Part One: Not much spark from SPARK (

I was very excited about the change of brand from Telecom NZ to SPARK. It was about time that they moved into the future and changed that core brand promise. Cool.  

The problem is with the change is that it appears the organisation has not changed (or maybe has become more arrogant). This was particularly true of our experience of the front line sales staff in a SPARK retail store over the weekend. 

So here is the proposition for SPARK at the moment. When you make such a large change in brand promise, it is important to retain your customers and in particular, your loyal customers. It is obvious 101 Marketing.

Case in point. My partner Janine. This is your dream customer. Been loyal to Telecom NZ for 30 years. Spends well over $100/month. Using land-line, broadband and mobile. Pays on time, every-time those bills. Engages in regular WOM. Is loyal despite the fact they have never reviewed her account or services. I call this a ticking time bomb of disloyal. 

Here is the problem or opportunity: Janine wants to upgrade. Phone, Broadband etc. So, hence we go into SPARK to get a good deal, knowing that she may have to pay more but is under the firm belief that they will reward her for her loyalty to gain her loyalty for the next 30 years. 

Well unfortunately SPARK does not see it that way. In our 10 minutes interaction with the sales staff we experienced the following:

  1. Arrogance and indifference and being told, “ok, you can go to voda if you want to”. 
  2. An approach that nearly brought my partner to tears. Always bad to make the customer cry. 
  3. Inflexibility in sales offering. Take it or leave it Model T Ford approach. 
  4. A confused sales approach. 
  5. Absolutely no respect or recognition for the Superloyal Customer. 
  6. Complete lack of understand of the SPARK brand and the messages behind the current campaigns talking about “Starting” and saying “Thanks”. 
  7. and if that sales person called me MATE again (in a rude way) I was going to scream!

We left pretty gutted. 

So, we went to Vodafone and here is what happened:

  1. We got a new Samsung 5 plus new SIM card for FREE. 
  2. Doubled the mobile data plus free txts and calls. 
  3. Double the broadband ata plus new modem etc. 
  4. Got rid of the land-line. 
  5. A great sales approach and service (go to Sam at Vodafone). Really nice guy. Professional and will go far in marketing. 
  6. All content moved from old phone to new phone.
  7. Discount of accessories. 
  8. Screen protector installed. 
  9. Paying about the same but about $15/month more. A bottle of wine.  
  10. Vodafone has the pleasure of deleting SPARK
  11. But most of all – A VERY HAPPY NEW CUSTOMER – who will probably be loyal for the next 30 years. Who will pay their bills on time. Who will engage in position WOM. 

Nothing more to say really except it is Branding 101.

If you make a promise through the brand. Deliver on it. Every-time. Every-way. Everywhere. 

Most importantly, your people are a massive part of the brand promise but vitally, its delivery. It is their approach that defines the optimal customer experience and value.

It is the Sam’s of this world who create the platform of WOM. LOL because I know Janine has already told her story to about 40 people so far. In the next 30 years this story will be retold to tell people how important customers are and to Janine, how important she is. This is her mantra. For Janine it was clear and simple. SPARK did not care. Vodafone cared and most importantly wanted her valued business. 

Go Nino!


  1. Ankush Bajaj says:

    Hi Robert, I am one of your ex-students at UNITEC and now currently working in VODAFONE. I read your Blog post and got some really good insights on how Telecom’s existing customer’s have to say about their experiences. I shared it with my colleagues and senior management which were quiet happy to know that you had a wonderful Vodafone experience. This is the approach we follow at Vodafone and which has probably lead us to become the leading telecommunication network across New Zealand.

    Your blog talks about some great marketing and customer service insights which I would definitely share with everyone across Vodafone.



    • Hi Ankush;

      Thanks for your great feedback. It really creates the strong foundations that customer service and a great sales approach will always be valuable. Well done for working hard for the customer.

      I was happy to work with Russell Stanners at IBM when he was the head of a large telecommunications sales and solutions team. I was involved with the IBM Global Network team. One thing I noticed about Russell was a very strong focus on service and sales. Great to see that value delivery still working hard.



  1. […] Some would have recalled my post on SPARK called: Not much spark from SPARK ( See it here. […]


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