Comms Business Magazine visited Surrey based communications provider ICUK to take a test drive of the latest version of their product portal in the company of Managing Director Paul Barnett.
ICUK was quick off the mark with their own portal. Having formed the company in 2001 the first version was launched two years later making it one of the first on the market. Today the web-based portal is a serious business tool for their 600 plus channel partners and working furiously in the background are three million lines of code all written entirely in house.
As a reseller in their own right in 2001 Managing Director Paul Barnett says that he became very frustrated at what his suppliers were providing in terms of processing and servicing their orders. “They were happy to accept our orders but when we had a query the only route open to us was to phone them. We decided to put that right and developed our own portal that today empowers resellers to place orders, progress them and generally sort out any problem they are encountering.”
The portal reflects the ICUK portfolio so is split in to three broad sections; Web hosting and domains, broadband connectivity, telecommunications.
Leased lines are one of the key growth markets for ICUK so when it came to testing out the portal it seemed a good place to start.
In a nutshell the portal takes you through the process of creating a quote, viewing and placing the order and then managing that order or service once it goes live.
Suffice to say without going in to all the detail you can do all that in an instant. Neat features I noticed along the way were tariff, speed, and supplier selection, press go and the quote is there. It’s fast. Very, very fast. In fact the fastest we have seen.
Resellers get their wholesale price and set their own retail prices on the quote sent to the user. The quote can be saved for later use. Our first quote took less than a minute to generate the customer ready PDF.
Other neat features include resellers being able to see and manage their pipelines and margins.
One key benefits of the ICUK portal is that they sell a good range of services and absolutely all of these are available on the portal. Not every supplier has this ability and users have to instead leave one portal and join another to get another product which is not great if you want to have a bundled services quote prepared for a customer.
Barnett says, “Our resellers provide constant feedback which is the source of inspiration and future development plans. This is our number one competitive advantage over our resellers who use third party platforms, where we don’t.”
More neat stuff includes the fact that where needed WLR3 is inbuilt and transparent which leads us on to billing. ICUK have their own itemised billing platform for lines, calls and minutes etc. Of course it’s built in and provides automatic fraud protection for free, call statistics and reporting.
What it means for the resellers selling to major accounts with multiple locations is that they can sit in front of the management at HQ and show them exactly what is happening on their network whereas the local manager sees only his figures.
If you want to do a competitive analysis of bills for a prospective customer that works too. You can compare call costs as well as line rentals. I said it was fast didn’t I? Well that speed applies to all the features. We produced a competitive quote for service against a real BT bill in under 60 seconds.
The last feature I want to mention is the end user control panel which can be re-branded for the reseller – that’s total rebranding not just the logo. Users can see all the services they are getting billed for at the agreed pricing. Resellers too can see how much their customers owe them.