Is it possible to creative a truly consultative partnership with a carrier? We investigate this aspect of your relationship with telecommunications companies as our series on choosing a carrier continues.
Every business aspires to do more than just dispassionately supply its customers. Instead, most hope to demonstrate that they add so much value to their clients that they are worthy of being considered “trusted advisors” clients turn to for advice as well as essential goods and services.
Telecommunications companies are not exempt from this desire, but few commentators see that they achieve that status easily.
“We know of joint ventures where telcos partner with large customers and those arrangements continue to be renewed,” says Jeremy Horey, a Principal Business Consultant at Dimension Data, where he has helped to deliver engagements around the company’s carrier cost optimisation service.
These joint ventures prove that carriers can certainly get close to their customers, but Horey says he has experienced few instances of carriers and their customers work hand in hand.
“I have not found a lot of customers who have caring and sharing relationships with their telcos,” he says. Nor can he name carriers that wish to be, or succeed at becoming, consultative partners to an organisation.
“I cannot talk across the board, and you may find smaller carriers who are prepared to deal with you on that basis,” he says. “But your expectation of what you are going to get [from a carrier] needs to be realistic, because they are not generally set up to deal with customers in that service mode.”
“You can find people who will do it for you but they are generally not telcos.”
The key to getting close to a consultative relationship, he says, is often the account manager offered to you by a carrier.
“I have talked to customers that have great account managers and there is no doubt that a great account manager makes a difference. The problem is that great account managers get moved on and you hear stories that when an account manager moves on, everything changes.”
Tony Simmons, Managing Director of communications consultancy Full Circle Group, believes the way for carriers to offer consultative advice is through use of business intelligence tools that help them to understand clients’ use of telecommunications.
Simmons recalls a law firm for which Full Circle Group undertook analysis of its telecommunications usage patterns.
“We saw two divisions of the firm talking a lot,” he recalls. Analysis of the two divisions’ activities led him to understand that their activities were synergistic, leading Simmons to wonder about how the evidence of lots of phone traffic between the two divisions could be translated into business results.
“If the two divisions were in the same building, you would ask what would happen if you put them on the same floor. Would you get even more collaboration?”
Choosing a carrier
Another way telecommunications companies can offer consultancy, Simmons believes, is by analysing how successful members of staff use their phones. The secret to a top sales person’s performance, for example, could be the way they use their phone.
“Are they successful because of their phone habits,” he asks, advocating business intelligence as the tool to analyse calling and data use patterns to gather the insights that can lead to a consultative relationship forming.
Simmons believes that telcos will step into this role over time, as they develop their own analytical software (or acquire his company!)
Until this happens, one way to ensure your relationship with a carrier offers more chances for consultation is to build regular reviews into your contract. Most carriers offer their customers multi-year agreements. The best way to ensure that these contracts deliver long-term value, says Gary Tsang, an industry analyst with Telsyte, is to “undertake periodic benchmarks and audits … to ensure competitive rates are being offered and that services are being charged correctly.”
Building these periodic reviews into a contract also means that you create natural occasions on which you can review your telecommunications needs and express any changes to your carrier which should, in turn, seize the chance to share its latest thinking with you about how it can meet your evolving requirements.