news Mobile carrier Vodafone yesterday gave an update yesterday on the upgrade of its mobile network and customer service initiatives, claiming that the achievement of key milestone targets was enabling an enhanced customer experience.
The company has sent 900 sites live on its new 850MHz network. Additionally, 2,000 sites in the existing network have been upgraded with new radio equipment from Chinese vendor Huawei. By mid-2012, the company will have carried out equipment replacement for 8,000 sites and the new 850MHz network will be powering 1,500 sites.
Nigel Dews, CEO Vodafone Hutchison Australia, said that the benefits of the company’s fast-tracked investments were beginning to be evident. “We are bringing customers a network that delivers better indoor coverage, faster downloads and a stronger signal than before from Vodafone,” said Dews. The rollout will essentially replace Vodafone’s complete Australian mobile network, addressing network and customer issues that occurred in late 2010 and early 2011.
In February this year, Vodafone had announced that it had accelerated its unprecedented $1 billion network investment. Teams are working overnight to change equipment across roughly 60 sites in a night; the new 850MHz network is also being rolled out at the same time. The average 3G dropped call rate in metropolitan areas is down to 0.5 percent. The network upgrade also introduced 4G-capable equipment that will permit significantly higher maximum theoretical download speeds.
To take full advantage of the new network, Vodafone’s Christmas range features new smartphones from HTC (that includes the Vodafone exclusive HTC Sensation XL and XE), Nokia, Samsung, and the Apple iPhone range and Apple iPad 2. All these devices work on the new 850MHz network. Expressing satisfaction with the improvements in customer experience, Dews said: “While there are still more savings to come, this is a good position to be in given the additional investment we are making in the network.”
The company’s customer service improvements announced in February are all in place, including:
- 24/7 care and an addition of over 300 customer service staff
- Call back service when customer wait times exceed 3 minutes (with a customer option to select the time of the call)
- A new online customer forum for sharing of reviews, questions and tips
- Extended support times for support on Facebook and Twitter
- An improved coverage checker by which customers can search by postcode to check coverage, maintenance outages and site congestion in their area
- First Point Resolution for store staff to settle customer issues speedily, and
- A Customer Concierge service in Vodafone stores to guide customers to the most suitable staff member.
Vodafone is also launching a state of the art customer contact system, ‘One Connect’, which will monitor all service channels non-stop and then forward the enquiry to the customer service representative with the most appropriate skills to respond, in a bid to better response and service times. The system includes Vodafone’s contact centre, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and Vodafone’s eForum.
Is it time to trust Vodafone again? Yes, if click-throughs from Delimiter’s site to the company’s products are any indication. Over the past few months we’ve seen a marked uptick in the interest from readers in mobile plans on Vodafone’s network, although interest in rival carriers Optus and Telstra also continues to be strong. It is definitely the case that way more people are currently including Vodafone in their buying choices than have been over the past year. To a certain extent, Vodafone is turning the tide of customer discontent.
Personally, I’m not quite convinced it’s worth switching back to Vodafone yet, even for those who want a great bargain — the company is literally conducting a heart transplant in its mobile networks at the moment, and I’d advise waiting a little longer until we see how the new model performs. I need my mobile network to ‘just work’, all the time. Consequently, I’ll be keeping my business with Telstra for the forseeable future. But I’ll be keeping an eye on Vodafone with a view to re-examining that situation a year or two down the track.
Opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay. Image credits: Delimiter