Neil Watson, Head of Service at Entanet, say that when seeking to differentiate your access offerings the last thing you want to do is lower your prices.
It’s great to see the channel continuing to grow as more businesses see the potential in Britain’s connectivity industry, after all increasing competition will ultimately drive better services for consumers. But if you’re new to the game, how can you differentiate your business and compete in an environment with increasingly pressured margins?
The first thing to note is that you can’t compete on price alone, especially when it comes to data connectivity. If you do this – consistently slashing prices hoping that you’ll make money on volume of sales alone – you’ll quickly find yourself out of business. We’ve seen that resellers are having to sell more circuits at lower margins to grow their businesses; first in the broadband market and now increasingly when it comes to Ethernet too. This means that it’s becoming ever more important to differentiate elsewhere and, in our experience, it’s service where you can really distinguish yourselves from your competition.
This is where you need to take a step back and really look at your business from a strategic perspective. Who are your customers and what complementary services can you offer that will add value to them? Do you have the skills in-house to provide these value-added services or do you need to bring the skills in? If you can provide alternative services that your existing customer base isn’t interested in, can you expand into different segments and attract customers who would be interested? Ultimately it’s about playing to your strengths and creating a strategy that fits.
You also need to note that your business reputation and the service you deliver to your customers are inherently intertwined, so it’s crucial to choose suppliers that acknowledge this and take extraordinary steps to protect your reputation. A story often told to us is that resellers find themselves as ‘powerless middle-men’ stuck between their customer and up-line supplier. The customer doesn’t care that a fault is with an up-line supplier, they only care about what you, as their supplier, are going to do about it. For this reason, above any other, you need to have confidence that your supplier has your back.
So what makes a good supplier? In our experience there are four key principles that good ISPs will uphold and which a reseller should seek to identify.
First and foremost, will they be there when problems come a-knocking or will they run for the hills and extricate themselves from the situation at the first available opportunity? At Entanet, we pride ourselves on being there at every step. Through the good and the bad. Not only will we go the extra mile in helping our partners to win business, extending the expertise of our strong pre-sales team to help partners understand what the customer requires technically and designing the best way of achieving it, but when we make mistakes (we’re human after all) and things go wrong, we’ll take responsibility for it and will fix the issue as quickly as we can. We’re also proactive in the management of our own performance and that of our up-line suppliers and aren’t afraid of sanctioning those who provide a consistently poor service.
The second key element of service is contact. However often your customer expects you to be in touch with them, you should expect the same from your supplier. This means that if your customer wants you to check in weekly, you should demand the same from your ISP – only then can you ensure that the supply chain is joined-up and that your supplier is aware of your customer’s ongoing experience enough to actively manage it.
The third identifier of a good ISP is in their network’s reliability and diversity. If hardware fails, can traffic be routed elsewhere to reduce the impact of downtime on your customers? And how regularly is hardware maintained to ensure continued performance? Entanet has designed its network structure with no single points of failure to ensure that traffic can still be delivered, whether the network is busy or any element of network hardware has given up the ghost. We also monitor the network on a 24/7/365 basis and are committed to ongoing maintenance and upgrades to ensure that your customers can stay online and your reputation remains intact.
The final principle is in your supplier’s business model. A reputable ISP will always stand behind you rather than compete with you. You should always retain control of your customer relationship – otherwise how can you be sure that your supplier isn’t just going to cut you out of the equation and deal directly with the customer?