Ben Dowd

Ben Dowd

O2 is extremely happy with its relationship with its partners across all channels, says Ben Dowd, O2 business sales director. The business is committed to delivering the best possible experience for its customers and has been and will continue to work closely with partners who can attract and retain high value customers.

The partners O2 has chosen have a proven track record of being the best in the industry, Dowd states. Dowd says partners are crucial for O2’s success in the market. He states that if we look at how O2 works with both its national and independent partners, 2008 has been a great year for both the operator and its dealers. He comments: “We have seen our independent partners go from strength to strength, aided and assisted by our very successful Advance Partner and Centre of Excellence programmes.”

Indi dealers add value

On what is so exciting about the independent sector for O2, Dowd points to

the fact it adds value in service, scale and local contact to the O2 service offering. He says this is particularly important when selling to SMEs, who often require a tailored approach on a local level.

What Dowd believes is crucial to O2’s strategy is its ability to mix direct and indirect sales. “Our regionalisation strategy enables us to act locally, even though we are a large national corporation, and work directly with both the direct sales force and our partners,” he says.

2008 has seen a shift in perception of the channel for the operator, Dowd comments: “What we have done this year is recognise the incremental benefits that the independent partner channel can add to the overall O2 business proposition. We will continue to encourage our partners even more through our direct sales teams. At O2 we are looking to maintain our focus across both the direct and indirect sales areas and our partners will continue to be a core part of our channel strategy now and into 2009.

“We are already seeing our partners increasing their sales of mobile applications particularly to customers with large sales or field forces,” he adds. “The partners also enable us to take a more IT-focused approach to corporate and SME sales because of their areas of expertise.”


Shift to IT for added margin

On a more IT-based focus, Dowd explains that this is a key area for O2 going forward, and it is taking the channel with it on this route. He says the O2 Centres of Excellence are part of its business strategy to take a more IT-focused approach to corporate and SME sales. Across all markets, the aim of all the Centres of Excellence is to help O2’s top performing partners develop and market bespoke applications or services for their corporate and business customers.

Each Centre of Excellence is specifically tailored to the area of business it covers, and aims to bring together experts in these areas to offer integrated end to end offerings to customers. O2 currently has a number of Centres of Excellence; three of these are M2M, data and application. Dowd comments: “We are fundamentally strong in these areas, and are especially proud of our expertise in the M2M market as we were the first mobile network in the UK to have a dedicated M2M team. Around 80% of our M2M partners are exclusive, demonstrating their confidence in O2’s ability to deliver.”

What’s really exciting, says Dowd, is that O2 and its partners are already seeing the benefits of the Centres of Excellence. In particular, the data Centre of Excellence has allowed O2 to increase data penetration and ARPU far ahead of expectations, he states.

Given the current economic climate, businesses are really embracing mobilisation and are recognising the benefits that mobile devices, mobile email and mobile broadband can bring them, says Dowd. He adds: “We’re going to continue to focus on broadening our offerings and tailoring these to suit each individual corporate customer. We’ve recently launched the iPhone as a business device and we’ll continue to focus on the benefits it can bring to our corporate and business customers.

“We’re also looking to build on our great experience in the public sector and continue to offer cutting edge mobile solutions to improve business efficiency and processes,” he comments.

Within the corporate sector, O2 has a vertical structure. The operator sees benefits emerging in vertical sector opportunities in its regional structure programme for SMEs that help drive value for small businesses. In addition, O2 is taking a leading role in Telefonica Group’s multinational approach and its intention is to be a key global fixed and mobile player. The business is already starting to see significant wins in this area, Dowd claims.


Surviving the downturn

In the economic downturn, it is crucial that O2 offers its customers exactly what they need to help mobilise their business, Dowd says. Customer insight is at the heart of everything the company does and the company prides itself on that approach, Dowd continues.

“I think the crucial differentiator is that we don’t offer our corporate or business customers a one size fits all approach,” says Dowd. “We really listen to exactly what our customers want and we have an excellent team who offer a bespoke, tailored service. At the heart of our approach is flexibility and our services are designed so our customers can select exactly what they need. It’s not just the selling of the devices or mobile solutions though, we also believe that to ensure our corporate business customers are happy, we need to take the hassle away from them to help them mobilise their business and make the most of their technology investment.”

O2 has worked hard to create a dedicated team of mobility experts for its enterprise customers, says Dowd. Its professional services team, for example, provides customers with innovative and bespoke mobile or data products that address the specific needs of their business.

The current economic climate has had an effect on O2’s approach to the market, says Dowd. He comments: “I think that in the current economic downturn, it’s all about going the extra mile for our customers. It is essential that we work with our partners to become more efficient and effective. We can do this by helping companies re-engineer the way they do business. In effect we are looking to make them, and us, more fleet of foot in order to survive these difficult times.”


Talk your way to success

One way for dealers to ensure success in sales today is through the creation of early dialogue with O2’s customers, comments Dowd. He says: “The company’s process of working with customers to develop packages that suit their needs, and not just a one size fits all approach, is a major benefit that we can provide. Our partners can also work with their customers to find the right products and services to help make companies more efficient.”

Yet on clawbacks, O2 remains resolute. Dowd states: “Our position on clawbacks has not really changed. If a customer does decide to leave us then there is a process in place where we are entitled to clawback some of the costs. Essentially, we are looking to create longevity for our customers and drive as much worth as we can by providing key products and delivering services they value to encourage them to stay with us.”


Looking to 2009

However, for the future, it is essential for O2 that it maintains the momentum it has built up throughout the year in both the corporate and SME markets, states Dowd. He sums up: “In 2009 we want to continue to deliver and strive for an even better experience for our customers, which we hope will make them even more loyal to O2. I believe the key to our continued success lies in identifying their needs and continuing to nurture those relationships.”

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