Virgin gives up on market share

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After revising its target from 10% to taking just 1% of market share, Virgin Mobile now says taking market share is not its aim.

“We're not really focused on market share. We're not trying to take a share of the market. We're targeting growth for the company,” says CEO Steve Bailey.

He explains that the 10% target was set two CEOs ago and was not realistic.

There is a large portion of the cellular market that the operator isn't targeting, according to Bailey. “There are a lot of low-cost targets that we don't want to target.”

Choosing customers

Bailey says Virgin is focusing only on a niche market within prepaid, because it's looking for “good quality subscribers”.

“We try and target the higher spenders in the prepaid market and customers that use their phones all the time. So customers that would use their airtime for work purposes. We're choosy in which prepaid customers we target.”

He adds that for this reason, it is difficult for Virgin to offer good off-peak tariffs.

“Our main focus is post-pay. We have made a great deal of progress in post-pay and are growing our base there quickly. Our base has grown by more than 100% in the last 12 months.”

This growth has helped the company become profitable, according to Bailey. He adds that of the 10 million post-pay subscribers in SA, Virgin has about 2%. “We pick up about 10% of the market a month.”

At your service

ICT industry analyst Protea Hirschel previously said that one of Virgin's failing factors is its poor customer service.

“Virgin Mobile has fared very poorly in customer satisfaction surveys, such as the Orange Index, in fact considerably worse than the next worst, Telkom.”

However, Bailey says all the networks get complaints and Virgin would like to have an operation where there are no complaints.

“We pride ourselves on providing good customer service. We ask customers to rate the service they receive after each call. We also do outbound calls where we call customers to check on the service.”

Bailey adds that the operator's call centre is hosted in the head office building to ensure good management. The call centre receives about 3 000 calls a day and monitors show statistics of the live ratings by customers.

“Customers can also rate the agents they speak to so we can see how they're performing and we know who to take off the floor.”

Hirschel says with these developments, one gets the sense that there is renewed energy. “However, turning around their poor reputation in customer service needs to be a key component of their strategy going forward.”

Bailey says he cannot comment on recent rumours that Cell C will be selling its 50% stake in Virgin.

“Our intention is to continue using their network. We're looking forward to launching high-speed products on their network towards the end of the year.”

Virgin is also working on bringing in and offering BlackBerry and Apple products. “We're working hard to bring in the BlackBerry as soon as possible, and the iPhone.”

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