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Vodafone UK: A fascinating example of a super sales approach

The email from Vodafone that I got after the order completed

For a few days I’ve seen the phone number 0808-something call my main handset. I haven’t been able to answer. I thought it might be someone from a utility company. British Gas, maybe? Or perhaps an insurance company.

This afternoon I had a spare few minutes when the phone rang again from that number. I picked up.

It was a chap from Vodafone. He introduced himself politely (“my name is Aminul”) and asked if I had a few minutes to talk — noting that I’d been specially selected for an offer.

“Go on then,” I said. We went through the usual security questions and then delved into the offer.

It was about iPads.

Would I like to buy an iPad, he asked, at a highly attractive rate. I listened.

The deal was simple and, I do have to admit, pretty attractive to me.

Normally Vodafone charge £229 for a 16GB 3G+WiFi iPad 2, along with the line rental on 18-month or 24-month agreements. Today’s special offer waived the £229 up-front cost on the basis of an entirely reasonable £26.60 per month deal, including 2GB of UK data. ‘Overages’ are charged at 5p per megabyte.

Nay bad.

I pondered a little.

I’ve already got an iPad 2. It’s not the 3G version though.

And if you’ve been following my writings, you’ll remember that just two months ago, I had a similar call from Three UK. The guy from Three was calling to offer me something irrelevant that I didn’t want. When I said I’d be interested in something else, the Three chap apologised saying he couldn’t help. I even asked him for an iPad 2, since the phoned.

So that went through my mind as the Vodafone guy went through the sales pitch.

“I don’t think I can add a new line to my account,” I said. I’ve already got 5 lines, you see.

“Let me see,” Aminul said. He was flicking through his system and in a few moments said, “Well, I’ve done a credit check and you can have another line if you like?”

I paused for a few moments.

“Go on then,” I said, “Do you need me to do anything?”

“No, sir,” replied Aminul, I’ll just get it added to your account and it will be delivered tomorrow.

He went through the details once more — just so I was clear: No up-front cost, iPad 2 16GB 3G+WiFi, 24-month contract, £26 a month.

I confirmed agreement. Job done.

“You’ll get a text from us, along with a confirmation email,” he said.

I thanked him a lot.

Wow.

What a sales approach.

First of all, this is excellent, excellent targeting. I’m not sure what specific segmentation Vodafone were doing, but it was definitely right to call me. One imagines they see I’ve already bought an iPhone and I’m a high-spending customer. That’s probably all the segmentation they need.

“Is there anything else I can help you with, sir?” asked Aminul, “Are there any products or services you’d also like?”

This is a dangerous question to ask me.

I toyed with asking him to sell me a MacBook Air. [I know that’s impossible at the moment — that’s the subject of another post.]

I then thought carefully about whether or not I needed an HTC Sensation. Or a Galaxy S II.

You see, it’s pretty bad when the guy’s on the phone, being very helpful. It’s really dangerous. I could have ordered a ton of stuff.

Aminul actually cleared me for 2 extra lines and I was giving serious thought to getting two iPad 2s (one for Archie to play with — is 14 months too young?).

I think Vodafone should be doing a lot more of this.

I asked Aminul how business was with the iPad 2 offer. I suggested that he must be getting a good response rate.

“Seven out of ten are going for it,” he said.

Shocking.

Absolutely shocking. I wonder what the sales figures are like. Through the roof, if this experience is anything to go by.

I finished the call and then got a call back 5 minutes later from Aminul. Unfortunately the 16GB 3G+WiFi version had already sold out. (So business is good).

“Would you like the 32GB version? We’ve got them in stock right now, but it’s an extra £49.”

“Do it,” I said, “Do you need any money from me now?”

“No I can just add it to your account,” said Aminul.

Geeeeenius.

Flipping genius.

Dangerous, yes — because I could have bought a heck of a lot more. But highly, highly exciting. I really enjoyed the experience. It was frictionless.

Well, reasonably frictionless. I didn’t have to get out my credit card and have to start quoting numbers at him. That was good. Also, mobile operator logistics are so good that I have every confidence the iPad will arrive tomorrow morning.

It was a super way to shop.

I had to smile when I thanked Aminul and said goodbye. He replied with, “Thank you Mr MacLeod. Thank you for choosing Vodafone, Britain’s best network.”

Heh.

Take note, Three UK. Your guy WASN’T allowed to up-sell me.

So two-months later, my business went to Vodafone. That’s 700 quid you won’t ever see. Utterly ridiculous.

Brilliant work Vodafone.

Poor show Orange. Who never bother to phone me. Poor show Three. And poor show, o2.

I’d have bought from each of you. Vodafone asked so they got the business.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

27 replies on “Vodafone UK: A fascinating example of a super sales approach”

I have a question. How would the networks of which you are not a customer have your number, or sight of your spending? At what point would those calls be classified as unwelcome cold-calls?

Correct me if I’m wrong – but that’s not a spectacular deal.
The Total Cost of Ownership is £26.6 * 24 = £638.40

Looking at Apple direct, a 32GB iPad 2 3G is £499.00

£638.40 – 499 = £139.40

So, after the cost of the hardware, that’s £139.40 / 24 months = £5.80

So, you’re paying just shy of £6 per month for 2GB of data.  Take the iPad out of the country or go over the limit and it’ll be more.

Now, sure, the regular Vodafone cost is £15 per month for 2GB – so you’ve “saved” £220.80.

But do you really need to?  You’ve already got loads of SIMs.  Wouldn’t it be easier to do the SIM shuffle?

Are you really going to be using 2GB/month EVERY SINGLE month?  If not, wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy a PAYG SIM – or even a lower priced contract SIM?

I’m not saying that they saw you coming – but you took a sales call at face value; that’s always dangerous.

Oh – and you didn’t really fall for the “cheaper one is out of stock, mate” trick, did you? Tsk 😉

Heh… and I was just thinking ‘sweet deal’.

I suppose you can SIM swap but if you want the convenience of a ‘pick up and go’ device I can’t see a way to get it much cheaper… perhaps a pound or two but that requires a full £500 outlay in advance. A 0% loan over 2 years isn’t to be sniffed at.

“I don’t think I can add a new line to my account,” I said. I’ve already got 5 lines, you see.

“Let me see,” Aminul said. He was flicking through his system and in a
few moments said, “Well, I’ve done a credit check and you can have
another line if you like?”

Can I check something- you write that as though he did a credit check without asking you first?

I just love the way someone rings you, says they are from Vodafone and you hand over your security details. A friend of mine had a similar experience, but in his case it was a scam, someone got a nice 32gb iPhone using his security details.
Not saying that’s what happened on this occasion, just saying that’s sometimes we give out details over the phone without any proof whatsoever that we are talking to a representative of our networks.
We should have a password that the networks have to give to us, to prove that they are who they say they are.

I’ve also find vodafone (at least their web relations team) to be really good in using a combination of sms, phone,twitter, email,forum –can have a 2 way conversation back/forth using a mix of media.

I too got what I thought was a really good deal from them recently.. happy.. (galaxy s 2) though it was something I mostly initiated

Sorry Ewan but 5p/MB overage is not ‘not bad’, it’s VERY bad. £51.20/GB?! I can see tablet users easily going over 2 GB/month (which is just 68 MB/day) just by watching a few iPlayer shows a week, or even a couple of YouTube clips a day. And in 23 months time at the end of the contract, even more so.

And who is going to want to still be stuck with an iPad 2 come July 2013?! By that time the iPad 4 will be out and it might actually have a USB socket, memory card socket, 4G and actual multi-tasking.24 month contracts in the world of technology are of NO benefit to consumers.

Dave, that’s a fair point from one perspective — but from my perspective, I won’t be using it that much outside a WiFi network so I don’t mind. But you’re right to point it out!

5p a meg overage is pretty good – Three charge 10p.

Whether or not 2GB is enough is a different matter… Three offer 15GB for the same price point (albeit without Ewan’s mega-discount on the device)  but this tariff comes with BT Openzone (I know, but it’s better than nothing) access too.

It won’t suit very heavy users but it’s not supposed to… there are higher-use tariffs (and higher cost) for them. FWIW without restraining my use at all (Voda were paying the bill) I struggled to use more than 1GB in my tests. YouTube and iPlayer switches down to mobile mode (and isn’t much fun to use regularly over 3G) so it’s not as heavy as you might think.

5p a meg overage is pretty good – Three charge 10p.

Whether or not 2GB is enough is a different matter… Three offer 15GB for the same price point (albeit without Ewan’s mega-discount on the device)  but this tariff comes with BT Openzone (I know, but it’s better than nothing) access too.

It won’t suit very heavy users but it’s not supposed to… there are higher-use tariffs (and higher cost) for them. FWIW without restraining my use at all (Voda were paying the bill) I struggled to use more than 1GB in my tests. YouTube and iPlayer switches down to mobile mode (and isn’t much fun to use regularly over 3G) so it’s not as heavy as you might think.

10p is atrocious, but even 5p is still bad. £5/GB when you’re in quota (with Vodafone), then £51.20 when you’re out?! What gives them the justification to increase the cost by over ten (10!) times?!

So if you’re not really going to use the 3G element, why not just buy an iPad separately and then just buy daily 3G access when you need it, and not be locked in for 24 months?

It’s not justified (as in comparable at the level you’re considering). It’s a pricing tactic the whole industry uses scare people from using all of their bundled allowances or recovering the lost profit if they do (and go over). Most people would prefer to buy many times more min / texts / gigs than they need than suffer occasional spikes in cost even if the overall total cost would be lower that way… Irrational but true!

I did wonder about that but I assume he meant he’d just checked the rest of Ewan’s account was in good standing as (apart from it being polite to ask – not sure if they have to) 3rd party checks aren’t free.

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