Today Vodafone announces a pretty radical shift in pricing plans in the mobile market as well as an adjustment to its overall brand strategy, and while the plans look good EFTM reckons the best plans aren’t obvious until you lift he covers on this new look Vodafone.

In advertising for Vodafone from today you may notice a few tweaks to the way the brand is presented alongside the Vodafone logo itself. It’s all about Red. But beneath the shiny new look are a bunch of new “premium” plans which Vodafone hopes will start a shift back towards Vodafone after a difficult few years for the carrier.

They’ve cleared the decks. New senior managers, a tweaked new look and a distinct focus on the customer.

Vodafone Australia CEO Bill Morrow - Photo: Claire Porter

Vodafone Australia CEO Bill Morrow – Photo: Claire Porter

According to CEO Bill Morrow the company is looking at every customer who leaves them as a breakup. They’ve even taken to the strategy around their re-launch from the perspective of couples therapy. It’s a pretty stark realisation internally that the company has a long way to go.

Morrow, along with new Chief Marketing Officer Kim Clarke are at the front of what they hope will be a complete turnaround, with a three-year journey only just really beginning now.

I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of days in New Zealand last week with both Bill Morrow and Kim Clarke, and when it comes to corporate big-wigs they don’t get much more down to earth when it comes to speaking frankly and openly about the past, the present and the future.

For anyone who has worked on even the basics of corporate strategy the approach might baffle you. To dig deep into what was wrong and what they needed to do to “win their lover back” (that being the customer) an email was sent to the CEO in the form of a break-up letter. Bill responded. The ex-partner wrote back, then Bill did and so on and so forth until a complete picture of just what was wrong with the relationship was formed.

These are the behind the scenes ideas and crazy talk which happen in huge organisations on a regular basis, but are rarely discussed.

So what did they learn?

Customers wanted three key things. A good network. Good value, and a good customer care relationship.

Speaking about customer service, Bill Morrow described the customer situation which we all well know – “I don’t want to call.. but when I do I want you to listen”. Yep, that’s how you feel about ringing your telco – and it’s also how you feel about ringing a partner who you’re quite annoyed by too.

When it comes to the Network Vodafone have been investing a tonne of money into their network, and while there is more work to do, they believe they are at a point today where customers will have a satisfaction that drop-outs are not the standard practice, and data speeds are the best if not the best in the country.

So with those three things in mind, Vodafone has today announced its new “Red” plans.

Three plans with very clear costings and three very important features satisfying what the company learned during the terrible break-ups they’ve experienced.

Firstly on the network, Vodafone claim that no customer should walk into a Vodafone store and sign up without being asked where they work, live and play so a coverage check can be performed by staff – if they can’t give you coverage, they simply shouldn’t sign you up – that’s the approach. Additionally Vodafone is continuing its 30 day network guarantee – allowing customers to come back, hand back the phone and walk away without the commitment to contract if they network isn’t satisfactory.

Next up is customer care. Recently a big deal was made about the Tasmanian call-centre that Vodafone was putting more resources into. The reason now is clear. Customers on these new “Red” plans will get priority access to the call-centres, and their call will be handled right here in Australia. Is that something you’re willing to pay for? Vodafone think so.

And finally, value. These are premium plans, Vodafone unashamedly has put them side by side with offers from Optus and Telstra and think they’ve got the best offer out there.

Starting at $65 per month you’ll get Unlimited calls (Vodafone is bringing back the term “infinite”), Unlimited texts and 1.5GB of data. Then at $80 you get the same calls and texts with 2.5GB of data, right up to $100 a month with 5GB of data and the unlimited calls and texts.

The value of your monthly plan is also available to use on International calls, or non-standard numbers (1300 etc) – so on the $65 plan you have $65 worth of calls to those numbers.

Key to this is the absence of “Bollars” – these are the “bullshit dollars” which is a term I’m happy to say right here because it sums up perfectly the crazy “$600 worth of calls” that you see around the traps. Without really knowing how many calls and how long you can talk these value rates are useless to consumers.

Optus did a great job moving away from these types of charges recently with the move from “value” to “minutes” per plan.

The hidden winner here though are people with a device they want to keep, or those who buy their phones outright. You see the $65, $80 and $100 plans above all include a handset – so you’d expect to get a top of the line smartphone as part of those deals.

If you don’t need a new handset, the same plans are available as BYOD (Bring your own device) for $15 less.

So, $50 a month for Unlimited calls and texts, 1.5GB data – $65 for 2.5GB data and $85 for 5GB data per month. And that’s 4G too.

My advice continues to be you get the best value and control of your spend if you buy your phone outright – the plans above speak for themselves.

These new “Red” plans are the only ones that also give access to the new $5 a day international roaming – so if you’re a traveller – check them out.

Vodafone's new RED plans, listed alongside competitor plans - as provided by Vodafone

Vodafone’s new RED plans, listed alongside competitor plans – as provided by Vodafone

Trevor Long travelled to Queenstown NZ as a guest of Vodafone and Virgin Australia