LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES MENA, DUBAI: MVNO Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa (VMMEA) claimed it is shaking up the operator market across the Middle East by aiming to be a “digital disruptor,” amid an ambition to push its service into new countries.
In the opening keynote session of day two Mikkel Vinter, founder and director of VMMEA (pictured, right), declared the company had “thrown out the rule book to see how we could be a truly digital play,” using the analogy of London’s black taxis and Uber to showcase how its mobile services are disrupting the region’s traditional operator sector.
Serving almost 4 million customers across the region, the MVNO service uses local operator networks and is very much targeted towards digital natives: it is not interested in the feature phone market as its customer service strategy is fully focused on the smartphone.
“Our app is central to the experience,” explained Vinter: “Although most operators say that, we’ve taken it one step further as it really is the centre of everything, the product doesn’t work without it.”
Vinter said the app replaces the need for expensive call centres, which “are something digital e-leaders don’t do. We should learn from that.” Indeed, Virgin does have a call centre based in the UAE, but it’s only used in “relatively rare” cases where a user needs help beyond the app: “All use cases are handled by the digital interface. We’ve thought through every single use case for the customer and ensured it is digital.”
The executive claimed the service already won “very high” customer service scores: “It’s a little bit provocative to say this but ‘best care is no care’. After all, when did you last call Google or Amazon? Why should you call your operator all the time?”
Vinter’s comments mark a major difference in strategy from the majority of MVNOs, which typically target the low-end, budget, side of the consumer market.
Despite its digital strategy, the MVNO is able to lean on sister business Virgin Megastore as a physical distribution partner along with other retail partners. It also claims to be able to deliver new online orders direct to customers’ homes within an hour.
Social media, of course, plays a major role in the company’s marketing: “In the bigger scheme of things it’s the digital space where the bulk of [marketing] budget is going,” said Vinter.
He claims the company’s staff are also differentiated from the headcount at rival mobile operators: “Ours are much younger workers. Far fewer suits, more t-shirts, a very different profile of team. We have a team of around 400 focused on running Virgin Mobile’s digital business.”
Looking ahead, Vinter stated: “We’re looking forward to rolling it out in other markets. We hope to make it the beginning of a really interesting digital journey across the region.”