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Top takeaways on flexibility in the channel

A few weeks ago, we held a roundtable in partnership with Comms Dealer looking at what the ‘new normal’ will mean for businesses across the industry. As the pandemic continues to affect our personal and work lives, as well as the economy, the comms channel has dramatically adapted to serve its customers. From new types of products to changes in contract terms, flexibility is becoming a mainstay of future deals.

At the roundtable, 12 professionals from all areas of the comms industry debated key issues that the channel is currently facing. Here are the key takeaways:

1. Flexibility is an important factor

Many of the attendees recognised that customers are seeking to flex up and down bandwidth consumption, number of users and general spend and capability. For instance, customers with Elite Group have been asking what they can do to minimise spend and move into different locations. Adept’s CCO Tim Scott, believes there is already a degree of flexibility around IT services, but that in the telecom part of the supply chain there’s still a lot of rigidity. He mentioned that many of the three and five year-based contracts which are favoured amongst vendors are starting to be challenged by customers and organisations that need greater flexibility.

Pam Blanchard, Director at ICA noted it’s important that flexibility runs across the supply chain, ensuring that the burden of responsibility doesn’t solely sit with the reseller, especially in regards to payment holidays in sectors including hospitality and retail.

2. Attention to detail is a key differentiator

Having multiple services with different ways to satisfy the customer’s requirement is what separates businesses. By having strong attention to detail and thinking closely about what customers actually want, while bringing together various elements to best service needs, then business models are more sustainable and repeat custom is more likely.

3. Working from home versus returning to the office

Whilst working from home became the norm during the peak of lockdown as the government advised the population to stay at home, many of the roundtable attendees felt that the situation was unlikely to return to ‘normal’ any time soon. Elite Group recently held a staff survey, which found that only 5 per cent of employees want to be in the office all the time, 5 per cent want to work from home all the time and 90 per cent want some flexibility with one, two or three days in the office.

4. Speed to market is key

The need to simplify interaction between partners and suppliers was also found to be crucial moving forward. The on-boarding processes need to be as un-convoluted as possible, to allow companies to spin up a service in a matter of days. Speed is crucial in adopting new services, and the relationship between the customer and reseller should help businesses to develop over the longer term and stimulate investment in customer service. By having as much technical and service expertise wrapped around the products as possible, then customers know that they’re getting the best support, which builds trust and retention.

Trevor Lovelock from BT Wholesale explained the organisation is going through a massive IT infrastructure transformation to be able to offer the types of flexibility its customers want. As BT Wholesale continues to evolve, it’s going to be interesting with lots more close collaboration and co-creation of new propositions with customers. This is moving away from a position where the market tries to lock customers in with contracts and moves towards a position where the lock-in happens naturally, because you’re creating value for each other.

The conversation between all these industry experts showed a clear need for collaboration in these challenging times. It highlighted why a shared attitude to change for good is a must, and how each part of the channel can help attain this. By focusing on culture that drives flexibility, we can all start to get back on the road to recovery.

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