Partner Support at 9

20.08.2019
Rugby players huddling during time out.

Why is our Partner support so important and what makes us different?

Manging Director of our Partner Division, Adam Cathcart, spoke at Margin in Voice and Data on the theme of Partner Support.  He has underscored his views in a recent conversation with Comms Dealer.

According to Cathcart, “nobody can doubt that the markets in which our Partners operate are transitioning, so we believe that Partners’ success requires us to provide insight, both subjective and data led.  In addition, 9 welcomes and facilitates an exchange of ideas with our key Partners on the headline issues, creating an environment where we can openly share innovation and best practice.”

Being very clear about the difference that working with 9 provides, Cathcart did not hold back, “our support is not about;  formulaic, generic, one dimensional product training with no ongoing content, or hands on availability.  Self-managing one size fits all marketing portals.  A “we don’t do that” attitude.

Cathcart was even clearer about the positive aspects of working with 9, by emphasising, “our support is all about;  a heavily bespoke, personalised approach, involving proper conversations to develop understanding.  Ceaseless dedication to equipping Partners with everything they need to be successful.  Making and measuring a difference, with the flexibility and agility to adapt to fast changing circumstances.

 

Managed Billing – Adam Lowe, Business Services Manager 

What makes a Partner choose to invest in a Managed Billing service?
A bill run is made up of several complex processes, loading CDRs, rate mapping, fixing errors, re-costing data, producing reports, sign off, bill production and then distribution.  By using our Managed Billing service, 9’s partners can free themselves from these potentially onerous burdens.

How would a current Partner describe the advantages of our Managed Billing service?
Having all of 9’s products integrated from the point of order through to billing has a significant advantage, avoiding double data entry and ensuring all services are correctly charged through to the end customer.

How many Partners use the service?
We have over 120 partners who are using 9’s Managed Billing services on a monthly basis.

What changes have you seen in Managed Billing services since the early days of Club Communications and Billie? 
Billie would only rate call data, meaning all fixed charges would have to be manually entered, which, as you can imagine, was something of an admin nightmare!  We can now load calls and services from a multitude of sources which use bespoke tariffs for consistently accurate billing, or at least as accurate as the downstream provider can make it!   We’ve also seen huge increases in end customers using our branded online portal, receiving e-billing and choosing to pay by direct debit, making many of the post bill run processes truly paperless.

If you had a magic wand and just one wish, what would you look to change in our industry?
Standardised CDRs across all carriers, just one CDR format with descriptions that are uniform and consistent would be a dream come true.

 

Virtual Office – Dominic Parkes, Partner Services Manager

What makes a Partner choose to invest in a Virtual Office type solution? 
It starts with a business need, for instance more time.  Partners work hard to grow their business and there comes a point when they need to sacrifice time spent on acquiring new business to maintain a high level of customer service for their existing customer base.   This is where our Virtual Office solution gives time back to the partner, so they can focus on sales and business development.  By taking up this service, our Partners can be confident that their customer service levels will remain exceptional and they can avoid the hassle of recruitment, training or staff management, all at a lower cost than traditional headcount.

How would a current Partner describe the advantages of our Virtual Office solution?
Virtual office is very flexible, and can be tailored and priced according to the specific requirements of our Partners.  Our solution has allowed our partner to plug skills gaps in their business when key members of staff have left their organisation, freed them up to work on other projects, or, as Steve Clarke from Sage Telecoms commented, “I can go on holiday and relax for the first time in 12 years,” before adding, ”my favourite part of Virtual Office is being able to rely on others to get on with the faults, moves and changes, so that I can get on with the sales.” 

Many of our Partners recognise that the transition from PSTN and ISDN towards SIP and Hosted Telephony can present a challenge to their resources.  By working with 9’s Virtual Office team provisioning, porting and hardware delivery headaches can be easily avoided.

In life management of additions, amendments and faults can all be outsourced to 9, leaving the Partner free to generate new opportunities and protect their existing base.

How many Partners use the service?
There are around 80 of our Partners already utilising Virtual offices in one form or another, from simple out of hours support, through to full fault, provisioning and billing support for their clients.

How has our Virtual Office solution developed over the past three years?
Virtual Office has become much more aligned to individual Partners’ requirements.  Previously there were 3 set packages and a Partner would have to try and fit their needs into one of them.  Virtual Office has since become much more flexible and we now tailor packages based on what support an individual partner needs, providing increased pricing flexibility at the same time.   The partner can take as much or as little as they need and can add or subtract elements, as their individual business requirements change. 

If you had a magic wand and just one wish, what would you look to change in our industry?
I’d like to see faster roll out of superfast fibre to all areas of the country.  It seems that there is still an internet speed lottery, so at the moment fibre could be available in one property but not next door.  Greater fibre availability would be good for individual businesses, the economy and the country as a whole, plus a quicker roll out to rural areas would facilitate increased access to remote working.

 

Marketing – Louise Abbey, Head of Customer Marketing 

Louise AbbeyDescribe examples of the marketing support we have provided for Partners
Our Purple Partner Programme members are given an extensive set of professional sales and marketing materials, which have been branded in their name – that’s our baseline. Beyond this, we take a totally personalised approach to the marketing support we provide.

We have a very dynamic marketing team with a broad skillset, all equipped to help our Partners in lots of ways.  Recent examples of our support include everything from targeted e-mail campaigns, social media support and professional printed materials, through to website redesign and even photoshoots.

Partners really seem to appreciate the positive impact we can make with our marketing support.  Amy Mitchell from Tin Can is certainly a fan and happy to voice her enthusiasm for 9’s creativity, “Love all the design work and new suggestions offered allowing us to get to market with ideas very quickly. Modern day Picassos.”

What makes our marketing support, different and indeed, award winning? 
Our personalised approach makes us different.  We like to get to know people and really understand their business – this gives our campaigns authenticity, one of the most powerful things in the world of marketing.

We always begin with a consultation where we simply ask our partners to tell their story. What are your pain points, what do you want to sell more of, how can we help you?  We take all of this information back to base and prepare campaigns and materials that really hit the spot.

Karl Cheshire from Lascom was quick to agree, the team always listen to our brief really carefully and will even make the effort to meet and talk things through over a coffee – it sounds like a really minor thing, but nobody else in our space does that. Those conversations are key. They know exactly which questions to ask, which means that the materials they produce always hit the spot.”

How many Partners use the service?
Two thirds of our Partners have signed up to the Purple Partner Programme, with more coming on board every month.  Our personalised approach means that the Programme is suited to all types of Partners, from new start-ups to established resellers who are branching out to sell a new product such as Mobile or IT Services. 

How has the type of marketing support required by Partners changed over the past three years?
We’ve seen more and more Partners investing in marketing in recent years through recruiting a true marketing professional, which has been incredible.  We’ve supported this by helping with recruitment, and by inviting their newbie to come and join our team for a week to learn the ropes.

Almost all of my consultations with Partners cover Digital Marketing, which is a huge shift from where we were even just six months ago.  People are realising the benefits of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and are using their site as a performing sales tool, not just a pretty façade.  A shrewd few are ahead of the game with Pay Per Click – there are huge benefits to be had here, while so few are playing this game well.

Does marketing really work, or is it just colouring in?
We’re not just looking to put a tick in a box, or to deliver something pretty that will sit on a shelf – we want to increase our Partners’ sales.  The good news is that our campaigns deliver very real results.  I know that if Partners implement the campaigns and materials we prepare for them, they will work.  Our approach is tried and tested and we always measure results through facts and figures, it’s not just about giving Partners a warm, fuzzy feeling.

If you had a magic wand and just one wish, what would you look to change in our industry?
Long-term thinking, when it comes to marketing.

In a traditionally sales led industry, organisations which are investing in marketing are very easy to spot.  ‘Investing in Marketing’ doesn’t mean blowing all your budget on a big event, or delivering a knee-jerk campaign to fix a problem, it’s about creating a long-term marketing strategy which is woven into your business plan.  The next few years are huge; we should be working together to share ideas with Partners around marketing strategy and planning how to help them make the most of the opportunities coming their way.

 

In summary …

Cathcart is convinced that Partner support is the key differentiator for 9 and he does not hold back, claiming,  “our market is congested and can be confusing.  Working with a support led service provider like 9 allows our Partners to differentiate themselves, win the competitive battle and secure advantages that would be hard to find elsewhere.

At 9, we recognise that to be effective in the modern channel marketplace, Partners need competent advice, insight and support, not just an ever-changing basket of products.  For example, we work with our Partners to understand the impact product transition and substitutions have on their revenue and profitability, using a proven model.

Freddie Hawker from Best 4 Business Communications was happy to agree, “we’ve been a 9 Partner since we launched Best 4 Business Communications in 2005 and they have played an instrumental part in the company’s success ever since.  Over the years, the team at 9 have been a huge source of support, always just a call away when we need them and happy to help with any problem whether big or small.  Service and cost are equally important and 9 tick all the boxes.

The next few years are likely to be pivotal for many channel businesses, but 9’s Partners can face the future secure in the knowledge that they have the support of a highly skilled, credible and motivated provider.”

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