Just been on my periodic stroll round the business. You know how it goes. Checking up on everyone. Making sure backs are bent, brows sweaty and I can hear the scratching of quill pens telling me they are all scribbling away working hard.
We give some of the staff telephones and computers because some of our customers expect it. These staff are then able to relate to what the customer is talking about and you never know, maybe get the deal. The business needs to move on.
Being serious about it one of the areas that has been a real success and seen real growth of late is in VoIP for small businesses. We were one of the first service providers to sell VoIP services in the UK to businesses small and large. Nowadays customers take VoIP for granted and when talking telephony, expect you to sell them VoIP.
What is interesting is that VoIP in the small business area is flourishing. When I say small I mean businesses that are looking for anything between 1 and 50 seats. Different companies have different definitions of Small Business and different expectations of what service levels businesses expected to get for their money.
I had lunch with one pal recently who runs the SMB team for a service provider. He said he got customers ringing him with complaints and expecting visits despite the fact that they only spent 50 or £100 a month with the service provider. Not a viable proposition you might think. You might argue that they shouldn’t have messed up in the first place but stuff happens.
That £100 a month though possibly represents a significant spend for some small businesses on a communications tool that that business relies on. It’s one of those dilemmas. How do you service small businesses and without outsourcing your support to some cheap offshore location that is culturally totally different to your customer?
In theory the answer is via the web and self help. This is all well and good but reality is that telephony and therefore VoIP really isn’t as simple as that. Customers want peace of mind that they are making the right decision. They want someone who knows what they are talking about to tell them what to buy. You can’t really do this using the web. The web isn’t that intelligent and doesn’t have the relationship skills of a real person.
You can do a lot of your due diligence online and check out competitive pricing. This happens in the business VoIP world as much as with consumer products such as fridge freezers. If I want to buy a fridge freezer I’ll check out the different options online then talk to the shop before I sign on the dotted line. That is now what happens with VoIP.
Our inbound support teams are getting pretty busy taking calls and webchats from online originated enquiries. They still get some people who walk away and don’t come back but increasingly they are winning new business and increasingly it is for larger value orders. I think culturally people are getting used to engaging with suppliers via web based means such as chat. After all most people already do the same with their friends using Facebook, Twitter etc.
The other thing at Timico is that we don’t have a Small Business Division. We have a Business Division. We it doesn’t matter that the customer might be a one man band or buying dozens of VoIP seats. Who are we to say that a business is small and these days personal touch is easier to provide using internet technologies without incurring the costs that have traditionally best organisations trying to sell at the smaller end of the market.
I guess at the end of the day it’s all about service. Giving customers the service they expect and deserve and showing them that this is what you are going to do even before they become customers.
The one other/last thing I have to say for the moment is that VoIP is driving sales of superfast broadband/FTTC. Or is it the other way round? They are symbiotic. All good stuff.
Gotta go. I’m n duty shortly supervising a quill sharpening session. New staff have to learn from the ground up. It’s an important job and someone’s got to do it.