4/30/2008 3:29:00 PM
EBS: ‘We are a voice of experience’
‘This industry is peaks and troughs,’ says EBS sales director Andrew Dawson, showing little sign of panic at the squeezing market. ‘There’s always new products that can pick things up again. That’s what makes it an exciting market.
EBS’ three key areas are distribution, fixed line and fulfilment. However, the state of the market has forced it to look at new areas, such as phone insurance, for extra revenue. Dawson says: ‘Five or six years ago all we did was sell phones to high street dealers.’
Prepay Sims have become a big part of the business, with around 40,000 sold per month. EBS recently struck a deal with Nomi-mobile, an MVNO that targets the migrants living in the UK, which involves supplying more than 10,000 Sim cards to newsagents and shops.
’Sims are a good opportunity to generate profits without the risk associated with phones. It’s a huge market,’ Dawson says. Unlike the majority of the other distributors, EBS hasn’t gone after the business market full throttle. ‘I don’t understand how businesses can survive on b2b alone,’ Dawson says.
New products and services
Like any distributor worth its salt, EBS says it has been selling dongles by the bucket load. Another successful product has been 3’s Skypephone; the distributor processes every order made for the handsets on the Skype website. Happily for EBS, the nature of the device means they can sell the phone in twin packs.
In terms of service, EBS appears to pride itself on the flexibility it offers its dealers – letting them swap networks – and giving advanced payments when networks make payment errors.
Dealers are also offered two lavish incentive trips per year, which EBS sees as a good way to get to know them and foster loyalty. There is a tier system to ensure that it is not just the biggest dealers who get rewarded.’
Jackie Gardner, EBS’ dealer support manager, is the key point of communication for the dealer base. She says: ‘We are friendly with the dealers and speak to some of them two or three times a day. We get a great satisfaction from sorting out their problems.’
EBS tries to keep personnel changes to a minimum. Commercial director Mark Jennings, who has been with the company for nearly two decades, says: ‘The staff turnover is very low. People stay here for a long time.’
Jennings believes that the continuity is achieved by hiring familiar faces. ‘We’ve never employed anyone in a management role that we don’t know; it’s never a cold interview for those positions.’ Dawson adds: ‘You only have to look at Mobile to see the merry-go-round that goes on and we don’t want to be a part of that. You’ve got to create the right atmosphere – it reflects on how our staff deal with customers.’
Dawson has been with EBS for 12 years and had ties with the company before he joined, previously working at Hutchison Telecom’s EBS account. Meanwhile, Gardner and head of finance Nick Jolley started on the same day 11 years ago. Gardner says: ‘It’s become a competition to see who can stay the longest.’
Dawson believes that having such an experienced workforce means the company can afford to stay out of the limelight. ’We’re not into profile building and we do the marketing ourselves. You can employ someone on £40,000 a year who doesn’t bring any value.’
‘MVNOs are an area that a lot of people are looking at and we probably will in the future,’ says Dawson. ‘It is a promising area but they need to be aimed at the right niche market.’
Jennings emphasises the importance of having a variety of recurring revenue streams, to provide long-term stability and security for the business. The distributor also relies on Sims to provide security which are likely to bring in a steady income over a 12-month period.
Overall, EBS is aiming to strike a balance between moving with the times without over-stretching. Dawson says: ‘Anyone can do all five of the networks but if you only take on two or three you can develop them much better - you can’t properly promote all five to a dealer. If you’re not careful, you can be a busy fool.’