Eir chief executives don’t tend to last long in the job.
The average tenure of the last five incumbents has been around four years. Was that in Carolan Lennon’s mind when she informed the board late last summer she planned to step down?
Lennon will relinquish her position to the ex-managing director of Diageo Ireland Oliver Loomes next month, marking exactly four years at the helm of Ireland’s largest telco.
She took over in February, 2018 as the company was being sold to a consortium led by French billionaire Xavier Niel and as it controversially dropped out of the Government’s National Broadband Plan. Lennon and the new owners shifted the focus back on high-value urban markets, where it had been outgunned by rival Virgin.
The latter’s cable network commands a 60 per cent market share in Dublin and other city markets. It’s unusual for a market incumbent and former state monopoly like Eir to hold only a minority stake in its own domestic market but a decade of under-investment after privatisation in the late 1990s allowed Virgin the upper hand.
The rollout of a €500 million investment in Eir’s fibre network is an attempt to remedy that. “It’s all about taking share from cable,” Lennon said in recent interview with The Irish Times.
Revenue at €1.2 billion in 2020 has been more or less stable under Lennon’s tenureship. The rapid rollout and extended reach of its new fibre broadband product and the success of its mobile brand GoMo, which now boasts over 300,000 customers, stand as her greatest achievements.
Paying tribute to Lennon, Eir chairman David McRedmond said she had successfully steered the company through “a momentous rebuilding phase”.
The thing he doesn’t mention, and Lennon’s chief failing, is customer service, which continually tarnishes the company’s reputation and which blew a gasket at the height of the pandemic in 2020 with the company’s customer care function all but grinding to halt under the weight of complaints.
In an interview on RTÉ’s Prime Time at the time, Lennon appeared to make matters worse placing blame on Eir’s contact centre in Sligo and the difficulties it had in recruiting the right staff there, which some interpreted as criticism of Sligo itself.
The company ranked last behind Facebook and Ryanair in terms of customer experience in 2021, according to the latest CX rankings.
Get the latest business news and commentarySIGN UP HERE