WITH 34 ACQUISITIONS IN JUST FOUR YEARS, CHESS IS A BUSINESS THAT ACTIVELY PURSUES GROWTH AND HAS BEEN AWARDED ACCORDINGLY AS ONE OF THE UK’S FASTEST GROWING BUSINESSES BY THE SUNDAY TIMES FAST AND TECH TRACK IN THE LAST THREE YEARS. HERE, WARREN PRYER, SALES DIRECTOR AT CHESS TELECOM, TELLS ALL.
Pryer evangelises the Chess Telecom enthusiasm for all things comms: “We have been in mobile for five years, yet there has never been a better time to sell our story than during a recession. Chess has always been about giving customers great service at a competitive price; we were established during the last major recession! Increasingly, customers want to look at their whole communications spend, be it fixed line voice, mobile or data, and implement a single approach that releases cost saving across the business. Certainly as a provider of fixed line services, there are advantages in our ability to discount fixed line calls if people take a mobile service from Chess.
“We are not on our own here; the recent moves into fixed line by the major networks and the moves of other fixed line companies into mobile suggest this is an opinion that is shared. The trick will be to convince customers who historically seem to have been reluctant to buy fixed line and mobile from the same supplier. Converged solutions will make the above move more likely as transit moves to IP and people search for a single solution to their data-comms
needs, rather than run each proposition as a separate entity,” he adds.
Chess sees the recession as an opportunity, not a threat, states Pryer. Providing good value for money has always been at the heart of what the company does and in a recession customers are interested in ways to reduce cost, he explains. On the back of this trend, Chess has launched a range of value products at competitive prices, introduced a never beaten on price guarantee, and has also launched an antifraud product.
Another opportunity Pryer says can be taken from the recession is the unemployment level, currently at two million in the UK. “While there have been many redundancies, people also seem to have taken things into their own hands by setting up their own businesses. There have been a large proportion of new business startups, which all have had a positive impact on mobile usage. Many new businesses are working from their home and rely heavily on mobile phones to drive new business forward.”
Traditionally, the mobile market has been fuelled by the payment of upfront commissions on new sales. During the recession, this model has had its challenges as new sales have been affected by uncertainty about the future of businesses. This has affected the uptake of new contracts and people seem to have been more prepared to continue existing contracts or look for more flexible contracts, explains Pryer.
He continues: “Consequently, a more revenue based approach might give mobile dealers more security and allow them to weather the vagaries of an uncertain market. Clearly this would be something that might attract them to a fixed line model, but also perhaps people will be able to forgo the attractions of the upfront model and move to a revenue share model. This would be a big change and I think at Chess we want to work with dealers who would be interested in adopting this approach, but not to abandon the upfront model for those who like it.
“We are committed to working hard to develop an effective product set for resellers of mobile over the next 12 months,” he states.
Chess has grown considerably in size over the past five years and has focused on cross-selling mobile products into its customer base. It has grown through organic sales growth and acquisitions. In 2004 Chess acquired Eurocall Mobile. Since then it has been selling mobile contracts from Vodafone, O2 and Orange via the following routes to market: through its partner channel, operated on a dual approach of support for fixed line dealers by selling mobiles directly for them into their customer bases or simply supplying back office and sales support to smaller mobile dealers; directly to its existing customers; and through affiliate relationships.
Chess has a team of mobile specialists who can offer full presales support and advice and who carry out all provisioning, handset fulfilment and support for dealers. It has recently launched its Big Deal Team. This team has been set up specifically to work on larger deals that require bespoke pricing, detailed analysis and sales support. This team will be working on two sorts of deals, says Pryer.
He explains: “Firstly with our dealers. Our dealers are usually smaller dealers who would not have direct access to either our pricing model or the networks on their own. They do, however, have a number of good relationships with larger customers. By working with the Big Deal Team, we can help them bridge this gap so they can succeed against competition from the networks direct sales teams or larger dealers. “Secondly, our fixed line base has access to and relationships with many larger customers,” continues Pryer. “We know from experience that for some fixed line dealers, mobile can sometimes seem very complicated and they lack the expertise and access to do justice to a larger proposal. By working with the Big Deal Team they can present a professional front to their customers, allowing them to leverage their fixed line relationships and turn them in to profit.”
Pryer adds that he believes the job for Chess over the next few years is to come up with products and packages that make it easy for dealers to make money out of their customers, whether that be selling mobile, fixed line, data or applications. “We are actively looking at our products to simplify those products, developing training programs to increase knowledge internally and within the dealer channel, plus developing support teams within the business to help make this happen. This is an ongoing process.
“We also feel that ‘aggregators’ like Chess will have a pivotal role for smaller dealers, as networks reduce the size of their dealer base and continue to focus on direct sales and revenue based models. We acknowledge the benefits that customer focussed dealers bring to our industry and will continue to support them,” said Pryer.
For 2010, Pryer predicts the main drivers in the business mobile market will be: People reusing and recycling their handsets; the trend for applications to drive mobile sales and mobile devices; IP voice into mobile; fixed mobile convergence; and the consolidation of carriers in an over subscribed market.
He concludes: “The challenge for 2010, is to work with our dealers so that we can continue to make profit out of all these things.” Pryer adds: “There is no reason why we can’t continue to operate in this market. We fully expect to continue to improve our mobile proposition over the next few years, and in particular give our dealers access to a joined up set of products and services that suit their needs.”
He continued: “We firmly believe there is a drive to the development of organisations that provide all a customer’s communications needs; communications supermarkets if you like. This trend is a natural progression of the fixed line channel to widen its base and encompass mobile sales as well as data sales, with broadband and IPVPN products as well,” concluded Pryer.