Mobile: How has distribution changed over recent years?
Peter Liley: Cash flow is king. Historically, 90% of our customers’ connections were consumer and 10% business; now it is 90% business and 10% consumer. Business connections can be large and infrequent, which is why prompt, accurate payments, with clear paperwork are vital.
What are the most important things for dealers when working with a distributor?
Our customers have always required up to the minute, accurate and comprehensive information on stock availability, handset pricing, commissions, tariffs, services and, most importantly, sales opportunities.
How do you think dealers’ needs have changed?
Knowing how and where our customers can make money is a focus of our team. We can advise on how to make a good profit on low revenue customers, and we can also arrange additional funding on larger, high-value customers, supporting our customers in winning connections without eroding their margins – i.e winning more profitable connections.
How do you think distribution will continue to change?
Ongoing revenue is becoming, and will become, a larger part of the independent dealer’s financial reward. To this end, we established a solid relationship with Orange, which owns a third of Midland Communications Distribution. Financial stability and continuity are paramount in the consolidation within our industry and continuation of that all-important ongoing revenue.
We are also committed to providing field sales, as well as internal sales, support for our customers. As far as our customers are concerned, conversations over the phone are often not planned or comprehensive. Our stock is ‘sale or return’, so we are focused on assisting our customers to make connections, not selling them stock.
How does Midland continue to innovate and improve its service for dealers?
Sometimes it is the small points and attention to detail that make the difference between winning and losing a deal.
Winning a business connection can mean thousands of pounds in profit, so highly trained salespeople are vital. We organise training for our team and our customers as required, both with our staff and using third-party supplier training, to make sure that all of the features and benefits that are available are understood and promoted, to win those connections.
Data is vital; we assist our customers in their efforts to maximise on their sales opportunities by providing them with accurate and regular data.
Our in-house IT team are constantly updating our systems to work more efficiently for our customers. Our new web site, www.mcdlimited.co.uk, has just been launched. It is designed to be a one-stop shop for the information that our customers require on handset specification, stock availability, tariffs and prices.
In addition, there is a connections guide, which explains processes – for example, BES Express software installation, 28-day replacement, change of ownership, upgrading SME and corporate customers, the discount approval process and much more – so that our customers can offer an efficient service to the end users, their customers. The feedback is that our team have done a good job, but even now we are working on our next improvements.
Historically, every network was fighting to win a share of a growing market – the entire focus was on producing new connections. Now, in this mature marketplace, the emphasis is on quality of connection; higher-value end users, KPIs, ARPU and churn are the key drivers. Our business managers work closely with our customers in order to assist, wherever it is required, with advice on processes that will ensure excellent KPIs.
We have introduced a unique web-based real-time fulfilment service, which has benefits for all types of resellers.
Call centres are achieving less than 1% fraud rates with our authentication check, which gives a pass or fail in less than 20 seconds. They are achieving less than 5% returns and less than 5% bad debt. Call centres traditionally produce high-value customers, which, with good KPIs, make them an attractive proposition for the networks.
Field sales operations benefit from the fulfilment service, as they can spend more time selling profitable connections, and less time on unprofitable administration.
IT and fixed-line resellers moving in to mobile phones benefit from the total support, from selling the deal through to the connection – despatched, with their personalised insert, to their customer, with the handsets labelled up, advising the porting or upgrade details.
Are you looking to expand into any new channels?
We are currently working with an external company in order to produce a software solution that will allow a salesperson to complete the deal on-site with a client, including managing appointments, capturing client usage, providing client information, producing a quotation, obtaining a purchase order, capturing the connection details and producing the stock order.
This solution is expected to launch early in May, along with the Orange Business tariffs relaunch. I see this service as being of benefit to field salespeople, to win the deal on-site; office staff, in producing quotations speedily and accurately; and businesses that are new to mobiles, as it will take them through the quotation process without having to keep up to date with all the changes in tariffs and pricing. Principals will love it, as it will increase conversion rates, as well
Attracting new customers and building local brand awareness are difficult and expensive for the individual dealer. We are shortly introducing a scheme that will enable our customers to contact thousands of prospective business customers in their trading area and generate enquiries from interested new customers.
What does convergence mean to you? And how important is it?
More than 25% of our connections are handsets that accommodate applications; consequently, convergence plays a large part in our customers’ portfolio. We work closely with BlackBerry and Apple to make sure that our customers know what is available in the marketplace, and what vertical opportunities applications provide them. The relaunch of Orange Broadband is providing additional revenue streams for many of our customers – particularly call centres, which are finding the low prices and extremely good value an
What is the biggest challenge for dealers at the moment?
Our business continues to move forward in these recessionary times, which suggests that by working harder, we can help our customers to win more business. We do not make a connection if our customers do not make a connection, and our job is to help our customers, wherever we can, to make as many profitable connections as they can.