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Uphill task for new Vodafone CEO after “disastrous” year

James Pearce
July 25, 2016

Nick Jeffery must rebuild operator’s reputation as customer complaints reach record highs Vodafone’s incoming UK CEO Nick Jeffery (pictured) faces a “monumental” task in rebuilding the operator’s reputation when he replaces Jeroen Hoencamp on September 1.

This was the collective view from a number of leading industry resellers and consumer watchdogs having seen the operator lose more than a million customers in the past 18 months [19.4m/18.2m]. It also remains the most complained about UK network – a position it has held  since 2014.

“The overriding hope for the channel is that Nick Jeffery will have a fresh approach and some new ideas that will eventually be able to turn things around,” said one leading Vodafone Platinum Partner, who asked to remain  anonymous due to fear of repercussions.

Fresh ideas needed
He added: “The recent issues Vodafone has encountered have brought a lot of bad publicity to the brand – someone has to be held accountable.”

Another leading industry player added: “When a business that experiences the amount of issues that Vodafone has experienced recently, it normally leads to the head falling on his own sword. This is the logical course of action for most businesses that face big challenges.”

Support for Jeffery who has been at Vodafone since 2004, holding the position of group enterprise director since 2012, has been strong since last week’s announcement, with many accusing the operator of becoming “stagnant” under Hoencamp’s leadership.

Figures show that during his tenure, which started in November 2013 after he replaced Guy Laurence, Vodafone customer numbers fell  from 19.4 million to 18.2 million.

Hoencamp will be replaced by Jeffery on September 1
Hoencamp will be replaced by Jeffery on September 1

Falling share
During the same period rivals EE saw its numbers rise from 28.2 to 31 million, while O2’s rose from 23.4 to 25 million. Three’s has also risen above 10 million.

It has  also been overtaken by O2 for the first time in the lucrative corporate sector, a space Vodafone dominated for more than 30 years up until last year.

Financially, revenues have  dropped, from £3.1 billion in the second half of FY13/14 to £3.08 billion in its latest results.

“It was time for a refresh a Vodafone,” said another leading Vodafone partner. “They had a few quiet few years and have came under a lot of pressure from rivals who seem to have gone from strength to strength.

“What they have to do is put that brand on top of people’s agendas. Every big network has challenges, so bringing in fresh blood with fresh ideas is what Vodafone needs to try and recover.”

Various smaller-sized dealers, not part of the operator’s top Platinum  tier, hoped Jeffery would place more emphasis on the entire channel rather than a selected few.

Many described Hoencamp as largely “anonymous”, while others claimed to have never seen him and that communication with Vodafone has progressively worsened in recent years.

“Jeroen leaving the UK business is a timely move. Prior to his joining, partners had been able to develop relationships with Vodafone management but that has since fallen away.

“It is a wise move for him to move on if the issues that Vodafone has been experiencing can be resolved.”

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