I couldn’t help feeling Vodafone’s troubles in Japan were due in no small part to the pressures of aligning the business with its global strategy. Japan is a market with many unique characteristics and Vodafone’s control of J-Phone turned a pioneering underdog with a reputation for debuting innovative services (it was the first operator in the world to launch picture messaging) into a struggling regional subsidary.
It is refreshing, therefore, to hear the new owner of the business – Softbank – making such a direct statement about the importance of customer experience. In a press release issued today, Softbank announced five key commitments in answer to the large number of customer enquiries it has received since the takeover.
It re-assured customers existing popular tariffs and services, such as the vodafone.ne.jp email addresses, would continue indefinitely. There was also a pledge to simplify the brand over time and a key commitment to increase the pace of capital investment, focus on network expansion, improve in-building coverage and offer a mobile handset lineup, content and other services to ‘exceed customer expectations.’
This customer-centric view of the merger’s implications should stand Softbank in good stead. There are undoubtedly benefits to be derived from integration with Softbank’s other communications and media businesses (e.g. it’s broadband and Yahoo Japan investments), but these were mentioned only as a final point in the announcement. I get the impression Softbank knows it has taken on a major challenge and has recognised early on the solution is in a clear focus on improving customer experience.