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Case study | a 10-year partnership with Vodacom


  • Drive market growth through proactive customer service
  • Reduce costs and drive efficiencies
  • Deliver a consistent customer experience across all channels


  • Expansion of long-term repeat pilot to reduce avoidable call volumes
  • Consolidation of data services across prepaid and post-paid centres to drive a seamless experience
  • Design, build and expansion of 600-seat centre of service excellence
  • Tailored leadership training and product programmes
  • Structured career growth and job creation


  • Decade long partnership
  • Increased first call resolution from 70% to 85% to drive cost savings
  • Environment – centre of excellence
  • Consistent customer service experience
  • One-stop-shop service


Consistent service excellence for all customers

Vodacom is a leading African mobile communications company providing a wide range of services including mobile voice, messaging, data and converged services to over 57.5 million customers. Its vision is to offer the best network, best value and best service across its mobile network of around 200 million people on the continent.

The operator’s decade-long relationship with Merchants was initiated in November 2004, to help manage high call volumes of prepaid customers during peak months, resulting in a growth in agent numbers from 60 to around 520. Determined to increase its share of a fiercely competitive market, Vodacom has been directing its efforts to delivering the best customer experience, while consolidating its service range and driving improved efficiencies across its business to fuel business growth.

Building on the success of its prepaid customer service function, Vodacom needed a solution that would deliver the same high quality service to its post-paid and corporate customers. Its goal is to create a seamless customer experience where customers can enjoy a ‘one-stop’ service, through the consolidation of its data products across its prepaid and postpaid centres. For Merchants, this meant delivering an intensive training programme to equip agents with the required product knowledge.

Build retention through service

Vodacom’s ‘lead-live-love’ philosophy encourages a service culture that empowers agents to lead on service by owning and resolving customer queries. Quality measures are designed to inspire agents to ‘live’ its service ethos and promote ‘love’ and loyalty of the brand. Vodacom wanted to draw on the success of its Merchants’-initiated long term repeat pilot – where empowered agents proactively resolve customer queries – to implement a solution that would drive retention and promote a consistent service approach across each business unit, and across all service providers.

Improve contract service experience

Vodacom was concerned that its post-paid customers were not enjoying the same high quality customer experience as its prepaid customers that are served through its Merchants’ outsourced centre. To maintain market share and drive revenue, the operator needed a solution that would address underperformance and ensure a consistent customer experience.

For Merchants, the post-paid service centre would need to deliver a high quality service modelled on the success of its prepaid centre, underpinned by an optimised cost structure. The new centre would also need to provide sustainable career growth opportunities for its people, while helping to realise its competitive performance goals.

Grow enterprise business

Vodacom’s existing enterprise business unit provides a support service to a sizeable number of corporate clients as well as small to medium enterprises (SMEs). With both prepaid and post-paid sectors fairly stable in a competitive market, Vodacom needed to expand its existing enterprise business unit to identify revenue growth opportunities and drive improved efficiencies through proactive customer service.

For Merchants, this expansion would include ensuring the successful transfer of about 30 onsite staff from Vodacom through a well-scoped change management process. The move would need to be supported by intensive training programmes to equip staff with expanded data product knowledge, while providing sustainable career growth and job security.

Vodacom was concerned that its post-paid customers were not enjoying the same high quality customer experience as its prepaid customers that are served through its Merchants’ outsourced centre…


Expansion of a people-focused centre

Vodacom’s goal is to entrench a service culture in the hearts of its people to place their customers at the centre of everything they do…first time, every time. Through significant investment in the design and building of a centre of excellence, Merchants aims to set the gold standard for service and facilities across the Vodacom business and its other providers.

In operation for over two years, the expanding centre environment reflects Vodacom’s service ethos and mirrors its young workforce with games and chill rooms, a prayer room and salon, to name a few. After engaging with staff to understand their needs, the design of the centre has created a great work place which is as bright and colourful as the individuals within.

To encourage career growth within the contact centre, Merchants’ Future Leaders programme enables staff to progress to senior and specialist skill positions across the business. Active coaching, mentoring and performance development helps staff to achieve their personal career goals. To date, 100% of all team leaders and operations managers are ‘home grown’, with many progressing to different specialist roles within the centre as well as the wider Merchants business. To date, a number of agents have moved to specialist roles within training, management information (MIS), workforce management (WFM) and quality assurance (QA) business areas. All agents and team leaders now enjoy opportunities to progress through prepaid, post-paid, long term repeat and enterprise business unit teams.

Proactive customer care to drive growth

Aligned in their vision for growth, Vodacom and Merchants’ 10-year partnership is focused on driving customer loyalty and revenue. Their mutual commitment to proactive customer care has resulted in a decision by Vodacom to expand on the success of its long-term repeat pilot. By proactively identifying customers who have called in more than twice to resolve their query, first call resolution (FCR) rates have improved and call transfers have dropped through its one-stop service approach. Merchants continues to deliver intensive training to equip additional agents with the required product knowledge, while widening access to data services.​

Vodacom and Merchants’ close working partnership continues to deliver against its goals of optimising processes and enhancing the overall customer experience.​


Consistent customer service; NPS scores of 69%; First call resolution rates of 85%

​Vodacom and Merchants’ close working partnership continues to deliver against its goals of optimising processes and enhancing the overall customer experience. Merchants’ business improvement team has helped to drive a proactive approach to customer care and greater use of customer self-help. Open communication has ensured a collaborative approach with other service providers to roll out consistent quality performance measures, and Merchants continues to suggest process and service improvements. Handling over 40 000 calls daily with first call resolution rate at 85%, the number of agents is expected to increase to over 600 in 2015 to service all lines of business including its prepaid, post-paid, long term repeat and enterprise units (EBU).

Targeted recruitment; sustainable job creation

Revised recruitment processes have resulted in 95% of all new recruits being able to speak three languages which include Zulu – the operator’s most popular language. By attracting talented multi-lingual agents, call transfers and dropped calls have been reduced significantly. Merchants is meeting its ultimate objective of an improved customer experience through creating sustainable employment opportunities, while boosting first call resolution and quality service levels. ​

Cost savings linked to performance

​Building on the success of the prepaid customer service centre, the extended contract now includes post-paid, enterprise and long term repeat service functions to continue the trend for excellent service, while delivering greater cost savings for Vodacom. Aligned with the operator’s vision for growth, Merchants continues to add value through its people, leadership and facilities. The structured cost model is linked to service performance and quality and takes a long term view of the customer journey.

Expanded range of capabilities and services

​T​he expanded contact centre will see the consolidation of data services into prepaid and post-paid service centres to provide a one-stop shop for customers. Robust intensive product training has been rolled out to ensure agents are empowered and equipped to deliver a seamless customer experience and improved resolution rates. ​​

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