In the wake of their hat trick wins at the Comms Business Awards this year Comms Business Magazine spoke to Gamma’s CEO Bob Falconer to establish his views on the way the market is going and identify the key attributes of a successful customer service operation.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): What connectivity trends are you seeing in the market and how do you persuade resellers to sell ‘premium’ grade access to end users instead of racing to the bottom on price?
Bob Falconer (BF): First of all, I have to say that we were frankly chuffed to bits at winning the three awards, but also slightly embarrassed and humbled. It is quite an accolade to the team to be recognised in this way and is very much appreciated.
The most persistent trend in the connectivity market is the growth in bandwidth demand. It seems relentless. At Gamma we have seen the amount of internet traffic on our network double in the last 12 months. This reflects on the various access types we sell – FTTC now accounts for over 60% of all broadband sales and we are seeing a big growth in demand for 1Gb Ethernet bearers. For someone who once thought a 9.6kbit/s modem was fast this is staggering!
Additionally around 60% of Ethernet circuits are now sold with voice (up from 40% two years ago). And this is how Gamma and our partners avoid the race to the bottom; we simply see access as an enabler for value added services accessed from our core network. We encourage our partners to focus on the overall solution they provide their customers and not the standalone access component which is a commodity albeit there wide variations in quality of delivery and service out there.
CBM: How important is it for resellers to offer their own customers a bundle of network and associated services?
BF: It is now absolutely essential for resellers to offer a full communications – or even full ICT – basket of services to their business customers. This is what customers are increasingly looking to buy and just offering a single spot service simply won’t cut the mustard. It makes it too easy for a bundle provider to squeeze you out by heavily discounting that item. All the evidence is that wrapped up packages that might include access, calls, SIP Trunking, hosted voice and other cloud services have lower churn and better margins
CBM: What investments in a customer service operation would you say must be prioritised in order to provide channel partners with trust in your company and confidence to sell your products?
BF: In terms of investment you have just got to have the people with the right skills and the right tools and ensure the customer gets through to them. Too often management operates on the squeaky wheel principle – if there’s no noise coming from the operation then there’s no problem. That can really catch you out. Our priorities are:
Put the Channel Partner in charge: Give the customer the ability to self-serve if they want to – we provide a range of options within our partner portal to allow customers to first time fix many of their customer queries e.g. product health check for fault diagnostics, automated pre-port test tools and numbering support tools.
Provide a great training and support wrap: one that allows our customers to differentiate on service. We’ll shortly introduce something called the ‘Gamma Academy’. This will provide partners with online access to a range of training and support material in bite sized chunks.
Let the Channel Partner contact you the way they want to: We provide various options direct from our portal i.e. online chat, direct contact into the support teams (bypassing the IVR), call back requests and so on. Email is never a good one so we try to avoid that – too easy to lose the trail.
Understand the Voice of the Customer and act upon it; – we have developed portal functionality which now allows us to capture customer feedback at a transactional level, this allows us to act quickly where there are any gaps in service and more importantly allows us to shape our service strategy directly in line with customer requirements. We also run annual support roadshows to track our progress in meeting commitments to develop our strategy on the back of customer feedback
Be straightforward to do business with: this is a more recent focus for us but this initiative looks at how easy – or frustrating – we make it for a partner to work with us in all their dealings. Everything from initial on-boarding to simply navigating our portal. We can all get frustrated with the way suppliers assume so much and expect us to work “their way”. We’ve all been through the saga of spending 30 mins trying to order something and then getting sent back to the beginning – not a great experience, especially if that’s your job!