11/25/2009 12:47:00 PM
Networks must support independent channels
Hidden in the back streets and business parks of the UK is a powerful beast that, if fed correctly, could do an even better job in the mobile industry than it already does. Who am I referring to? The independent dealer, of course.
This much maligned community has taken quite a bashing over the last few years, but it still comes back fighting. Dealers are blamed for all the mis-selling complaints and unpaid cashbacks, and there are some within the networks and manufacturers that would be glad to see the back of them all for good. But this would be the worst mistake a mobile policymaker could make.
Yes, there has been a rogue element in the past and there are still a few colourful characters, but the huge majority of surviving independent dealers run extremely efficient businesses built on impeccable service, spot-on knowledge and solid customer relationships.
Who knows their local community better than the local independent dealer? Who has the best relationships with all the local business leaders? It is certainly not the networks’ direct sales teams. It’s not the big guns on the high street, either.
There are, at last count, around 1,000 independent mobile dealers left in the UK and they are in danger of becoming an endangered species. The networks seem to be intent on marginalising them all to the point of extinction, but don’t have the coverage to replace them.
This is fundamentally wrong and we need to stand up and fight for the rights of the small local dealer. OK, I’m being a bit dramatic – but there is a real issue here. What does a customer think when he goes to his local specialist accredited with a network badge, only to be told that the dealer can only sell a sub-set of that network’s products due to ‘channel strategy’?
What does a customer think when he is on a dealer’s premises arranging his upgrade and the network operator on the phone is offering him a contract that the dealer can’t match? I spend a good part of my time travelling the length and breadth of the UK visiting mobile dealers and, although every single one of them is unique in their approach, they all have some really strong common talents.
They are all enthusiastic about servicing their customers. They are committed to being the most knowledgeable mobile specialist in their area. They all seek out new customers in the most innovative ways imaginable. They are the front line to the lucrative SME community and the sooner we as an industry start trusting and equipping them as such, the better. Ofcom GC23 and other network schemes have provided the much-needed regulation, let’s now work on providing a fair and suitable reward.