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Vodafone denies “strong-arming” partners into new programme

James Pearce
August 22, 2016

Dealers lambast mobile operator amid complaints of poor service

Vodafone has sought to reassure partners who don’t sign up for its revamped Partner Programme that they can continue to offer its services after a number of dealers accused the operator of trying to “strong-arm” them into joining VPS.

The operator launched a new version of Vodafone Partner Services (VPS) at its annual conference last month. Unveiling the updates, director of partnerships and alliances Nick Birtwistle (pictured) revealed Vodafone is ditching the existing Platinum, Gold and Silver tiering structure in favour of a system recognising total unified communications capability.

However, a number of partners have expressed concerns to Mobile News that Vodafone would withdraw their reseller license if they opted not to sign up to the revamped VPS, accusing the operator of trying to bully them into selling a wider range of products.

Leaked document
“It is absolutely disgraceful,” said a Silver Partner, who asked not to be named.

“They are tying to railroad  the smaller partners into the scheme and force us to sell Vodafone’s range of products and services, but they’ve never explained to us what will happen if we don’t sign up.”

Resellers have until September to sign up for the new VPS, which will go live in January 2017.  In a leaked document seen by Mobile News, the operator set out accreditation fees that dealers have to pay to sign up to the partner programme. These range from £900 per year at entry level to £8,300 annually for the top tier, which will be called Total Communications Partner.

Poor ROI
A Gold Partner claimed the accreditation fees will not represent a good return on investment for any dealers with a base of under 2,000 connections.

“We’re bringing money in to Vodafone but won’t really benefit from all of the things set out in the new scheme, so it might not be worth us paying the accreditation fee at all,” the partner complained.

“They’ve set a target of 75 connections per quarter but there is even a fee for connecting mobile – something we’ve been doing for years. It’s outrageous they want to charge us for something we’ve been doing almost as long as they have!”

Another criticism levelled by dealers was that the scheme requires them to prove customer service capability in order to achieve a higher tiering.

This comes despite Vodafone being named the worst performing network for customer complaints for the last two years, according to Ofcom figures.

“Excellent experience”
A Vodafone spokesperson told Mobile News: “We have offered existing Partners a period of time to familiarise themselves with the new programme before it is introduced in January, with the vast majority of them very positive about it judging by the feedback and the registrations.

“The purpose of the new programme is to develop Partners’ capabilities to more effectively sell and support products on behalf of Vodafone and ensure they are able to deliver an
excellent experience to our Enterprise customers.

“Partners have a choice as to whether they join the programme and we are encouraging them to do so: but it is not a mandatory condition to continue trading together and those which do not join by October 31 will still be able to indicate their business is a Vodafone Partner once the new programme starts.”

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