Shoyinka Shodunke, Director of Technology, Vodafone Ghana and Angela Mensah-Poku, Director of Digital and Commercial Operations at Vodafone Ghana discusses the organisation’s ongoing digital transformation and the challenge of COVID-19.
Vodafone is a leading telecommunications provider in Ghana. The organisation is a total communications solutions provider – mobile, fixed lines, internet, voice and data – and the telecom firm of choice for many Ghanaians.
Shoyinka Shodunke is Director of Technology for Vodafone Ghana explained: “We’re a unique telco and are currently going through a transformation with a flavour and uniqueness of the Ghanaian market.”
He explains that his firm has established three core, strategic pillars as baseline of operations as Vodafone Ghana seeks to transform from a traditional telco to a digital organisation. “One of those pillars is culture and how we behave on a daily basis,” says Shodunke.
Secondly, we have to ensure that we’re building platforms that are transformative. Lastly, we’re driving differentiation from unique capabilities that are developed in-house and engagement of ecosystem partners via software engineering using platforms.”
As a result of the impact that COVID-19 has had on organisations the world over, Shodunke reflects that the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for digital transformation.
“COVID has been an interesting situation to overcome across all industries,” explains Shodunke. “The pandemic has accelerated everyone’s planning to fully embrace digitalisation across all verticals from planning to operation, and it came at a time when we needed some sound check or simulation in terms of the practices we already had in place. Our ability to transform our call centres and a move from traditional bricks and mortar customer service was testament to our digital journey and what we’re trying to do.”
Angela Mensah-Poku, Director of Digital Transformation and Commercial Operations at Vodafone Ghana, believes her organisation’s digital transformation agenda is to deliver the most engaging customer experience. “We do this by blending the best of digital and human interaction in a personal, instant and easy way,” she says.
“Vodafone had already started our journey of digital customer experience ahead of the pandemic. We were driving a shift in consumer behaviour before the outbreak. In line with our commitment to building a digital society that improves people’s lives, we employ new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to transform our customers’ experience and the efficiency of our operation. We have a host of digital-led platforms, which include a machine learning chatbot and self-service app.”
Vodafone Ghana introduced its virtual agent, TOBi, to automate contacts instantaneously and in a personalised way and Mensah-Poku believes its introduction has been influential. “We made TOBi the constant across all channels during COVID-19 and this has been invaluable,” says Mensah-Poku.
“The My Vodafone app is one of the many ways to excite and interact with our customers. This was delivered by young, talented Ghanaians who brought their expertise and creativity to deliver this ‘wow’ experience.”
Its unique and elaborate features offer a complete all-in-one solutions platform for our customers. This unique app allows customers access to Vodafone services and is designed with the objective of empowering the customer to do more and manage their accounts on the go. The app also integrates TOBi in its interface and so you don’t necessarily have to go to a retail store for assistance.”
“Tobi is now taking on around 30% of all customer contacts to our experience centre and is able to deal with transactions and information,” adds Mensah-Poku.
“It runs on machine learning and Big Data and was something the team were able to implement in-house that has managed to bring significant efficiency and take our customers on that self-service journey. When you talk about the impact of COVID, our customers and ourselves had to adapt and become more digital in a matter of weeks. Fortunately for us, we were already on that journey and being on that journey meant we could introduce the My Vodafone app to drive conversations and mitigate the pressure during those critical periods. Hopefully when we fast forward to next year, you will see a very different organisation and customer base that aren’t afraid to embrace digital because they had no choice.”
‘’We place the customers at the very heart of all that we do and this is what drives our leadership in innovation. Enabling our customers to interact seamlessly and consistently with us, when and how they want, is a promise and this is what differentiates us.’’
Shodunke believes that one of the key lessons learnt from the coronavirus was around ensuring cyber security was prevalent at all times. “The key area for us was around security,” he affirms. “When you transform to the digital space, your services move from the traditional protection received from bricks and mortar, to everyone having access whatever platform they need to get the job done. It’s vital to ensure there is good security in place to avoid data leakage and intrusion to malicious use of your system.”
Shodunke acknowledges the importance of adopting an innovative approach with involvement of ecosystem partnerships and believes it’s a key driver to success.
“In the market that we operate in, our ability to innovate and self-disrupt is going to stand out and determine your overall position in the market,” explains Shodunke. “Innovation is a critical success factor to us. Building platforms requires a deviation from how telcos have approached building products and services to using a nexus of forces to drive new business models and better engagement of our ecosystem to drive a two-direction model participation. Our three key pillars all come back to our culture of innovation.”
The importance of developing key, strategic business relationships is essential to the long-term approach of most companies. Vodafone Ghana has established partnerships with Tech Mahindra, Raycom and Oracle that are particularly influential.
Shodunke recognises the value in an ecosystem of partners to ensure everyone can play a key role.
“Partnerships are important in terms of where we’re driving the business now. If you take a deep look at successful digital initiatives, they are primarily driven by partnerships, new ways in which actors collaborate to bring value. Such ecosystems require everyone to contribute and work to its success and to continuously innovate to keep it so. This model ensures a win-win. Driving innovation, rather than previous transactional models. Such partnerships are more about harnessing the full benefits of an ecosystem so that every partner invests in value creation.”
Shodunke points out that for a partnership to be successful, both parties must be working to a common objective. “There must be strategic alignment,” he says. “You must have common goals and objectives underpinned by solid relationships.”
With the future in mind, Shodunke believes his organisation is in a great position to continue to be a top telco of choice in Ghana and to expand in the country. “From a Vodafone standpoint, today we’re a telco company transitioning to a technology communications company. We’ve redefined our strategy and objectives. Our products and services go far beyond the native telco products of voice and services,” explains Shodunke.
I would consider Vodafone Ghana as the top digital company in Ghana. There is no comparison in terms of customer value and experience to our My Vodafone app, chatbots or websites. We are introducing more initiatives to ensure that customers get a seamless experience whichever channel they use to contact Vodafone Ghana.”