Essay on Vodafone

Company: NSBCustomer: VodafoneSubmitted by: MCC InternationalDate: April 2000The mobile communications explosion continues unabated. Since the end of 1998, the advent of Pay As You Talk tariffs has sent phone sales through the roof.

And on the high street, competition among retailers to provide the most comprehensive range of products and services is intense.With 250 stores throughout the UK, Vodafone Retail is one of the country’s fastest growing mobile telecommunications vendors. In 1998, faced with the combination of a dynamic market and its own rapid expansion, the company embarked on an IT systems upgrade, which has provided a solid foundation for success in the sophisticated mobile sales environment.NSB, the leading developer of application software and supplier of EPoS (electronic point of sale) systems and services, was chosen to supply the crucial retail solution.”Mobile phone selling is more complex than the standard retail transaction,” explains John Robinson, Vodafone Retail’s system development manager.

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“The sales staff need to get a credit check. The hand set needs a connection, the customer needs to choose an appropriate tariff and insurance. It’s a multiple package in which each element is an individual sale.”With a new IT infrastructure already in place, the company needed a proven Windows NT-based EPoS solution which would enable more effective stock control, better visibility of sales information at head office and more resilient cash control in its stores.”We drew up a document which outlined a day in the life of Vodafone Retail, geared towards selling mobile phone packages rather than standard retail sales,” says Robinson. “It included everything from sales to returns to end-of-day reconciliation.

We asked our short list of suppliers to suggest an appropriate solution and then considered how close they got to the scenario.”As a result, NSB was awarded the contract for an end-to-end system comprising Object PoS, its front end solution, and RMS-NT, its back office environment.The timetable for implementation was challenging for both parties. Following an internal reorganisation, Vodafone Retail required the system to be rolled out from the end of July 1998 and completed by the first week in September at a rate of 40 stores per week in order to meet the start of the last financial quarter of the year, known as the ‘golden’ quarter in the mobile phone market.”Effectively, we turned NSB upside down in order to meet the deadline,” Robinson says.

“In order to complete the project on schedule, we asked them to customise their normal implementation procedures, for which we assumed full responsibility, and we worked side by side to eliminate any dead time from the implementation.”This meant taking NSB’s standard system and keeping changes to a minimum, adjusting only those parameters necessary to reflect Vodafone Retail’s operating environment. Pre-set menus, for example, were used to prompt staff through multiple sales step by step.Robinson continues: “In addition, we pulled some of our own staff in from the field – a combination of experienced retail staff and auditors – and put them through an intensive training course to create a breed of super users who could then manage training at store level.”As soon as the software was loaded at each store, a trainer would move in for two days to familiarise staff with the system, returning later the same week to mop up any outstanding training issues.

Despite the culture shock to both NSB and Vodafone Retail, the project was completed on time.Two important benefits became obvious almost immediately. Firstly, Robinson says system reliability has been excellent. Keeping software problems to a minimum was an important factor in meeting the deadline for implementation and ensuring that the system was delivering accurate information as quickly as possible.Secondly, it allowed Vodafone Retail to be prepared for the sales eruption generated by the Pay As You Talk tariff.”When we installed the system, the sales volume was relatively small and the pace of the sale quite relaxed.

Individual staff were processing a few contracts per day,” explains Robinson. “As soon as Pay As You Talk arrived, sales went through the roof. If we hadn’t had our new EPoS solution in place we would have had problems servicing scores of customers, particularly over the Christmas period. In that respect our investment in the NSB solution was fortuitous. Staff could sell top-up cards in a matter of seconds where previously, it could have taken minutes.”Since then, the system has proved a catalyst for changes in the way the company uses the information, enabling it to evolve a centralised merchandising strategy rather than relying on reactive, store-based stock management.

“We’re working on extending the software’s capabilities by integrating it with specific aspects of the business,” says Robinson. “It has already contributed to improvements in stock control and the preparation of sales information for our purchasing department. Now, we are going through a data integrity phase which will help us to tighten up our in-store procedures. This would not be possible unless we were using a generic system.”According to Robinson, the company’s sales staff have been very supportive of the new system. The widespread response has been positive.

The tight integration between the point of sale and the back office has made their jobs easier and removed much of the paperwork which was previously necessary. In effect, they have more time to spend on making sales. Once their end of day procedures are complete, the system automatically polls each store for the daily sales information.”NSB’s solution has certainly helped us to generate better information, more accurately and quickly than in the past,” concludes Robinson. “In fact, the company has had to adapt in order to take advantage of those improvements.

And after the initial culture shock of our demands, NSB has proved an understanding partner. I’m absolutely sure that we made the right choice of software.”As demand for flexible mobile phone packages continues to drive sales up, Vodafone Retail is poised to consolidate its strong position thanks to investment in an IT solution which not only makes its complex multiple sales environment more efficient and customer-friendly, but also forms a cornerstone for future growth.