By Branko Miletic

Following the death of “Crazy” John Ilhan in December last year, the mobile phone retail chain he founded continues to play the maverick and is expected to go onwards and upwards according to new managing director Brendan Fleiter.

Asked whether the Crazy John’s selling techniques and promotional style will remain or be changed, Fleiter says: “John infused the culture of Crazy John’s into his team. The result is a very strong management team that is still delivering on the expected level of intensity in the business, still resulting in that ‘crazy’ aspect to push the boundaries and excel in the market.”

In the mobile phone market there is a large amount of competition and very little differentiation, and according to Fleiter, Crazy John’s will continue to stick out from the crowd, especially now it has its own network.

“The launch of the Crazy John’s network has allowed us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors, offering unique customer benefits and new technology”, he says.

“We have developed a real-time converged billing system designed to support both prepaid and postpaid customers; it’s the first of its kind in operation in Australia. Customers can now have access to the same services regardless of their billing structure.

“We’ve also built and integrated a complete front-of-house operation including support for retail (in-store), call centre, and web-based customer service channels. All customer service staff, whether they are retail staff or call centre operators, use the same system ensuring consistency in the customer experience, as well as unifying the training requirements of staff.

“And we’ve also developed the My Account Mobile feature as part of the network,” continues Fleiter.

“For the first time, Australian mobile phone customers can now make balance enquiries, bill payments and prepaid service top-ups via SMS. The customised application designed by Crazy John’s resides on the phone SIM and allows a prepaid customer to redeem a purchased top-up voucher anytime, anywhere and have access to the credit within minutes.”

The results of all this, says Fleiter is that Crazy John’s is “now connecting more customers to the Vodafone network than we used to connect to Telstra and we’re seeing a very substantial percentage of customers moving from Telstra, Optus and 3…”

The decision to dump Telstra for Vodafone was a controversial one, although Fleiter says this was a positive step.

“The decision to part ways with Telstra was more than a court case or commissions, it was far more fundamental. We couldn’t reach an agreement that matched our business plans [to develop our own customer plans and services]. Crazy John’s and Vodafone reached an agreement that suited our business plans. It is the world’s largest network, allowing us to develop our own – we can now cater for the different needs of the market under the Crazy John’s brand.”

He goes on to note that “under the partnership with Vodafone, we now have our own plans, services and products. We can now provide Crazy John’s customers with the independence and control we need to deliver on our customer service proposition through greater control over products and service fulfillment”.

Finally, asked as to whether Crazy John’s was looking to hook up with any major retailers in the near future, Fleiter will only say that “Crazy John’s has plans to make Crazy John’s products available in thousands of retail outlets. This has already been achieved with the new prepaid range with top-up vouchers available in locations across Australia and prepaid kits available at over 1000 retail outlets nationally including Coles Express, Caltex Service Stations, United Service Stations and selected Video Ezy stores.”