‘Keeping the customer satisfied’ has always been key, but, increasingly today, telecoms customers are more aware, prepared to change – and those ‘customers’ are also within third-party supply chains and a company’s workforce.
Omni-channel 24/7 communication permeates the entire businessworld from an initial telesales contact to a disgruntled customer critique on social media; from a vital email for a long-term client, to a casual mobile chat with a talented staff member.
And crucially, when it comes to their all-important business retention, it is the quality of the ongoing business relationships with those valued ‘customers’ that really matters, writes John Burbedge.
Today, Onecom is focused on using the right communication platforms to enhance business performance – both for its B2B customers and its own Solent-headquartered national operations.
That emphasis on customer service excellence in the delivery of fixed line, mobile, unified comms and broadband connectivity solutions is one reason why Onecom has been listed in recent years among the Sunday Times Tech Track 100 index of fastest growing UK technology companies.
In 2013, Onecom was created out of the astute merger of Premier Telecom and Business Phones Direct. MD Richard Schafer challenged his management team* to blend the best of the two companies’ complementary markets, skills and services, and importantly to focus on improving the customer ‘experience’.
“We have taken customer service up a layer into customer experience. Our focus is to understand what is the best possible experience we can provide for our customer, at whatever touchpoint in our end-to-end service.”
Plainly, Onecom is achieving higher standards, as evidenced by its increasing 250,000-plus mobile customer base, and a £500 million deal signed last year to become Vodafone’s key UK partner reselling B2B mobile communication products and services.
“We wholesale with a number of major telecoms players, not just Vodafone. We don’t own any telco infrastructure. Essentially we provide products and devise the solution that best suits a customer’s needs,” explained Schafer.
Currently, Onecom is developing its advanced telecoms solutions business – aiming to grow, while enhancing its proven reseller heritage with a wider consultancy future. “When I joined Onecom two years ago mobile provision represented 99% of our business. Today, solutions has grown to be 8%,” said Schafer.” That controlled diversification is led by fresh business opportunities presented by market change.
“Technological advances have reinvigorated the fixed line market, which everyone thought was dead, delivering telecoms in a totally new way and creating so many new opportunities.”
“Four years ago the B2B mobile telecoms market was worth £4 billion, and fixed line £14b. If the whole market is represented as one pound, then mobile would be roughly 20p and fixed line 80p. Imagine us gaining more of that 80p … ”
“The businessworld will eventually go to the cloud and hosted telecoms models, but it’s taking longer than expected. People are still sweating their fixed-line assets, and some companies will adopt hybrid solutions – gaining the flexibility and cost-efficiency of hosted, plus perceived onsite security.”
Technology has also delivered many more ways to communicate. Onecom aims to provide the best route for a business to that increased connectivity.
Omni-channel choice has also brought an ironical market change. The need for helpful, trusted customer guidance is growing, says Schafer. “Five years ago customers were risk-averse and wanted three to four telecoms providers in case things didn’t work out. Customers today see communications as essential but more complex and are happier to have one overall fixed and mobile solutions provider.” Onecom aims to be that provider.
“Today’s fast-changing telecoms environment can be a minefield for customers. We are definitely looking to provide that consultative value-added approach.”
With big telecoms players focused on cost-related mass-market economics, Onecom has made its market differentiator the bespoke nature of its UK-based customer experience.
Customer relationship building and staff engagement are now key to Onecom, which appointed a designated customer experience director earlier this year. “Her remit is to be our customers’ voice.”
Proudly independent, Onecom decides upon the best products or solutions available. Inhouse training and product familiarisation ensure Onecom’s staff are fully briefed. “We know what we want to sell, and we sell it well, plus we are good at identifying opportunities, generating leads and providing solutions.”
Scale: Growing fast. 2013 turnover was £32m, currently £60m
HQ: Solent Business Park, Fareham. Offices: Eastleigh, Camberley, Brighton, Plymouth, Norwich, Telford, Leeds
Scope: UK’s largest independent B2B telecommunications provider
Founded: 2013, merger of Premier Telecom and Business Phones Direct
For example, an internally developed online service – Comms Manager – now enables Onecom’s customers to view real-time operational mobile usage and costs. “We are giving our customers ultimate transparency, and the tools to manage their businesses better.”
And future Onecom growth? “It will be difficult, but not impossible to grow our turnover beyond £100m in the next three years.”
“We are growing organically, but the industry is hugely fragmented and we are not averse to M&A if it’s right for us.
“Our overriding challenge is how we scale-up correctly. The opportunities are significant so we have to maximise them, but do it in the right way for our customers too.”
You can read our profile of Onecom co-founder Darren Ridge here.
*Onecom was the 2015 Solent Business Awards Management Team of the Year.