Are you putting customers off contacting you and forcing them to the competition?

Dave Millett

Business Leader Magazine recently interviewed Dave Millett, the director and owner of independent telecoms brokerage company, Equinox.

Millett spoke about the modern challenges facing the telecoms industry and how what your company should use to avoid putting off you customers.

What is your job role at equinox? And what are your day-to-day activities?

My main focus is business development which involves working with our partners, clients and suppliers.  Equinox has grown successfully at around 35% year on year.  That is down to our model of working with referring partners and our stance in the media of highlighting the deficiencies of the industry and unfortunately some of the companies that operate within it.  Also managing the team within equinox to ensure we deliver an excellent service

Can you give our readers a brief history within the sector and how it has evolved?

It is over 140 years since Alexander Graham Bell file a patent covering the transmission of sounds telegraphically.   Much has changed since then and the speed of change only increases.   When I started in the industry 38 years ago there was only one supplier Post Office (Telecommunications), no internet, no mobile phones and an advanced desk phone had buttons instead of a dial.   Now we have smartphones, we talk over the internet and have one of the most liberalised markets in the world with a vast range of suppliers.

What are the modern challenges within telecoms and how to overcome them?

The range of choice and speed of technology changes often makes it difficult for customers to understand what options there for them.  It unfortunately also creates opportunities for less scrupulous suppliers to take advantage and missell solutions or mislead on contracts and prices.   The old adage of read anything before you sign still applies and don’t commit to long term deals which tie you up.

The other challenge which affects all businesses about which they can do little if the appalling state of telecoms infrastructure within the UK.  We rank 54th in the world for 4G coverage behind countries such as Peru and Albania.  We are bottom in Europe for availability of fibre broadband to the premise and almost half of businesses had no access to cheap fibre broadband.  The country with the with fifth largest economy in the world has one of the worst technology infrastructures amongst developed countries.   None of the political parties have any real plans to address this defiency.

How do some businesses put-off potential customers by calling them?

In the same way you would prepare for a face to face meeting or a presentation you should prepare for a telephone call.   What do I want to say, how will I handle questions and objections how will I gain interest?   Above all why would this person want to take my call?   Too many callers want to start selling before they even understand what the customer needs are and focus on features rather than how the customer will benefit from their product or service.

Why it is important to understand your customer and not just assume the phone is the best option? What other options are there?

Different customer groups have preferred ways of communicating.  This may be down to age, social group and even just individual preference.   For example Housing Associations have found that their support teams need to use Watsapp as many of their customers often run out of credit on their phones.   Recruitment companies are using video conferencing to improve interview results without needing candidates to come into offices.  However some companies look to use automated responses, text chat, frequently answered questions and as such missing that opportunity to interact with their customers.  It is not a coincidence that First Direct gets the highest rankings for customer service in banking and has always focused on talking to customers no push 1, push 2 etc.

And if they do contact you by phone, then are committing one of the four most irritating (and off-putting) mistakes?

The obvious one is not answering the phone promptly.  Playing messages saying your call is important to us says anything but.  What it actually says is we do not have enough staff to deal with the volume of calls.   Trapping people in push button hell comes a close second.  Then if you automated processes ask customers to give their account number only for when they are connected to someone – that person asks for exactly the same information.  And finally do you try and profit from your customers calling you by using 0844 or 0843 numbers.  These are expensive to call and part of the cost goes to the company you are calling.   I would recommend any business owner tries calling his or her own company on a regular basis just to see what their customers are experiencing.

What is the future of telecoms?

It will continue to change.  2025 will see the end of analogue technology for phones by then ISDNs will be turned off.   The growth of the Internet of Things.   Research firm Gartner predicts that the number of connected devices in 2020 will be twice the number of mobile devices, at 25 billion connections.  All of these devices will use bandwidth and barely 65% of the land mass of the country has access to 4G and many parts of the country especially in rural areas struggle to get 2G.  The Government needs to ensure we have an infrastructure worthy of the country with the 5th largest GDP if we are not to be left in the slow and unable to take advantage of the new technologies.

What tech innovations within the industry are exciting to you? How will it change the industry? 

Personally I think the potential of augmented reality has great potential.   Pokemon last year showed this in practice as a game.  But as you start to think of business applications you start to see how it can transform things.  Hold a device up to a dress in a shop window and your screen tells you the price and if it is in stock or even you can order it there.   Hold it up to a house for sale and the floor plans and a 360 tour appear.  Or even what a house will look like before it is even built.