Knowing Netcom

Knowing Netcom

Matthew Bodle

Matthew Bodle, managing director at Netcom

Life is good in Teddington, which is snugly situated between Hampton Court, Strawberry Hill, Kingston Upon Thames and Richmond in South West London. Lapping up the good life is Matthew Bodle, managing director at Netcom, who is loving his lifestyle. Here, he explains the benefits of being an independent dealer.

While not every day is fun and games at Netcom, there is no such thing as ‘Monday Blues’ for Bodle. He enjoys getting up in the morning and going to work, which he has built into a successful local business over the past nine years.

Before starting his own business, Bodle worked at DVH Communications, based in Wandsworth, until he realised that he had enough years in the business to go it alone. He explains: “I helped a lot of people make a lot of money, until I thought I can do this myself. I had a good understanding of this business. And so, Netcom was born.”

End to end

As well as the store, Netcom also runs a Nokia Service Centre, which allows it to provide a more complete service to customers. The company has around a 50/50 split between consumer and business clients, and it provides companies

with not only a mobile offering, but a fixed line service made available through a business partner.

The split between business and mobile clients came as a surprise to Bodle, who says he only recently discovered that he served more business clients than expected. “We were very much a consumer business. I didn’t know how many corporates I looked after because they come to me, so it’s just built up slowly. I treat everyone in the same way, if they’ve got 30 lines or are a single consumer.”

Bodle comments on the end to end service offered by Netcom: “We find out the customer’s needs. It’s about offering an overall service, not just a product, although that is important, but getting the customer up and running, providing land line kit and minutes, offering ongoing help, and giving that little bit extra.

 

Spotty teenagers

“That’s where large businesses can’t fit in,” he adds, referring to the role of the independent dealer. “Large businesses can’t give these smaller customers, with under 50 lines, the same level of personal service. I think there is room for independents in this marketplace, as much as it is an unlevel playing field, which it is. If I had a Pound for every time a customer said to me that they went into a chain store, were spoken to by a spotty 17 year old who didn’t listen, and who tried to sell them what they didn’t want or need, I’d be rich.”

2009 is set to be a tough year for Netcom, as well as other independent businesses. Not only is there a recession to contend with, but the move to revenue share is definitely going to have an impact on profits. “Everything’s gone to revenue share and that’s really going to make this year quite tough,” suggests Bodle. “I can understand why the networks have done it, but they need the independent dealer channel.

“I was talking to T-Mobile recently, and its never-pay rate is higher than ours,” comments Bodle. “We contact our customers regularly to advise them on handset and tariff upgrades. We’re busy all the time, and we independents helped put the networks in the position they are in today, starting back in the days when there weren’t network-owned shops. And now they want to pick and choose what we get. But that’s just industry, and our unlevel playing field.”

 

IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING…

It would be to have the same advantages that network mobile shops and direct sales have. Why should we independents be penalised? If I could wave a magic wand, I’d make a level playing field for all of us. It would make life fairer.”

 

‘Go to’ man

Netcom has never advertised its presence, says Bodle. It does not even have a website. The company simply operates by word of mouth, surviving well on recommendations. “It’s not because we can’t afford it; it’s because we don’t need to,” he claims. “People come in and ask for me, and I’ve never met them before, which makes me feel we’re doing something right.”

Running a shop is hard work but worth the effort, states Bodle: “You get out what you put in. Being in retail is hourly-intensive, so it’s not all pluses, but you can reap the rewards, as well as be your own boss. It’s also a very sociable job; I’m on first name terms with most of my customers, and I socialise with many of them. It’s a lifestyle, I must admit, it doesn’t feel like work.”

Bodle says the key ingredient to an independent’s success is its personal relationship with its customers. “We treat everyone the same way, whether it’s a fault or a sale. That’s why people want to deal with an independent; because they want to deal with an individual. There’s still hope for the independent dealer versus the networks. If you can offer a good service to your customers against the level of service we know the networks offer, you’re half way there,” says Bodle, and that is the bottom line.

 
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