Flexing Orange Muscle

Flexing Orange Muscle

Martin Lyne

Martin Lyne, director for SME at Orange UK

With the Federation of Small Business chairman declaring that it is the UK’s small businesses that will see the country out of recession, it is imperative that everything is done to help these smaller companies survive the current economic climate. To that end, Orange is making strategic changes to its portfolio that will help both dealers and customers enjoy 2009. Martin Lyne, director for SME at Orange UK, explains…

To help its channel partners and business customers survive the credit crunch, Orange is refreshing its tariffs and propositions for the end user to add value and quality, which is what it is being asked for by end users, states Lyne.

 

Orange is launching several major additions and enhancements to its business packages this year, including a number of tariff changes, particularly aimed at the small and medium business.

 

Flexing the workforce

On 12 January Orange launched a brand new flexible pay as you consume offering for small and medium businesses, called Flexible Workforce. This plan is a single subscriber plan with an annual fee of £25 (excluding VAT) and subsequent usage costs. With no monthly line rental, it is available to existing customers with two or more PAYM business subscribers. It will assist customers by giving them much greater flexibility when it comes to meeting their communications needs.

Lyne comments on Flexible Workforce: “No one needs to be told of the detrimental effects the recession is having on business in the UK at present. We are particularly conscious of the uncertainties affecting our smaller business customers and we need to ensure we provide flexibility in our plans to help support their changing communications needs. We feel confident that Flexible Workforce will assist SME’s to better weather these economic conditions.”

But Orange is not stopping there. The operator is keen to provide real value for money for its small and medium customers, states Lyne, so in addition to Flexible Workforce and the existing Business Solo package for single user customers, the operator has updated its plans. This month it is launching Business Sense, which enables business customers to tailor their packages from Orange. Business Sense combines the former SME tariffs, Orange Venture and Orange Momentum, to allow customers to share minutes and other benefits across a group of users.

 

Making business sense

All Business Sense plans offer customers unlimited calls and texts between sharers, free itemised billing, and free answer phone. By extending their contract customers can choose from a range of benefits including discount options and unlimited calling benefits.

Lyne says: “When we spoke with our customers, it seemed that when it comes to choosing a mobile phone tariff, they often struggle to compare tariffs between suppliers and to find a plan that matches their needs. Most business tariffs don’t offer choice or flexibility to build a plan that suits the needs of individual businesses.

“Many plans have ‘inclusive extras’ thrown in as standard, which businesses feel they are paying for regardless of whether or not they need it,” continued Lyne. “But in order to get value for money, our customers feel it’s really important they have the flexibility to tailor their mobile plan to suit their needs, by selecting a benefit they want to include.

 

Tackling challenges

There is no denying that 2009 will be a tough year, admits Lyne, but he says Orange views this as another challenge that it feels it is well prepared to tackle and overcome.

“Interestingly, in times of financial hardship we rarely hear about customers ridding themselves of their communications facilities,” Lyne explains. “They tend to talk about cutting down on expenses such as business travel, restaurant lunch meetings and the like, but never about getting rid of the mobile, PDA or laptop, which I think shows how significant and integral such tools are to the modern user. In recession especially, people appear to be even keener to keep communication channels flowing, which makes sense when you think that this is the main means by which a business can keep in touch with its customers,” he says.

“We also believe more of our traditional channel will expand their product portfolio’s in order to ensure customers are able to upgrade easily in 2009 to solutions and packages that better suit their businesses,” continues Lyne. “For instance, Flexible Workforce will support businesses with a tariff that is more adaptable to the current economic climate. This is in conjunction with our channel supporting activity which involves us constantly reviewing the commercial package to ensure best value for our partners.”

 

Consolidation and innovation

However, 2009 will continue to see the consolidation of Orange’s channel partners within the marketplace. This started during 2008 but will continue at pace during the coming 12 months, says Lyne. “We also envisage seeing the channel looking at new routes to market this year, which will include new sales strategies.

“For instance, where we have traditionally seen the channel focus on making profit from voice, we will be seeing an increase in the number of partners looking to adopt the data dream of mobile broadband, fixed line and mobile package,” enthuses Lyne. “Communications continue to change rapidly and customers are keen to adopt a more end to end solution that cares for all their communications needs.”

Channel partners are vital to the continued success of Orange, states Lyne. He explains: “Our partners are their own local experts and therefore understand their customers better than anyone. Their local independence is a strength and something that can be used to full advantage in this coming year. A good knowledge of which sectors and industries are doing well or not is also going to be extremely useful this year in terms of where dealers should be looking for new revenue.”

Lyne adds: “We are the only operator in the UK market to offer a business pay as you go consumer plan; Flexible Workforce. We’ve listened to our customers and acted accordingly. Some of the concerns our small and medium business customers have voiced include the fact that they need flexibility around fluctuations in workforce numbers and locations for seasonal and project based businesses, and they require a shared resource for staff who will only have sporadic non-essential needs for use of a mobile phone for business purposes. They also wish to manage their cash flow better and skip any solid financial commitment to a mobile tariff should their workforce or financial situation dramatically change.

“We’ve addressed all of this and more,” continues Lyne. “We’re enabling businesses to tackle those unpredictable future requirements, so there is no monthly line rental and therefore minimal commitment needed. This will give our customers greater control over their costs which will be in direct relationship to usage patterns.

“In order to better manage their cash flows we have ensured that any payment is in arrears of use, which means that costs do not have to be absorbed ahead of any incoming revenue. Last but not least billing is simple with subscribers receiving a monthly statement for managing their business costs efficiently and there are no requirements for top up payments. We’re doing everything in our power to assist our customers where we can and by ensuring this resource is always available and rapid guarantees that the service can be used as and when, even last minute if necessary,” sums up Lyne.

 

DFC, a real local business

In 1986 Dick Fleming saw an advert in the local paper for a cellular salesman. Being out of work at the time he decided to go for it and began working at Pinnacle Telecom shortly after, establishing a name for himself in the Aberdeen area amongst the oil, fishing, haulage and transport sectors, all of which were tied to the oil industry in some way. Soon after, Fleming established a reselling business for Pinnacle, which was the start of Dick Fleming Communications.

At that time, Craig Forsyth, now DFC’s technical director, joined the growing business, which was then involved in the installation of ‘brick’ mobile phones into cars, helicopters and boats. Today, DFC has a small but focused staff of 10, and still works in the same industry, supplying mobiles and installations, IT such as WiFi, plus backup for data products as a managed service.

Now under the watchful gaze of Dick’s daughter, Fiona Fleming, the focus for the business is adding value. That means being a company the customer knows will come through with the goods when and wherever they are needed, whether that is on a boat in the harbour, a Ferrari, or rushing a handset to the airport for a client on the way to an oil rig.