How do you choose the right communication service provider?Michael Curran
Are you happy with your current communication service provider?
According to a recent Ofcom survey, 83% of small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) agree that phone and broadband services are vital to their business, and that they would not be able to achieve their business goals without them. The same report claims 34% of businesses don’t have the confidence to identify products and services that could benefit their organisation.
There is a distinct difference between a communication service provider and a partner. A communication service provider has a transactional relationship with you, a partner relationship is built on mutual trust and a shared future vision. I talk to companies all the time that have been in a long term relationship with a service provider that they aren’t entirely happy with. So, how do you tell the difference between a provider and a partner?
It doesn’t matter if you’re an established business with an existing relationship in place, or you’re a start-up looking to partner for success, there are five key things to look out for.
1. Do your research
It’s sometimes easy to forget in our business lives that we are all consumers too. If you’re looking to make an involved purchase as a consumer – IE, if your spending your own money – you would do your due diligence. You would look at the vendor website, you would look at customer reviews and make all kinds of comparisons. Check out the case studies of businesses that are either similar to yours or have similar challenges. Buyer’s remorse is a terrible thing.
2. Buy on value, not price
Whilst it’s easy to look to partner with the service provider that offers the lowest price, this is a decision you may live to regret. Like all relationships, the strength is in how it performs when things get rough, not when it’s all plain sailing. Technology is not as predictable as we’d all like it to be and things inevitably go wrong. The service level agreement (SLA) plays a huge role in determining how, and how quickly, problems get fixed.
3. Check the maths
Numbers can play an important role in choosing the right partner. I’m not talking about price, but the vast array of metrics all service providers use to monitor success. What are their customer satisfaction (CSAT) and customer advocacy (CA) scores? What is their first call resolution (FCR) rate? All of these are excellent indicators of the level of service you are likely to receive.
4. Geographic location
Arguably, this is not as important as it used to be – we can do most things remotely these days. However, if things go wrong and you need ‘boots on the ground’, it’s important to know this is included in your SLA and that you partner of choice has sufficient local resource to respond quickly.
5. Manufacturer accreditation
This one should be a no-brainer. An enhanced supplier status with a manufacturer provides confidence; both in the strength of the relationship and, more importantly, the level of technical competency. The higher the level of accreditation, the more experienced the service provider is likely to be, and the more accredited resource they are likely to retain.
Much, if not all, of this information should be publicly available. However, there is no substitute for talking to your incumbent/prospective service provider. One of the best ways to ascertain whether there is a good fit between you and your service provider is not how much they talk, but how much they listen. This is their opportunity to get to know you, your business and your objectives. If they don’t, how can they make informed recommendations?
Finally, shop around. Even if you get what seems like a great deal from the first company you talk to, it’s worth getting three proposals. This will allow you to see how SLAs differ and make sure the contract works for you.
If you’re in the market for a new partner, we’d love to hear from you. Give us a call on +44 (0)20 3668 0444 or email in firstname.lastname@example.org