Cutting Room: EE strategy facing critical period

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Paul Withers looks at how a lot of work still lies ahead before the company makes clear its brand strategy in October

It’s crunch-time for Everything Everywhere. October will mark the end of the 18-month period in which the company said it would make clear its brand strategy. But while the parent company of

Orange and T-Mobile is trying to make all the right noises, confusion reigns.

The network wants to streamline its operations. Dealers and distributors say there will be a reduction in the number of airtime suppliers and dealer partners. Those deemed not putting through enough quality business will be dropped.

You’re fired
Phonebox has already been a victim. Despite being within Orange’s top tier of dealers, the operator fired Phonebox after Phonebox made clear its intentions to resign from the partner programme.

Phonebox is also a Vodafone platinum partner, and sources close to Orange suggest Phonebox wasn’t one of Orange’s best performing partners and was churning customers to Vodafone.

The reduction in airtime distributors makes sense, too. Orange and/or T-Mobile is connected by all UK distributors except MoCo, which has a solus airtime agreement with O2. To streamline operations there is no need for Everything Everywhere to have its fingers in nearly all the airtime supply pies, so this move makes sense from an operational level.

The new market intelligence system may separate the good from the bad among its huge collection of partners. It also supports claims by Everything Everywhere that the indirect channel is a vital component and it only wants to attract the biggest and best for a long-term relationship.

Disarray
Is Everything Everywhere making all the right moves? Sources close to the company suggest all is not well. One insider describes the company as in “disarray”, a description that the channel partners would agree with.

Morale is extremely low (say some partners), due to a string of high-profile departures. Vice presidents Guillaume van Gaver, Mark Duncan and Russell Taylor left on April 1. They were followed by director of devices Phil Roberson and director of indirect sales Duncan Hay. Most significantly, CEO Tom Alexander, a well respected and well liked member of the team, will step down on September 1, to be replaced by France Telecom executive vice president, operations in Europe, Olaf Swantee.

Its difficult to see how it can remain consistent with a forever changing line-up. Upheaval of senior staff within a short space of time is never a good thing. Extreme change and reorganisation is perhaps too much for the company to stabilise properly at present

And we still hear that staff at EE are still confused about the identity the company is actually looking to adopt. High-end? Value? Both?

One insider said: “One minute it’s about dominating the high street with branded stores. Then it’s about dominating the SME market and then about putting much more focus on consumer contract and prepay sales. No-one knows what is going on.”

The company faces a critical period and its rivals will be watching closely for more chinks in its armour.

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