What’s new at O2?

What’s new at O2?

Claire Darley, head of SMB sales at O2

Claire Darley, head of SMB sales at O2

No introduction is needed for O2, one of the big four mobile operators ruling the UK. Claire Darley, head of SMB sales at O2, is relatively new to the business, having started her career there at the end of April this year. Here, we talk to her to find out what she has in store for the channel.

“The channel has always been important for O2, and it will continue to be,” is the first point Darley wishes to make in our conversation. “It is an essential part of our mix, and we continue to see that as being an important area for us. Today, 50% of our connections come through the indirect channel.”

O2’s Centre of Excellence Partners are an esteemed bunch in the channel. Darley says O2 now has 21 Centre of Excellence Partners, who have direct relationships with O2 itself.

The O2 Centre of Excellence programme sets demanding qualifying criteria, including excellent customer service and commitment to the business sector. Those partners have a proven track record in delivering mobile and data solutions tailored to customers’ specific business requirements.


New to the firm

Before joining O2, Darley had spent seven years working as a global account manager, international sales manager and global head of marketing at Vodafone. She left in 2007 and most recently worked at entertainment content firm, Technicolour.

She now runs O2’s indirect and direct SME teams. “The market right now is very challenging,” she notes. “Our Centre of Excellence Partners are still growing though, despite the tough market, so we’re still selling a raft of services through them, including fixed broadband, landline and all our mobile solutions.”

Yet despite the positive outlook, Darley comments that the still-difficult market means the next year will remain hard work. “It will be an increasingly tough market for the next six to 12 months,” she states. “Some of our partners are concentrating on retaining customers rather than growth, so we can expect to see some consolidation.

“It is our responsibility to bring new services to our partners, so they can sell,” she states.

“We are now making the move towards selling other services, including Wi-Fi and mobile money through mobile wallets and near field communications, as part of our strategy as an organisation,” she says.

On that strategy, O2 is doing more to increase its brand appeal to end-users and business partners, primarily in the mobile money, commerce, payment and voucher area, which is a red hot subject for the entire mobile industry this year.


New stuff!

In July it announced O2 Priority Moments, an exclusive new location-based mobile voucher and discount service for O2 customers. Priority Moments enables customers to take advantage of offers and experiences that are local and are immediately redeemable where they are. It is customisable and is a consolidated service that makes life simple for consumers, with no printing, posting or hunting around on the Internet. Priority Moments is a long-term commitment from O2 that will continue to grow as more partners get involved.

Also in the mobile money area, in June Telefonica UK stated it was part of joint venture with Everything Everywhere and Vodafone UK, to create a standalone m-commerce entity, the first of its kind in the UK, that will enable the rapid development and delivery of new mobile marketing and payment services.

Through the new business, the operators will deliver the technology required for the speedy adoption of mobile wallets and payments. This will enable consumers to transfer their entire physical wallet into a new secure, SIM-based wallet regardless of which NFC-enabled mobile device, or mobile network they are using.

The JV will provide a single contact for advertisers, marketing partners, retailers and banks, making it far easier to create mcommerce products and services. It should launch by the end of this year, pending competition clearance.


And more new stuff!

Another area that the channel can expect to see soon is O2 Unify Direct, a cloud-based apps venture in conjunction with 2E2, aimed through the O2 direct channel at corporates, which is now set to filter into the indirect channel for larger customers in the 1,000 to 2,000 bracket. “It’s about taking the pain away and making things more effective,” says Darley.

For the smaller businesses out there, O2 Priority Moments can help them reach their audience, Darley states: “People spend a lot of money on advertising, so if we can help them use Priority to advertise directly to customers, we will.”

Darley concludes: “We’ve got some very challenging figures to overcome in the next six to 12 months, and the indirect channel is vital to that. O2 has a legacy of partnering very well, and the indirect channel has done that for us; we are constantly innovating, but we always make sure we have the right financials and people to manage it all, to help the big partners, right down to the smaller guys on the ground. It’s all good.”

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