When Carol Hall joined Vodacom in 1994, she was a sales person with a target of selling 15 contracts per month. Just four months ago, she was appointed managing executive of the Western Cape and oversees the entire business unit.
Hall has been around since Vodacom's inception and has seen major changes in the industry and the mobile communications company itself. In an interview with Fin24 she shared more on her journey climbing up the corporate ladder and the business priorities of her new role.
Hall started her career in the banking industry, working with credit card machines. At the time the machines were using Telkom lines.
"Then there was talk of this new cellular communication coming and I just thought, 'Wow I would like to be involved in this,'" she recalled. And she's "loved the journey" so far.
Before being appointed to her new role, Hall was the managing executive of Vodacom's Eastern Cape region. In 2007 she became the first woman to be appointed managing executive of a region and she was the first person to be appointed in the position without having a technical background.
When asked if there is a false perception of the telecommunications industry being male dominated, Hall said that she could definitely see changes in the industry throughout her career, which spans more than 20 years.
Part of her contribution in breaking barriers for women to join the industry is to mentor others. "I mentor to be able to give back to women, because I have experienced it. It would be selfish of me to keep that to myself and not share it … I have walked the path and learnt from many people," she said.
Hall said she has always been customer focused, and is fluent in Xhosa which has helped her interact with her customer base. "The customer for me is why I am here. It drives me from day to day," she said.
Hall hopes to continue this customer-centric approach in her role as managing executive of the western region, by understanding what customers in the Western Cape require.
At the same time, Hall will be overseeing Vodacom's R287m investment in the region to upgrade and modernise the network to keep up with consumer demands. "The customer and understanding what their needs are is one thing, hand in hand is the network. The network is our (Vodacom) heart – everything we do extends from it."
In another bid to better meet the needs of customers, Vodacom has been tailoring its packages to customers needs through its Just 4 You packages, and has introduced Just 4 Your Town packages tailor made for users in specific regions like Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain, based on their usage, Hall explained.
Further, offering insurance for devices is another "strong push" for Vodacom, Hall added. Consumers use their devices daily and often do not realise the cost of losing a device. "It is very important for us to educate our customers about the insurance aspect," she said.
Offering financial services is becoming important for Vodacom's strategy as the group seeks to build on the additional services it offers consumers, Hall explained. This is especially important in light of Vodacom's trading update for the quarter ended June 30, 2019 which showed SA service revenue declined, mostly due to data usage regulations.
Apart from insurance, Vodacom also now offers funeral policies. "I can imagine we will have a lot of financial services that will be coming to market - financial services is definitely a space we will be playing in," Hall said.
As someone who does not have a technical background, Hall said she keeps up with tech developments by reading a lot. It also helps that Vodacom "constantly" gives updated information on its trial and test services. "Being in Vodacom, we get pushed lots of information," she said.
She admitted her biggest challenge has been having to learn the technical side of the business.
"I come from a sales and marketing background but I have been with the company since 1994. I have journeyed with them and I have learnt the technology as I go along.
"I have engaged with everyone and they have been so open to sharing," she said.
Hall added that she has been open to embracing opportunities and new technologies. "That is why I love this industry so much, because it is ever-changing."