem a wonderful thing. However, I was a bit skeptical, since I had a promotional package that was, albeit a bit expensive considering I wasn’t really using all the facilities I had, pretty good in terms of services and tariffs offered. I told the person that I will consider his offer and that I will get back to him via email.

I did some checks on Vodafone webpage and I found out that the subscription the Vodafone representative was trying to sell me had worse per minute tariffs than my promotional package. The problem was that this service set I had was a discontinued promotional service and they were probably trying to get rid of all these subscriptions in order to realign their services to the current offer as well as push more expensive per minute tariffs to customers who were actually benefiting from the promotional packages they had.

While the customer representative approach was a failure (he clearly didn’t walk his talk), I am pretty sure he didn’t act based on his own personal whims, but rather directed by a company strategy. I replied to him telling him I didn’t appreciate the company’s attempt to sell me a worse plan than the one I had, but I would be open to change my subscription since I wasn’t using it fully, as long as they were offering me a discount and some additional facilities.

The funny thing was that the only thing I changed was the basic call services subscription (downgrading it to a cheaper version), while I kept all the extra and promotional video and data facilities I had in the previous subscription plan (they were done in such a way that they couldn’t be removed from the subscription plan itself). Even though poorly positioned, the customer representative effort was in the end a good deal for me (for the same money I was paying on my old and not fully used voice and data subscription I got a better set of services, including a no limit, flat rate mobile internet connection).

The idea is that, indeed, the offer Vodafone was trying to make to me could have been better than what I had in the first place. They only failed at properly formulating it, positioning it and executing it. With a customer of my type (and I don’t know how detailed information they do have about their customers or if they do approach each individual customer based on it), as well as with most educated customers, I would have approached the whole thing in a totally different way (something I also recommended them in my reply to the customer representative).

If I were in their shoes, I would have told my customer that the subscription plan he had was a discontinued product and that the company would like to realign their services to the current offer. I would aknowledge the fact that the promotional subscrption was in some ways better, but I would make up for those benefits offering a little something extra in the new subscription model I was proposing, in order to make up for that loss for the customer.

I am sure that this type of approach would have worked positively on customers, most probably also generating good will from their side, since I guess most of us do appreciate honesty, especially in a commercial relationship. Be true and honest to your customers, because this is the only way you can earn their trust and can keep them with you for the long term.

Despite being the first mobile operator to offer new services and technologies in the past years, despite having some of the best marketing campaigns and despite being involved in a lot of CSR activities, Vodafone is still the second player on the Romanian mobile market in terms of number of customers and market share. I would dare to say that one of the reasons why this is happening is because there is too much discrepancy between their external and internal marketing communication. They tend to talk too much and not walk the talk enough.

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