While retailers are normally known for having the gift of the gab, Melbourne shoe retailer Steve Madden’s soaring phone bills were leaving telecommunications manager, Renato Giglia, lost for words.

“I was working as a dealer at Telstra and I left to join the team at Steve Madden. One of my first tasks was to look at how the different areas of the business were communicating with each other and why phone bills were translating into such an expensive running cost for the business. We were spending up to $20,000 on fixed lines, with mobile bills reaching $7000 a month, we simply could not continue on these costs!” said Giglia.

Mobile phones were soon placed in all stores across the Steve Madden chain, with all handsets part of a Vodafone Enterprise plan. Each store’s phone is locked to call only a select list of free intra-company numbers.

In addition, Madden’s employees are also able to SMS – both with each other and with their customers.

“Whenever a customer asks for a pair of shoes to be transferred from another outlet, they almost never leave a fixed line number as a way of contacting them. So our stores were constantly making calls to mobiles to let customers know to collect their shoes and the costs were spiralling out of control,” said Giglia.

“I knew from experience that many real estate agents had seen huge productivity improvements from staff texting clients. Clients love receiving texts as they are quick and accurate, so I knew we could make this work in our stores, too.

“The change has resulted in enormous savings – our fixed line bill now sits at $3000 a month with mobile anywhere from $2000-$3000.”

The savings for Madden add up to an average 78 per cent drop in the monthly cost of fixed line and mobile calls.

Madden’s ‘mobile revolution’ has also included rolling BlackBerries out across the management team and to all area managers.

“Some staff were apprehensive at first, but now they can’t believe how much easier it is to keep on top of their emails, and they don’t need to travel back to the office just to send them,” said Giglia.

“My area managers are always on the road travelling between different stores and now they are making the most of their time en route. They also find it easier to communicate internally as they can rely on group emails and not have to call each other individually to keep their colleagues across what is happening in their area.

 “Of course now my staff keep joking with me, ‘it’s so easy to stay in touch with you’ that I can’t pretend I haven’t seen an email.”