Questions & Answers

Questions & Answers

Questions & Answers
 
Masson, Advantage Cellular
Masson, Advantage Cellular
 
Gordon, fonesure
Gordon, fonesure:
 
Goldsmith, Orange
Goldsmith, Orange
 
Boden, Mainline Distribution
Boden, Mainline Distribution:
 
Heeran, Valista
Heeran, Valista

Just under half of mobile customers are not satisfied with their operator, according to Which? magazine. Do you think dissatisfaction is justified? Or do consumers have unrealistic expectations?

Masson, Advantage Cellular: This is a really interesting point. I honestly don’t think dissatisfaction is justified. Usually complaints fall into three distinct areas within the customer’s experience:

  • At the point of sale (whether face to face or via the internet) the customer often doesn’t fully understand what he or she has purchased. This is borne out by the reported level of returns. The Which? survey also probably reflects the number of online resellers that have gone bust, leaving consumers with the only option of contacting the network.
  • The sale is predominantly driven by the device the consumer wants, the secondary consideration being the network service. But if and when the device fails or is subsequently not liked, then it is typically the network that takes the brunt of the complaints – which is totally unfair.
  • I think we all know precisely where our mobile phone doesn’t work as opposed to where it does. There are in my view no bad networks – how can there be when they all boast 99% coverage with roaming agreements that span almost every safe country in the world?

If the question was about unhappiness with the customer service provided by the networks, then this is something that they can concentrate on addressing. After all, Virgin can score higher service ratings than T-Mobile even though they both operate on the same network.

Gordon, fonesure: Customers have the right to feel aggrieved with the services that they receive from mobile providers – they are paying for a premium service, with most people’s bills running into the hundreds each year. But I am of the opinion the services provided by the main operators are now generally excellent. My only gripe would be that in many cases we are still seeing the same coverage blackspots that were present five years ago, and that really should not be the case.

When customers complain about their mobile operators, I believe this is entirely down to price and a perceived lack of value. If mobile phone operators were looking to improve satisfaction they should try to increase transparency and look to simplify their price plans and call charges. This way customers can be left in no doubt as to what is included – and just as important, what is not included – within any monthly contract.

Orange says it intends to break the dominance of Vodafone and O2 in the business market. What will it take? What does Orange have to do to win a significant slice of the B2B business?

Goldsmith, Orange: Orange has been offering services to small and medium size businesses for the last 13 years; we’re continuing to build on that heritage and what we’ve learnt during that time. Key to our strategy is to continue to improve our service model, continue to build and nurture our loyal customer base and, of course, to keep on developing strong relationships with

the channel.

Orange dedicated small and medium business tariffs Orange Solo, Orange Venture and Orange Momentum were all well received when they launched last year. We refreshed them earlier this month to keep them relevant to SMBs and they way they work and, so far, all the signs are that customers like what we are doing.

Our approach is to deliver simple, transparent tariffs that offer value and choice to any business regardless of size. The number of different price points we offer reflect this and the packages are designed to be flexible, shaped to reflect both life and workstyle choices. We have deliberately avoided the ‘one size fits all’ approach and our tariffs are based around what our different customers actually need.

We’re working hard to offer our business customers the most flexible ways of working. Our mobile broadband, Business Everywhere, gives business users unlimited data access from just £17 per month or £7 per day with our new Daily tariff – that’s pretty competitive. What’s more, we keep it simple. We give customers the option to share usage among a group and still just get one bill, we offer free plug and play USB modems and even Wi-Fi access included in the price.

Masson, Advantage Cellular: The answer to this question is going to sound abrupt and cynical from me but it’s not meant to. All Orange needs to do is to replicate every little piece of detail that Vodafone and O2 do in this key space.

By that I mean tariff flexibility for the reseller and a simple drive to dispel the myths and legends that the network is out to steal the reseller’s hard-earned customers. Get us all in a room and tell us they trust us to acquire high quality business. Not every reseller today is out to defraud the network!

Boden, Mainline Distribution: Businesses want high quality mobile and data solutions, backed up by competitive pricing and excellent customer service.

The hardware element of that requirement is primarily the network’s responsibility, but the delivery of the solution and the provision of advice, support and service should be the responsibility of the B2B dealer.

Mainline’s Business Mobile programme shows how Orange can maximise the value of independent B2B dealers. Through Business Mobile, Mainline ensures that Orange dealers can market and sell effectively, represent the network professionally and service every business account efficiently and conscientiously. Business Mobile also ensures that quality dealers are well rewarded and incentivised.

To secure greater market share, Orange should delegate more responsibility to the dealer for the lifetime of the customer’s association with the network. This will enable the dealer to build strong relationships with the customer through ongoing quality service, grow the account using data and other technologies and reinforce customer loyalty.

Gordon, fonesure: Orange really has a task on its hands if it is looking to stake a claim to the lucrative B2B marketplace. It has been left behind in recent years by O2 and more particularly Vodafone, both of whom now have a significant hold on the market.

To break that, Orange will need to start offering monthly ongoing commissions and an increased flexibility to its indirect dealer channel – which O2 and Vodafone both offer – and allow customers to connect any handsets to Orange tariffs, rather than limiting them to Orange partner manufacturers.

This said, Orange is currently third in the marketplace and should they revamp their B2B solutions there is no reason it could not start to take a bigger cut.

 
Should RIM feel seriously threatened by Microsoft’s plans to promote Exchangebased email on mobile phones?
Or does the BlackBerry now have a virtually unassailable position?
 

Masson, Advantage Cellular: RIM is by no means complacent when it comes to market position and its view of competitors. The company boasts over 3,000 IT and system developers in their organisation, RIM sales over the past two years have doubled and are set to do the same again this year, the products just work – and they now have the hots for the consumer sector.

When you are up against the likes of Microsoft, and bearing in mind the clever stuff RIM is developing, how can RIM even begin to be complacent? I would turn the question on its head and ask it from Microsoft’s perspective!

Heeran, Valista: I don’t think RIM can assume it does have a dominant position. Microsoft’s recent partnership with Apple to license the Exchange protocols and allow iPhone access shows just how determined it is to compete with RIM.

And RIM runs the risk of producing devices with too narrow a focus (email) while the versatility of competing platforms may prove more attractive to business users. Web access and usable browsing will become equally important as more services move into the cloud.

Gordon, fonesure: RIM should be at least a little concerned. If Microsoft successfully launches a fully integrated and reliable Exchange-based mobile solution (including a full Microsoft Office suit), the BlackBerry could quickly become a second rate solution.

That said, the beauty of RIM products over the years has been their reliability of service, coupled with a high quality and easy to use handset. Thus far, the BlackBerry has been unrivalled in its consistency and I don’t see Microsoft seriously threatening this market in the foreseeable future. RIM does need to further improve their current offerings to stay ahead of the market – services like editing of attachments would be a step in the right direction.

One solution (albeit an unlikely one) would be a partnership between Microsoft and RIM. Together, these two could dominate the market for years to come.

 
O2 is trying to bolster its retail presence by promoting franchising. Is this likely to be a
good option for the retailer struggling in the face of competition from the networks’
direct selling? Or is it more an option for the newcomer?
 

Masson, Advantage Cellular: There is scarcely a High Street location in the UK that is not represented by at least four mobile networks as well as Phones4U and Carphone Warehouse.

That’s not to say there is no room for the local, hard working, friendly dealer to enhance its appeal and flagging sales by working as a franchisee with such a big name as 02. But from what I know the costs of setup are not for the faint hearted; and a big consideration is the restriction of selling only one network.

I think franchising is appealing as a B2B venture with a smaller degree of consumer presence especially with no 12 month contracts available on 02. So it’s a very serious option in my view – but location, location, location is the order of the day; and any would-be franchisee would be well advised to

 
THIS MONTH’S PANEL

Andrew Boden – Managing Director, Mainline Distribution
Darren Goldsmith – Head of Business Development, Indirect channels, Orange UK
Mark Gordon – MD, fonesure
Frank Masson – Commercial Director, Advantage Cellular