CSPs need to work fast if they are going to keep, let alone attract, the viable small and medium enterprises (SME) market. In my last blog I raised the issues facing telcos in this market sector and promised to offer some suggestions on how this can be achieved.
The first thing is to change the mentality at the core of any telco that consumers and corporations are the only markets worth chasing. There is a perception within CSPs that SMEs are a lot of work for little return. But maybe that is how they have been trained to think. It’s definitely time to review the sales approach and offerings being made.
Firstly, cloud services are perfectly suited to the SME market. As I said previously, the whole concept of virtualizing SME operations and putting their destiny in the hands of a third party may be of concern but the cost and service level benefits of doing so are making the move imperative - and inevitable.
CSPs in the know are offering more and more cloud based services and they need very little tweaking to be extended to SMEs. The biggest challenge is usually around how to bill for them as this is tied closely to the cost of acquiring suitable offerings and how they are packaged for the SMEs.
Whether services are based on a per seat, per session, per site or per period basis, or any combination of them, is quite a challenge but for the SME, the simpler the offering and the simpler the bill, the happier they will be.
Just having the services may not be enough though. SMEs are not likely to have IT departments so they may need help in understanding the value of what a CSP can offer, and then acquiring help to get started. CSPs that are not willing to invest in what I term ‘SME SWAT Teams’ may need to contract third parties to help out.
We are even starting to see the emergence of cloud brokers that advise businesses on how to choose and best make use of cloud services and even package those services for customers. If CSPs don’t feel inclined to do this themselves they could partner with these players, at least in the short term, to have something to offer their SME market immediately.
How about establishing an MVNO that targets the SME market specifically. If a CSP feels that it does not have a good reputation from historic interaction with SMEs it may look at this as an option. A specific market MVNO with a new brand name could be just the ticket if operated at arms length.
In this case, it too could practice what it preached and operated solely on cloud or managed services platforms and without the limitation of legacy billing and CRM systems. That would allow sales staff to be able to create customized cloud packages and service bundles on the fly, even online, that will need to be accurate, attractive and profitable as I mentioned last time.
UK operators are setting the example with recently announced SME specific offers. BT has launched a new cloud-based service called BT Cloud Voice that puts advanced features like call-forwarding, carrier-grade VoIP, conferencing and desktop sharing. It is a fully-hosted solution that can be bought and managed using an online portal, which means no engineer visits are necessary.
EE has launched a flexible price plan called Business Connect that enables SMEs to buy a big bucket of minutes, texts and data and control how to share it between staff. It also allow customers to add and remove SIMs, devices and users on a 30-day basis, which is particularly useful for companies that employ temporary staff, or are particularly affected by seasonal trends.
So, it would be fair to say, it’s all about SME for operators looking for a new market sector and growth, but it will require a different mindset. Are you up for the challenge?