‘An Improved and Leading Reputation’
Our fourth and fifth strategic pillar focusses on our brand and our reputation. Since they are closely interrelated, we will discuss them together in this chapter. We want to be a ‘Playful and Connected Brand’ with a leading reputation among our stakeholders. This is important to distinguish ourselves, expand our position and provide continuity for our company, our customers as well as for society.
The differences in service provision by the various providers are becoming less and less distinctive. Moreover, the market is changing from ‘mobile only’ to a market where customers increasingly opt for all-in-one packages for telephony, internet and TV. This means we now also have to compete on services that other companies have been providing for much longer and are far more associated with (TV, fixed internet and telephony). Being a strong and appealing brand is therefore important. For that reason we have devoted ourselves in 2014-2015 to creating engagement with our brand, drawing attention to our position as playful challenger and creating awareness for our varied portfolio of products and services.
A good reputation is the result of good products and services, good behaviour and the right communication about it to stakeholders. The more we manage to do that, the better our position as a company is, and the greater the chance of success in the long run. That is why we entered into discussions with our stakeholders again to hear their views. We also collaborated with other providers, since the reputation of the industry as a whole also, to a large extent, determines our own reputation.
Accustomed to coverage everywhere, anytime
Competition in the mobile telecom market is fierce. This encourages providers to improve their performance. As a result, the Netherlands has the best telecom infrastructure in the world. We have also become used to advanced telecom and the fact that everyone and everything is always connected. Connectivity is no longer a luxury. A lack of coverage, for some reason, is considered unacceptable by many. At the same time, there are groups of people that champion the preservation of areas without mobile coverage. Vodafone is constantly working on making the network even more robust, more reliable and faster and on expanding coverage.
Brand communication requires creativity
Another effect of the relatively high standard and fierce competition is that it is harder to sufficiently distinguish your brand from the rest. Whereas visibility of your products and services is quite likely the most important thing. It is therefore not surprising that the telecom industry is one of the largest advertisers in the Netherlands. Effective communication requires a lot of creativity. By means of segmented and distinguishing campaigns and branded platforms (Firsts, The Voice of Holland, Firestarters) we aim to set ourselves apart from the competition.
Trailblazer role in technological developments
Technological developments within the telecom market happen in rapid succession. To remain successful, it is important to keep up. Being a trailblazer in the rollout for example of 4G was essential for us as A-brand to meet the high expectations of our stakeholders. The fact that we were one of the first to realise national 4G coverage had a positive impact on customer satisfaction. Being one of the first to offer a new technology, however, is only a temporary advantage. That is why we are focussing on brand preference and reputation in order to also stay ahead in the long run.
The number of competitors on the telecom market increases. Not only are we competing against mobile providers like KPN and T-Mobile, but also because of the convergence of services (fixed and mobile) against providers in the fixed market like cable companies. In this relatively new market for us, we have to distinguish ourselves and still need to win the customer’s confidence.
We want to be a ‘Playful and Connected Brand’ by:
1. Increasing the public’s familiarity with our products, services and performance
We want to make clear what the company stands for and increase the familiarity with and awareness of our key products, services and performance indicators. Like the national rollout of our 4G network and the introduction of Vodafone Thuis.
2. Stressing our position as challenger
We want to put more emphasis on our position as ‘playful challenger’. Our communication campaigns play an important role in achieving this.
3. More active engagement with our brand
We aim to create more engagement and emotion around our brand. We would like to show what we stand for. Next to our regular campaigns we therefore use so-called branded platforms.
4. Stakeholder interaction
We want to bridge the gap between expectation and experience. First of all by doing things better, and second by communicating better with stakeholders about our activities and what they can expect. Our slogan is therefore: ‘Be good and tell it’. We engage in discussions with our stakeholders about topics that are relevant to them and set to work.
5. Collaboration with the industry
Since the industry’s reputation is also largely responsible for our own reputation, we tend to focus not solely on our own image. We actively contribute to the industry’s image by devoting ourselves on a sector level to the continuity and safety of the telecom sector.
In the beginning of 2014-2015, we appointed a new media agency as well as a new research agency. The agencies use other methodologies and references than our previous agencies, which is why we cannot make valid comparisons between our results in 2013-2014 and those of 2014-2015. This is also why we did not formulate KPIs for 2014-2015. The scores will be viewed as a baseline measurement for the coming years.
* measured on 31 March 2015, average of January, February and March.
** Measures the probability of a customer opting for Vodafone the next time he/she has to choose a product or service from a communication provider. They can choose between the following answers: 1) It is the only provider I would consider, 2) It is one of the providers I would consider, 3) It is a provider I might consider, 4) It is a provider I would not consider.
In 2013-2014, we measured our reputation based op RepTrak scores. In 2014-2015 we switched to a measuring method that provides more basis for measuring our reputation among multiple stakeholders and for identifying points for improvement. In 2014-2015 we determined whether our stakeholder engagement approach focussed on the right topics. We also conducted a multi-stakeholder baseline measurement in the beginning of 2014-2015. This gives us a benchmark for measuring progress.
Increased awareness of performance and product offering
Vodafone has thoroughly invested in a national 4G rollout. To draw attention to the fast and successful rollout, we have been mounting campaigns continuously until September 2014. With the campaign titled: ‘Wish everything could be as fast as Vodafone 4G’ we used humoristic commercials to picture situations that went from slow to very fast. We also campaigned in small villages with local celebrities, like Prince Carnival in Vaals: ‘4G already available to Koen Brands, and as of September to the entire country.’ In September 2014, we communicated on a large scale that we had reached national coverage (>95% population coverage).
The 4G campaign was quite successful with a Cut-Through score as high as 59. This is the percentage of people that has seen the campaign and recognized it as one by Vodafone. Research showed that people thought the campaign was creative and that they liked it. The aided brand awareness of Vodafone as provider of 4G was 52% at its peak in December 2014 (Source: GfK).
In October 2014, we offered national availability of Vodafone Thuis: TV, internet and fixed telephony. As of that moment we have become a provider offering not only mobile, but also fixed communication services to consumers throughout the Netherlands. With the campaign ‘Discover what you really like with Vodafone Thuis’ (up to and including March 2015) we managed to increase the aided brand awareness of Vodafone Thuis to 37% (source: GfK).
Valued as playful challenger
In 2014-2015, we stuck to the challenger format for our radio commercials. In each commercial, comedian Tijl Beckand called customer services of one of our competitors. The playful way in which our own services were highlighted was appreciated. We won the RAB Radio Award ‘Best radio commercial of the year’ from the professional as well as the audience jury. Almost every individual commercial scored on or above the benchmark for the parameters ‘entertainment, brand and action’. We were also nominated with our radio campaign by SAN in the category Service Provision.
More engagement with our brand
To enhance brand engagement, we drew attention to our branded platforms in 2014-2015. With Vodafone Firsts we enable people to experience a special ‘first time’ by using our technology. For example Vera, with her first concert. Vera is deaf and is learning to hear by means of an implant. Kyteman Orchestra composed a concert tuned to her hearing and subsequently performed it for her. The reactions following the video of Vera’s First Concert proved that not only Vera appreciated the effort; 1.2 million people watched the video online, Vodafone was mentioned 36,039 times on social media and Vodafone and the concert were trending topic on Twitter the night of the concert. Among people that had seen the concert’s video, the positive feeling about Vodafone rose from 71% to 80% (source: Coosto) and trust in Vodafone to 47% (source: GfK).
Furthermore, we prolonged our partnership with The Voice of Holland (TVOH). This season viewers could, for the first time, vote without costs by using the Vodafone Red Room app. This app was downloaded 747.000 times. Itwas also used to share additional content and music of the competitors in TVOH, outside of the TV broadcasts. In the ‘Firestarters’ programme, we developed a documentary series in partnership with Discovery Channel, making new developments in the field of mobile technology available to a wide audience. In the series several ‘Firestarters’ explain how mobile technology changed their lives. In 2014-2015, an impressive 2.7 million people watched the documentaries on Discovery Channel. And in addition, almost 1 million people watched them online.
Most engaging brand on social media
In 2014-2015 Vodafone was valued as the ‘most engaging telecom brand’ on Facebook (with the home page and the Firestarters-page) (data from 1 April 2014 to 26 March 2015).
On Facebook, Vodafone was also ‘the most socially devoted telco brand’. This means we answer the most questions on Facebook and do so faster than our competitors (data from 1 April 2014 to 26 March 2015, source: Social Bakers).
Our stakeholder engagement programme is for one thing focussed on identifying the themes our stakeholders deem important and subsequently what they expect from us. For another, we want to create internal awareness and implement change where possible. Where we cannot fully meet stakeholder expectations, we enter into a dialogue to manage these expectations. We have defined 15 stakeholder groups and 10 universal themes that are important to our stakeholders.
In 2014-2015, for many stakeholders, our network was the key theme. That is why we decided to accelerate our 4G rollout, and to be the second provider in the Netherlands to realise a 4G network with national coverage. The announcement of Vodafone Thuis was also important. With this, we demonstrated our serious ambitions on the fixed telecom market, for which we need regulated access to the fixed market through KPN. We were successful in our efforts to convince many stakeholders of the need for a regulatory framework for access to the fixed infrastructure.
Furthermore, a discussion arose concerning 112 availability in border areas. We entered into a constructive dialogue with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and local authorities to discuss the issue. Eventually we carried out network improvements resulting in 112 being better contactable. There was also confusion about the data retention obligation by telecom companies following a ruling by the European Court. We have asked the government for clarification. We champion a law that is clear as to our obligations and transparent regarding the use of powers vested in the government and also regarding the monitoring of compliance. Furthermore, Vodafone made it clear in its law enforcement disclosure report how we are obliged to cooperate with the authorities in order to comply with the law. See page 72 of the report for the Dutch legislation in this area. The same report also caused some confusion, as Vodafone is required by law in some countries to grant the authorities access to its infrastructure, as are all other telecom companies operating in those countries. Headlines in various media suggested that we do the same in the Netherlands, which is not the case, a fact which we clearly pointed out.
Furthermore, digital rights movements have pressed for publication of the number of wiretaps carried out by Vodafone on the orders of the authorities. Also in this area Vodafone is an advocate of transparency regarding powers and compliance monitoring. We urged the authorities to publish market-wide figures in a consistent way. Although in our opinion the figures published by the government at the moment are not detailed enough, we did not choose to publish any figures of our own accord. After all, there is no unambiguous agreement on the way of reporting, meaning that publishing figures will probably lead to more confusion than clarity. We will continue our discussions with the authorities on this subject.
“Bits of Freedom finds Vodafone’s extensive transparency report illuminating. We think it is commendable that Vodafone urges the authorities to stop uncontrolled access to communication. All providers should do that. However, the fact that Vodafone still refuses to publish statistics about the number of requests by Dutch investigative services is very disappointing indeed. In line with Vodafone we are of the opinion that (also!) the authorities should come up with meaningful figures, but unlike Vodafone we think that Vodafone has a responsibility of its own as well. That responsibility should go beyond merely entering into a dialogue with the authorities.” – Blog Bits of Freedom, 6 June 2014
Another major topic was the integration of 25 customer service systems (Unify). This IT project presented us temporarily with less flexibility and customers with some occasional inconvenience. We have informed and prepared stakeholders to the best of our ability and explained the situation where necessary. Other topics that were discussed with stakeholders are, for example, integrated and continuous reporting and the circular economy.
When we compare the beginning with the end of the financial year, we notice that Vodafone’s reputation has not significantly changed (stable at 6.4) among the general public. We do notice a slightly higher reputation score among consumer customers (from 7.3 to 7.5) and a substantial improvement among business customers (from 6.1 to 6.8). This is supported by the Tweakers community, the forum that elected Vodafone as best mobile provider 2015, leaving KPN and T-Mobile far behind.
Among other stakeholders no quantitative survey about our reputation was held. We do, however, ask for regular feedback on the way we work. Based on that, we can conclude that we are generally speaking heading in the right direction. This is also evidenced by the positive feedback on our integrated annual report 2013-2014, that came out best for the third year in a row in the category companies with their head office outside the Netherlands. We reached a 13th position in the Transparency Benchmark, whereas we aimed for a top 10 placing.
In order to inform our stakeholders regularly about progress on our strategy, we started to incorporate a number of strategic KPIs like NPS into our financial quarterly reports for the first time this year.
Collaboration with the industry
Together with other telecom providers we undertook a number of activities in 2014-2015 to improve the continuity and safety in the industry. An example of this is ‘Regional Roaming’, which we introduced together with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, KPN and T-Mobile. With this we enable a partial take-over of the traffic of one the networks should that network happen to break down in a certain area for a substantial amount of time.
At the start of Regional Roaming Minister Kamp said: “The Netherlands has one of the most reliable infrastructures for mobile telephony, with lots of choice for consumers and enterprise customers. In the unexpected event of a large breakdown, people expect they can still stay in touch with family, friends or relations. Compliments to the three operators for the fact that they will be meeting that expectation for their millions of customers. Also for the Dutch economy it is of paramount importance that people and business remain contactable.”
The site www.staatvantelecom.nl was launched. This site explains the impact and activities of the telecom industry in the Netherlands. In this way we clarify in more detail which role the telecom sector has in the Dutch society and economy.
Furthermore, we cooperated as sector in ‘Boefproof’ (thief-proof). It is a joint campaign with the Ministry of Security and Justice that actively draws attention to the ‘kill switch’. The aim is to minimise the theft of smartphones by making it less rewarding. With the kill switch one can remotely lock a lost or stolen device, rendering it useless.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, we launched the Cycle-modus app as part of the campaign ‘Attention on the road’. The aim is to stimulate a safer use of social media by children and youngsters of school age when they are using the roads.
And finally, we started discussions with State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment Klijnsma about the prevention of debts caused by mobile telephony costs. In her letter to Parliament on the prevention of poverty and debt issues, the State Secretary stated that the telecom industry is seriously working on the prevention of telecom debt and takes its responsibility in this matter. The State Secretary and the sector have agreed that the providers will give more publicity to the great number of preventive measures taken, so that everyone can learn about the measures and take advantage.
Although public stakeholders value our efforts in the sector, this is not yet evidenced by the figure given to the sector by the general public (from 6.3 to 6.2).
We are pleased with the results that have been achieved. The successful 4G campaign and the launch of Vodafone Thuis have increased the public’s awareness. Due to the switch to a new media agency as well as a new research agency, it has been difficult to determine the exact effect of all our efforts. The number of awards we received, however, indicates we are heading in the right direction.
Awards won by Vodafone Netherlands in 2014-2015
- Epica Awards: Silver – Business to business corporate image for Vera’s #FirstConcert
- Eurobest: Bronze – Branded Content & Entertainment for Vera’s #FirstConcert
- Ciclope Festival: Best Branded Content winner for Vera’s #FirstConcert
- RAB Radio Awards ‘Best radio commercial of the year’ – from the professional as well as the audience jury for Vodafone Advantages
- International Excellence Awards: Best campaign of the year in the Benelux PR – Vodafone Wallet
- ADCN Lampen: Silver and Gold in category Media & Branded Content & Activation for Vera’s #FirstConcert Best ads on TV website: ‘Best outdoor of the week’ for the Flower to you campaign
- SAN Awards: in the category Corporate for Vera’s #FirstConcert and in the category Services for Radio Advantages
- Graham Awards: ‘Best Telecom Retailer 2014’ and ‘Best Telecom Retailer Personnel 2014’
- Best Retail Chain 2014 in the category telecom. This is the 6th time BelCompany wins this award
- Vodafone Red proposition ‘Best Postpaid 2014’
- Elected as ‘Best mobile provider 2015’ by Tweakers
- The Best Social Media Awards 2015 – winner in the category ‘Best Text’
In light of the difficult circumstances this last year (high expectations from stakeholders of Vodafone as A-brand, technological race, changing competition and IT upgrades), it was a challenge to improve stakeholders’ opinion in all areas. Customers and other stakeholders also experienced occasional inconveniences due to the integration of our IT-systems (see also ‘Build for the future’). However, in the long run our new IT system will in fact have a positive impact on customer experience. In general, the relation with many of our public stakeholders has become more constructive and positive. There is a growing sense of confidence in Vodafone as an organisation.
Measuring reputation among stakeholders remains very difficult, even with the new method, as we saw this year. Measurements indicate where we should improve, but determining if what we do actually pays out, is hard. Influencing reputation is after all a gradual process. For this reason it is not always easy to keep internal stakeholders committed to our efforts to improve our reputation. Therefore we will investigate whether we can use existing measurements by our own research department instead of separate reputation measurements for measuring, guiding and embedding our reputation in the core of our organisation.
In general the relation with many of our public stakeholders has become even more constructive and positive.
An accelerated rollout of our 4G network was very important for our brand and our stakeholders. So was the subsequent claim of national 4G coverage, which we supported in our communication. There is, however, no generally accepted definition of ‘national coverage’. And 100% mobile coverage is known to be practically unfeasible. This is why we opted to claim national coverage at more than 95% population coverage. In our press release we explained how we defined national coverage and how people could benefit from it. Unfortunately, we could not prevent some customers from being disappointed when they could not use 4G at specific locations. This had partly to do with the 5% landmass we had not covered yet and partly with the fact that not everyone had a suitable handset and/or subscription. The iPhone 5, for instance, supported 4G, but only at the frequencies Vodafone used in the Randstad. We did not explain this well enough to customers. For this reason we temporarily scaled down our marketing communication activities and focussed on clarifying where possible. For example by improving coverage maps and making a difference between regular and iPhone 5 customers.
- The fierce competition causes providers to bid against each other, encouraging them to surpass each other. Not only in words, but in actions as well. This results in ever better offers for consumers, like the fast rollout of a 4G network with national coverage, offering new opportunities.
- With Vodafone Thuis consumers have more options to choose from. A large, national player has entered the market. This competition will lead to more developments in the fixed market.
- Availability of the emergency number 112 in border areas has been improved. This contributes to health and safety in the Netherlands.
- With the ‘Boefproof’ (thief-proof) campaign in cooperation with the Ministry of Security and Justice we are making smartphone theft less attractive.
- Regional roaming ensures that society is better protected against the impact of a major network outage. As a result of our collaboration agreement with other providers and the authorities, we can partially take over each other’s service provision if one of the networks breaks down.
- By informing customers adequately and by offering tools to keep costs under control, we contribute towards a lower debt burden in our society.
With Vodafone Thuis we are offering consumers more choice’
We would like our stakeholders to admire us as a company and as a brand, and subsequently decide to become a customer, to collaborate with us or to come to work for us.
With our campaigns we aim to get closer to people. The characteristic challenging twist will be maintained. It remains important to keep emphasizing the quality of our 4G network. We also want to strengthen our brand in the enterprise market. We want to achieve that we are being seen as total communication provider for consumers as well as the enterprise market. We intend to continue and further improve our stakeholders engagement programme.
We will continue to enter into a dialogue with various stakeholders, address their wishes and concerns internally and increase engagement with our opportunities and risks. We also want to meet the changing information demands of stakeholders. Our aim is to go from a once-a-year update about our strategic progress by means of our integrated annual report to a process of ongoing reporting and subsequent dialogue. We took a first step last year by sharing the headlines of our progress on the strategic pillars and key KPIs on a quarterly basis, but the interactive platform designed to replace our news centre in the course of 2014, unfortunately met with delays. We expect to launch the platform in 2015.