What are the networks looking for and what does the future hold?

With Vodafone terminating Fone Logistics contract today and seemingly looking to further ‘stream line’ its distribution we spoke to Andrew Smith, CEO at Anglia Telecom, one of the four distributors Vodafone has left, about what the networks are really looking for and how distributors need to respond…

Andrew Smith, CEO, Anglia Telecom
When it comes to the crunch, what the networks are actually striving to achieve are increased revenue, profit and return on investment.  
What’s been notable over the last few months, and will have a great impact on parts of the industry, are the networks seeming to be wanting to ‘stream line’ certain parts of their businesses and in doing so, they are ensuring the partners they choose to work with are delivering both the quantity of connections they need and the quality of business that ensures stability.  

It’s often a difficult balance to strike. The O2 advanced distributor programme is a good example, as are recent announcements from Vodafone.  It seems as if networks are now choosing distributors they want to do business with, distributors that give them quality business and who can help them deliver the results they are looking for quickly.  

How do distributors ensure quality and quantity?
New business is the life blood of the distributor, so helping dealers to tap into new clients, as well as retaining existing ones,  and therefore generating new business for the networks is not only essential, it’s a pre-requisite.  By understanding dealers, quality distributors will have a much greater chance of providing product information and general support in ways that are compatible with each of the dealer’s working practices.  

New connections provide one measurement of business success in the network’s eyes.  But it’s not just about numbers, and too many distributors puff themselves up by throwing good connection figures around like that’s all that ever matters.  We can all get numbers.  But can we all get quality?  Anglia Telecom doesn’t want poor business, simple as that, and we believe the networks don’t want that either.  But too many people in the industry just look at the front end figure without considering the ‘real story’.  Connection figures are just one piece in the jigsaw, and distributors really do need to be looking at the whole picture. Our connection figures at Anglia are good, and we believe that despite good connection figures that our results could be seriously devalued if not achieving a good and constant ARPU.  This helps the networks in planning and gives them an undoubted confidence in the level and quality of business that we’re able to bring in.

The dealers are key in this. The independent channel is still strong in the key b2b area, as independent dealers often take more time and trouble in ensuring the correct package for the business customer. Make no mistake, get a good dealer and you’ll get good business.

What ensures good relations with a network?

Experience and past performance does count as a confidence builder in the eyes of both networks and dealers.  Mutually rewarding business relationships with dealers and the networks have to be good for distributors. This not only helps business in general, but also helps the entire communication streams for the industry.  Major issues can be openly discussed with trusted partners to help find effective solutions and construct joint strategies to achieve the desired results. After all, the market is in maturity, but it’s a replacement market too, with the majority of UK residents, from the age of about 12 years, each having at least one mobile phone – it’s crucial to work even closer within the industry to keep the innovation flowing and bringing out new ways of continuing the revenue stream.

How does Anglia set itself apart?
The recent acquisition of Anglia Telecom by Redstone plc give us as a distributor new opportunities, the combined product suite contains everything from fixed line to converged solutions, enterprise storage solutions, business critical enterprise class servers and a comprehensive portfolio of infrastructure and internet services for all business and public sector types.  No other distributor has that benefit.
It’s an advantage that opens so many more doors showing just how valuable reputation and experience actually are. It says a lot about you, it says a lot about your dealers, and it says a lot to the networks about the business you bring in and how the networks value you.

Business processes also play a large role here, being able to provide an efficient service and not a huge paperwork trail, coupled with supplying the networks with the figures they need for evaluating and future planning purposes.  Get it right and distributors quickly build trust and added confidence in the networks eyes for a long and happy partnership.  Equally, it provides confidence to the dealers that they are doing business with a highly professional company with the knowledge and ability to support them fully at all times.

How do you ensure you’re not part of the cull when networks are reviewing their distribution partners?
Successful distributors will have a reputation within the industry, providing confidence and a higher cost of change for any network due to the knowledge base they have built up over the years.  The more history and knowledge they have, the more likely it is that they will be favoured by the networks, largely because they have the ability to ‘hit the road running’.   

Proven good relationships with the networks and on-going quality business with them can only help when networks are choosing new or reviewing current partners.  

The ability to be on the ball in terms of business sense, processes, new technology, innovative marketing and be effective at applying this to the future time and time again, does, without doubt enable distributors to be more attractive in the networks eyes, after all they want distributors they can trust and basically leave to it.  Being a forward thinking company and reacting to change well, without being phased, helps.  

…with only four distribution partners left, Vodafone owning Yes Telecom and another ‘distributor’ announcement from Vodafone not unexpected in the coming weeks it seems that Anglia Telecom have been saved from the cull with a balance of quantity and quality connections. Leaving Avenir with their recently announced ‘diamond’ dealer incentive hopefully creating targeted quality connections and Hugh Symons whose parent company, Carphone Warehouse, was unexpectedly and unceremoniously put out in the cold last month.

Who’s next? You decide.