For Vodafone Netherlands and for me, 2012/2013 was an exciting year that featured both highs and lows. My first month as CEO was a real roller coaster following the fire at the network exchange in Rotterdam. The poor economic situation in Europe and the impact of this on the Netherlands is becoming increasingly apparent. Fortunately mobile communication remains a stable factor. Even in leaner times - or especially in such times - it is important to stay connected with and within society.
For a mobile provider such as Vodafone, having a fast and reliable network is crucial to our success. Obtaining the best frequencies for the future during the spectrum auction in January was therefore a positive milestone for us. This means we can start building a new generation (4G) mobile network that will allow us to keep serving customers in the future too. We invest continuously in our network to ensure that its capacity, speed and reliability remain guaranteed and to make sure that we are able to respond quickly to the needs of the market.
Fierce competition and changing customer behaviour as a consequence of the economic recession has had an impact on our financial performance. As a result of this Vodafone has had to make some difficult decisions over the past year. We have to be successful over the long term and, in order to achieve this, it is essential that we operate as efficiently as possible. In our endeavour to achieve greater efficiency, we have looked carefully at our human resources and, unfortunately, this has resulted in 71 employees being given notice of redundancy.
The impact of the telecommunications industry extends far beyond the world of business. Vodafone is also able to make a difference in the area of healthcare, for example. Mobile communication gives medical professionals access to patient information more quickly and easily, which also makes treatments and clinical trials cheaper. Vodafone is supporting this development by promoting innovation in the healthcare sector in the form of the Mobiles for Good Challenge.
The fact that our critical infrastructure has such a significant impact, both directly and indirectly, on the economy and social well-being in the Netherlands means that intensive contact with stakeholders is extremely important to us and we believe that we must be transparent towards them with regard to how we see our role. Only in this way can we respond to changing needs and requirements in society. As a company we choose to share our dilemmas. This is not always the easy option, but by creating an open dialogue we are able to find better solutions and gain a better understanding of each other. In this report we present our integrated business strategy and show how we create value for our stakeholders. We explain our most important activities, describe both our financial and social aims and outline our performance in these areas.
Our strategic pillars are geared towards looking after the interests of all our stakeholders and keeping them in balance, both in the long and short term. Our employees are important stakeholders and, at the same time, form the cornerstone of our success. We therefore want to offer an inspiring working environment and invest in committed and motivated employees. For this reason we pay considerable attention to the development of our staff. We do this by means of intensive training programmes for line managers, for example, and by giving our employees the opportunity to do their bit for society. Last year, between them, they clocked up 1,634 hours of voluntary work. We measure the satisfaction of our employees annually. This year it had increased by +2% in comparison with the previous year.
Another important group of stakeholders, and the reason for our existence, is, of course, our customers. We want to offer them the best possible customer experience by providing them with the best services in a simple and customer-friendly way. For this reason we have introduced new clear and simple subscriptions. We are also making it easier for customers to hand in old telephones and, with 114,279 used phones being collected, we have far exceeded our goal.
A third pillar of our strategy is our aim of organising our company appropriately for the future, in particular with regard to the following key areas of attention: the network, IT and innovation. Investing in the latest and best technology will not only ensure that we are able to anticipate the future needs of our customers, but will also allow us to reduce our impact on the environment, as our new equipment consumes less energy and is much more efficient. Other sectors are also able to save CO2 by using our mobile technology.
To ensure that we can respond to changing customer needs, we want to be an easily approachable partner. Our aim is to be a dynamic and daring provider that offers its customers an outstanding network, excellent customer service, innovative services and good value for money. As we realise these goals it is also important that we find a way of communicating the advantages of Vodafone to the market in a way that really makes an impact.
To increase trust in our sector and in our company, we listen carefully to our stakeholders, make sure we understand their points of view and actively tackle issues. It is a real shame that a sector like ours, which has such a positive impact on society, still struggles with its reputation. We can change this by working even harder in the future to meet our customers' demands. This is an area in which we are making progress. We are offering our customers more choice and greater transparency, for example, as demonstrated by the new RED subscriptions and our privacy promises.
Our goals are not easy to achieve and we will have to contend with numerous dilemmas and conflicts of interest along the way. We will keep pushing forward, however, knowing that we work in an excellent sector and for a very special company. I come to work every day with these thoughts in mind, determined to make our promises a reality.
CEO Vodafone Netherlands