Company: Point to PointCustomer: VodafoneSubmitted by: Eclat MarketingPoint to Point, a Gold-level Citrix partner, has been working closely with Vodafone for the past four years and were asked to provide a specific solution for deploying Gemini throughout the UK. Point to Point were involved in the original design and installation of the mission-critical Citrix application server software solution at Vodafone and continue to provide support and consultancy on an ongoing basis. Point to Point’s close relationship with Citrix ensures that Vodafone receives the very latest in software updates, training and technical assistance.

In the fast moving world of telecommunications, Vodafone knows the customer is king. In the UK, one in every fifteen people now owns a Vodafone, making it by far the most popular mobile phone network. This market-leading position has been attained through a commitment to innovation and a reputation for the highest standards of customer service.Maintaining service levels against a background of rapid expansion of the customer base is a demanding task, however. As one of several OS, Vodafone is using a server-based computing solution comprised of Citrix’ application server software and Microsoft Windows NT4.

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0 to deploy its account management system to customer support functions in-house and externally. This computing solution allows Vodafone to uphold its reputation for reliable, seven days per week customer care.

The Challenge: Deployment And Integration Of Mission-Critical Customer Service Solution

Today’s mobile phone customers expect not only a comprehensive and innovative range of service offerings but also a highly personalised service.Gemini, Vodafone’s Billing and Customer Care system, is an essential part of customer support. Gemini is used across the company’s growing network of call centres, retail stores and distributors to track and service clients’ accounts. It is a critical element of the company’s information architecture, holding everything from customers’ basic contact data to subscription details and billing and payment histories.

“Our customers expect quality support”, says Jason Southern, a Senior Systems Engineer in Vodafone’s IT Team. “Gemini is the platform that allows us to deliver that. It’s absolutely critical to us in terms of maintaining customer relationships.”But the company’s rapid growth presents major challenges in delivering a robust customer service solution. “Our customer base is growing at around 30-40% per year”, explains Southern.

“We have to continually invest in customer-facing parts of the business to support and service those accounts”.Vodafone recognised that Customer Service agents across the company needed fast, reliable access to Gemini. The system also had to be scalable so that it could be easily expanded in line with the growing customer base.

Implementing Citrix Application-Server Software

Citrix’ application server software has brought an end to the client distribution and scalability headaches. Under the server based computing model, Vodafone deploys Gemini over a wide area network from 52 servers to some 3000 concurrent end-users across the company. “We deploy three versions of Gemini to different parts of the business” explains Jason Southern.

Vodafone has eleven call centres handling customer queries and requests around billing and account management. Call centre operators access Gemini for handling and logging customers’ enquiries.Vodafone’s 250 retail stores are the company’s main interface with retail customers and small businesses. Here Gemini allows sales staff direct access to customer information so they are able to deal with customers’ queries on the spot without having to refer to Vodafone directly.A slightly different approach is used by Vodafone Connect, which manages sales through third party retail channels ranging from specialist dealers to high street multiples and affinity partners. In this case, individual dealerships access Gemini over an intranet via a web-enabled Citrix front-end.

Taking Control

One of the main benefits for Vodafone has been in simplifying implementation and administration. Upgrades to Gemini implemented at the server are quickly accessible to end-users. Without Citrix’ application server software each desktop would need to be maintained manually at significant cost in time and support staff.”Gemini is a very complicated system”, says Southern, “We have to upgrade frequently, typically around twice a month. Citrix’ application server software gives us a nicely managed system. In effect we have just 52 users instead of 3000”.

Centralised administration also brings savings in indirect support costs. “With the server-based solution we don’t incur travel costs in providing support to the branches.” Southern explains. “There are savings on training too because we don’t have to train the distributors on how to maintain the system”.

Safe and Scalable

As the customer base continues to grow, server based computing enables Vodafone to easily integrate additional customer service capacity.”Citrix’ application server software allows us to deploy to new sites very quickly”, says Southern.

“The client application fits on to two floppy disks, so it can easily be sent to the local IT manager or outsourcer to implement. It’s quicker to deploy the applications than to install the servers.”With mobile phone networks increasingly the target of fraud, Vodafone takes stringent measures to protect itself and its customers. As Jason Southern explains: “Citrix’ application server software allows us to control what users see and what they run. It’s a desktop within a desktop”.

Empowering Staff

Another benefit has been in empowering support staff working remotely. Vodafone’s account managers working in the field are able to access Gemini to get full details of customers’ accounts. Users have the client installed on a laptop and dial in over the cellular network. “ICA is much lighter than other protocols, so works better across a GSM link”, says Southern.