Reseller view: the Holy Grail of customer service

In the second of a three-part series from O2 Wholesale, Adrian Barnard from reseller Modern Communications explores how the channel can establish and maintain satisfaction among customers

Our business

I founded ModComms in 1998. Today we’re an award winning converged service provider of telecoms and IT solutions with a multi-million pound turnover. We’re very proud of our wide base of loyal customers, many of whom have remained with the company since its inception, and do everything we can to keep them satisfied. At the heart of this is delivering the best possible customer service.

Why customer service matters

There are a number of different factors that make up great customer service, the first being the reliability of the underlying service itself. We need to know that we’re receiving support we can depend on so that in turn, we can offer our own customers the best service on the market.

Hand in hand with this is the need for transparency from a wholesale provider. Delivering products and services exactly how and when we promised is essential for us, so a reliable provisioning system and service level agreement (SLA) on changes to delivery dates are vital. As many resellers offer multiple services, often a client is not aware of which wholesaler we’re using; they just know ‘its Modern’ and they trust our brand to deliver what was promised. 

In addition to critical provisioning and support systems, the commercial offering a wholesaler can deliver and the relationship with its partners are key. Dealing with the O2 Wholesale team has been great; they are experts in the field, have real credibility and are completely trustworthy. This is underpinned by an honest and transparent relationship with our account managers there. I know that if a crucial client issue arises, O2 Wholesale will react quickly and efficiently to resolve it. We know plenty of suppliers that can solve the same issues but they are either in organisations too big to effect change or simply do not have the same commitment to excellent customer service.

When an issue arises with any of our services, our customers know they can speak to us at any time and through a range of communication channels. If one of our customers has a problem at 2 a.m. that urgently needs fixing, our staff are on hand to deal with the issue as we need to be able to cater to the flexible working practices of our customers. By delivering 24/7 support, our customers feel valued and know that they are our number one priority. 

Of course delivering this access to accurate support systems (with real time information) is crucial which makes our relationships with reliable wholesale partners all the more important. And new channels are making this even easier. In addition to being available on the phone and on email, our wholesale partner, O2 Wholesale, has a live web chat service for dealing with any issues we (or their other reseller partners) may have.

The changing face of customer service

Having worked in this field for fifteen years, I’ve seen how much our expectations of customer service have changed. While a few years ago we’d be satisfied with a provider responding to any issues within say, twenty-four hours, now we expect problems to be addressed far more quickly.

By failing to respond swiftly, we’d lose out to our competitors, which of course is something we do everything we can to avoid. In this age of ‘always on’, there is no such thing as being unavailable. The widespread adoption of mobile devices means we’re connected at all hours of the day and we expect the same of our service providers, making 24/7 customer service absolutely vital.

Our customers expect it from us so we demand it from our wholesale partner.

Gaining a competitive edge

Another thing we have in common with our wholesale partner is making our most senior colleagues available to speak with customers. Gaining a competitive edge by delivering excellent service in the channel means not just having a good relationship with the staff in call centres, but also with staff throughout the business. At ModComms, like at O2 Wholesale, the most senior members of the company are known and trusted by all customers.

It’s essential for wholesalers to have personal relationships with their partners. We’ve had to let suppliers go in the past that haven’t provided us with the right level of customer service and haven’t made a sufficient effort to cultivate personal relationships. We’ve had to do this because we can’t afford to jeopardise relationships with our own customers.

It’s always a good sign when staff retention in a company is good, as this means that you’re dealing with the same people on a regular basis, so you get to know and trust them. Face to face meetings are also key in helping to reinforce personal relationships. It’s not just about knowing and trusting wholesale partners but also knowing that they’re the right people for the job, and with the right expertise. We also expect our wholesaler to keep us updated about the latest technologies and services so that we can share this information with our customers.

Choosing the right wholesale partner

The demands of the channel are changing with both resellers and customers wanting faster access to new products and services and the emergence of the ‘always on’ generation means greater demand for 24/7 service and support.

O2 Wholesale on customer service

In the first part of this exclusive series, Dan Cunliffe, O2 Wholesale head of partners and strategy, looked at how vendors, wholesalers and resellers can build and maintain a channel partnership by building a successful customer services practice.

The service and support provided by our suppliers is ultimately passed on to our customers so choosing a wholesale partner that will provide you with exactly what your customers need is fundamental. This means delivering the latest products and services at the right time, keeping partners informed throughout the process and establishing trusted relationships with staff of all levels of seniority. O2 wholesale delivers all of this, enabling us to roll out the best service possible to our partners and customers.

Adrian Barnard is founder and managing director at ModComms

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