Being social and proactive
According to the findings of the annual Top Companies Reputation Index (TCRI), Vodacom is strongly associated with supporting good causes. A substantial part of its reputation depends on the view that it is a good company to work for, which promotes the skills development of its staff. The operator is also perceived to be an excellent communicator with its stakeholders.
But what does corporate reputation mean for the company?
“For us, proactively building and managing our reputation is a key lever of success, especially in the competitive environment in which we operate. In many ways, our good reputation is a calling card for potential customers, a reason to stay for current customers and employees, and a reason to support us for all other stakeholders,” says Maya Makanjee, chief officer for corporate affairs at Vodacom Group.
She says the company also prides itself on the positive role it plays in the communities in which it operates.
But managing the reputation of such a large organisation can be quite complex. As such, Vodacom employs a number of strategies to assist it in this regard. It has a dedicated social media team to record and respond to customer queries. It has embraced social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook as avenues for ongoing engagement with stakeholders, especially customers.
“We value the comments we receive through these platforms, and ensure that we engage meaningfully with our customers using all our digital tools, including through our own online portal,” says Makanjee.
For Makanjee, the differentiating factor for Vodacom when it comes to corporate reputation is the priority it places upon it.
“Reputation sits high on the agenda of the top management team meetings, as well as forming part of the discussions at board committee meetings. We hold the view that it takes a collective to build and maintain a good reputation. With reputation being a strategic pillar of our business, we have cross-functional teams that understand their respective roles and contribution to managing our reputation.In this way, we are able to proactively manage our reputation as a company-wide process, and not something limited to the customer service and corporate affairs teams.”
But this has not been easy with Vodacom, like many other telecommunications operators, having to overcome challenges in the market.
“A digitally connected world means that reputation management has to move with speed, in order to ensure that role-players within the company are responsive to reputational issues, and respond effectively to resolve any issues that may arise. Hence, to proactively address issues and put in action plans is key to the way we manage our reputation.”
In a competitive landscape, a positive reputation becomes a key differentiator.
“In this current tough economic and highly demanding environment, a good reputation is vital to building a competitive advantage. We anticipate that the importance of reputation will grow with time, and that reputable companies will attract customers who are willing to recommend their products and services.”
She adds that communities will be more supportive of the business activities of the company and employees will feel proud and have a greater commitment to the company.
“We ensure that we focus on building our reputation across all stakeholder groups — be it employees, customers, suppliers, government, or civil society. We have been consistent in delivering the best network, being a good corporate citizen, a good employer, and in actively managing, issues that affect our reputation.”
More than lip service
Things like corporate social responsibility initiatives and sponsorships are part of the reputation management of a company, but do they have a discernible impact on reputation?
Says Makanjee: “Contributing to challenges facing communities within which companies operate most definitely builds a positive reputation.
“Stakeholders prefer to deal with organisations that have a positive reputation.
“We have witnessed how consumers and other stakeholders support and endorse companies that contribute to the sustainability of their respective communities.
“As a purpose-based organisation, we at Vodacom believe we can and should play a key role in the socioeconomic transformation of society, as technology is a key enabler to development. Through the Vodacom Foundation, we have programmes in the areas of education, health and safety and security, all of which support our national development priorities.”