Voda shows ‘teeth’ in small business market


Vodafone expects to win enterprise market share from O2 and Orange after confirmation of OneNet Express

Vodafone made clear last week it expects its family of unified communications products to set it apart from O2 and Orange in the business market, and win it significant share from them.

Vodafone UK last week confirmed launch of its cut-down OneNet Express unified communications proposition for small businesses, typically of 1-10 seats. The product sits alongside its full-blown One offer for corporations and its OneNet service for SMEs, both available for some months.

UK enterprise marketing director Peter Boucher (pictured) said Vodafone expects its unified communications products in the “majority, not minority” of its UK business customers, following strong sales of OneNet within its Italian business and OneNet Express within its Spanish unit already.

The latest launch comes on the back of an 18-month reinvigoration of its enterprise unit, which has seen it remodel its dealer channel around its Vodafone Partner Services (VPS) unit. Dealer partners have been vetted, tied to longer-term contracts and promised much closer operator support in pursuit of business sales. Its OneNet suite represents its flagship offer in the business market, and will work now alongside a stronger smartphone portfolio, revised pricebook and tighter commercial arrangements, it has said.

Last month, Boucher dismissed claims by O2 it is winning share in the small business market as “brazen” and “based on little more than its own guesswork”.

He said last week: “In the past 12-18 months we have reinvented ourself in the small business space and, according to our local analysis, we have been winning from competitors in the market [in the period], before OneNet even. So we have momentum already; these new propositions give us teeth as well.”

He said: “We are better known [for our work] with big businesses than with small businesses. All of this is to better address that small business space as well. We have worked for nine months to get these complex solutions absolutely right for the market, and we have trialed OneNet Express for four weeks; this is the commercial launch and it will accelerate from now.

“These solutions save customers money, but that is not the main driver. The most important thing for them is the efficiencies it allows, and the better business practice. For Vodafone, yes, it increases loyalty within our base, and there is an ‘upsell’ in thesense we are eating into others’ revenue pools. It differentiates us in the market.”

Boucher observed the failure of O2’s Mobile Landline service, which offered some similar landline functionality on a mobile device, following the collapse of the service’s author company GoHello at the start of 2010.

“O2 had a product last year, but it has taken a step back since.”

Boucher claimed the sophistication of the Vodafone suite: “It is technically very complex; it is not trivial. It is not just another call-forwarding service. This kind of funtionality did not exist on mobile before. We have brought clever fixed line functionality to mobile. And, yes, PBX functionality in the ‘cloud’ is not unique, but putting it onto a mobile phone is unique. It requires [interaction of] 40 differnt internal systems.”

Boucher said OneNet and OneNet Express will be sold via all its channels, including its retail shops, web channels, telesales operation and newly-accredited third-party agents. Retail stores will capture leads for telesales agents to follow up.

Boucher said the UK launch of OneNet Express is a part of “well-coordinated European actvity” by Vodafone, which demonstrates “new Vodafone, leveraging its international scale [in its individual operating markets]”.

Vodafone said it has signed its millionth customer to OneNet across its European territories, with its Italian and Spanish businesses, which have sold the various OneNet propositions for three years already, responsible for most sales to date.

Vodafone UK enterprise director Peter Kelly said: “With our trio of unified communications solutions, we have a family of unique, simple and effective services to help transform the communications of any size of business, deliver tangible cost savings and improve customer experience.

“Customers tell us these services positively impact their bottom line by improving results and delivering cost savings. This market is taking off because companies can now be more responsive to their customers and spend more time focused on their own business.”

Vodafone’s One and OneNet propositions, providing hosted fixed and mobile communications solutions, utilise its IP Centrex telephony system for integration of mobile and fixed line handsets.

Analyst IDC said in August: “We see this market taking off over the forecast period. IP Centrex is the fastest-growing IP voice service in Western Europe, and it is expected to be worth $3.6 billion (£2.3bn) in 2014.  This is a compound annual growth rate of 47 per cent in the period. ”

Vodafone business service director Tom Craig said: “Vodafone has taken a leadership position in this emerging market for cloud telephony. This market is taking off because customers can now be more responsive to business enquiries, manage their communications costs more efficiently and – being a hosted solution – they can spend more time focused on their own business.

“The service enables smaller companies to compete alongside their larger rivals by giving them all the call handling capabilities they will need without a significant financial outlay. In addition, it offers a transparent, per-user charging model across both fixed and mobile phones.”