The priorities of a telecom agent are of the utmost importance to the businesses with which they work. While telecom carriers claim that agents are motivated mostly by their compensation packages, agents themselves cite service for the customer as their highest priority.
As the customer in question, businesses should know that customer service and compensation both motivate agents equally—and, in the end, businesses benefit from that dual motivation.
A Trusted Relationship
Telecom agents risk their relationships with their customers each time they make a proposal or offer a quote.
When agents think that a carrier is not able to provide competent service to a business, agents risk losing not only the trust of their customer but, also, their own reputation. Too, poor service or an attempt to make a change could result in the loss of a relationship. On the other hand, agents who feel that they are not getting fair compensation for sales will start looking for other businesses with which to build relationships.
A good support organization is an integral investment for any telecom carrier because proper support is what motivates an agent’s decision making. An agent’s success with any business depends on choosing the correct vendors; this extends above and beyond the motivation of compensation. This support begins with a vendor’s channel managers.
In order for an agent to ensure good customer service for their represented business, they should also have a good working relationship with a channel manager who knows the agent community. This manager also should have the ability to affect pricing, billing, and customer care.
An agent interacts mostly with a channel manager while dealing with the vendor, and a channel manager with an intimate knowledge of their company’s products, services, and target market can help ensure that great customer service is passed on to the business with which the agent is working.
After channel managers, service delivery is the most important aspect of a support organization. To ensure a positive experience for the customer, an agent must have complete visibility of all steps of the process.
If something does go wrong, agents must be ready and able to intervene in any aspect of the service; this could include provisioning, implementation, and turn-up. One way to handle this visibility is to provide an agent portal, but it’s still equally important for an agent to have a way to contact support if it proves necessary.
The final step in a support organization is the post-installation support of customer care and billing.
Inaccurate billing is a hassle for not only the agent but also for the business they work with, and any issues with the billing must be corrected as soon as possible. When a customer makes a request or the agent intervenes on their behalf, responsive customer care by the vendor will ensure that both the agent and the business are happy.
When agents have proper support from their vendors, they are able to secure new business and concentrate on providing excellent care to their own customers. There is no need for an agent to prioritize either compensation or support—which makes both the agent and the client happy.
Telecom master agents began exploring opportunities in the managed services sector before the turn of the twenty-first century. At that time, the growth of managed services began gaining speed and telecom agents saw the need to keep pace with the trend and to look for additional ways of increasing revenue.
Today, the transition to managed services is even more compelling because of rapid technology changes and the complexities that come with those changes. Telecom agents need to rethink their positions and adapt to the changing needs of their businesses in order not to be left behind.
CompTIA did its own research on the factors that drive Solution Providers to migrate to managed services. Interestingly, the CompTIA study cited the desire to protect their customer base as the main driver for the managed services transition for 61 percent of those surveyed. Increasing sales revenues came as a surprising second.
A 2013 joint study by Channel Partners and CompTIA also attested to the increasing partnership movement. The study concluded that the compelling reasons for the trend are the growing convergence between telecom and IT, the impact of new technologies like the cloud, and the need for complimentary skills by forging relationships—even among competitors.
Obstacles to the transition
Telecom agents and IT Solution Providers who are considering a transition to managed services both face the same challenges.
Loss of one-time, big-time revenue streams.IT resellers typically model their businesses on high-volume and low-margin product sales, but this is shored up by low-volume and high-margin packaged services and contracts. Telecom agents are paid by their carrier partners. Managed services aim to confront this challenge with recurring revenue streams.
Lack of sufficient resources and the needed systems.Does the managed services provider have a robust and flexible infrastructure that can work well with the telecom agent’s systems? A solution to this challenge is to partner with a managed services provider that has an existing infrastructure that matches the entrant’s business model.
Does the telecom agent have the needed skills in a managed services environment?Telecom agents have alliances with multiple telecom carriers and thus, can give expert advice on which telecom providers or services are a good match to customers’ needs. But can their staff readily transition to the managed services realm such as IP, networking, mobile, and other emerging technologies? The lack of skills can be compensated by managed service providers who provide complimentary skills or additional training.
What’s apparent is this: the confluence of carrier services, managed services, and the cloud is transforming business models through successful partnerships.
For the skeptics, passing up the managed services option is a step behind. For those ready to embrace it, the partnering options are varied. The best option is to partner with a provider that has a resilient infrastructure backed by technical expertise to enable partners to continue providing excellent service to their customers.
The telecom sales process is a confluence of disparate factors, where rapid technological developments have the greatest impact on customers and purchasing behavior. Telecom selling is made more challenging by the divergence of cultural influences and social trends from business to business across all regions. Creating the perfect balance ensures sales streams that deliver robust sales revenues—but what does that really look like?
The competitive advantage
Clients have their own criteria for determining the value that products and services give to their businesses. They attach a set of buying signals, commonly known as hot buttons, for their preferences. Telecom sellers need to be watchful for these signals to better recognize what appeals to clients most and to better offer a solution that will meet the buyer’s criteria. Sellers with this mindset will have the competitive advantage of clinching increased sales over their rivals.
If there are hot buttons, there also are pain points that are part of doing business. Telecom sellers need to dig deeper into business stresses caused by dissatisfaction with other products or unsavory experiences with other vendors. Detecting unmet needs and identifying viable options can help sellers turn these pain points into opportunities to win client loyalty and generate more sales.
Selling as a multi-pronged process
The telecom sector has grown into a complex market that has created a deluge of options for buyers, making selling even more complex. Selling has been transformed into an interactive process that ends in the meeting of the minds of two active principals – the seller and the buyer – resulting in the closing of a sale.
The seller-buyer equation has branched out into multi-pronged, often interlocking processes. Leveraging people, groups, and events that have a big influence on the client can help sellers offer solutions that matter. For instance, knowing the client’s association memberships and non-competitive suppliers will help sellers get to learn their client’s needs better and offer more improved products and services at more competitive prices.
The role of competition, technology, customers, and employees
Telecom selling is here to stay with renewed force in both mature and growing markets. Integration, convergence, acquisitions, mergers, and partnerships should brace the telecom world for increased competition within the industry and from other sectors. Newly competing goals will be about expanding into new markets and battling for increased share in existing markets.
Unique value propositions will need to be crafted for each target market segment as technological disruption continues to change customer expectations. While bigger telecom companies can buy into smaller ones, smaller ones can opt to enter into partnerships on a local or regional level to take advantage of the economies of scale.
Technology changes will pressure telecom employers to make major changes in the way their employees work, starting from the leadership to the lowest echelon. This will not be easy to do because of traditional hierarchies. Even so, the change will have to be made.
At the center of it all are the clients. Clients have nothing to do with technology, but they have everything to do with convenience. They will only settle for unfailing convenience of usage of the device or service they want wherever and whenever they want to use it.
Finally, a telecom sales strategy is not just about selling. It is about building relationships and forging alliances that generate revenue and build businesses’ bottom lines.
The services and technologies telecom agents once specialized in have transformed. Phone services are a great example of this shift. With the popularity of VoIP and connected services, finding inefficiencies in phone bills is no longer an effective business model for agents.
So what is?
For agents, evolving into managed service providers is becoming more and more attractive. However, this move can take time and training. While adding offerings means increasing revenue streams, it also means adapting to reflect the shifted — and still shifting — tech landscape.
The Difficulty of Adding Managed Services
From the outside, the roles of telecom agent and managed IT services provider appear similar enough that the transition from one to the other seems easy. However, the sales cycle and required knowledge differ significantly. Telecom agents must commit to new educational efforts and explore their provider relationships to create value in a new relationship with clients.
In the more complex market of managed services, telecom agents must adjust to a longer sales cycle and different infrastructures. The result looks much more like an IT VAR, albeit a new role entirely.
The new relationship between telecom agent and client involves more preparation and decision-making:
Telecom agents must understand an organization’s needs on a deeper level than simply lowering monthly bills.
Agents must also understand Cloud and other technologies from the IT perspective as well as the client’s.
A broader range of expenses must be considered, from quantifying server downtime to various maintenance expenses related to IT.
Special concerns like security, compliance, and disaster recovery needs must be addressed.
Master Agents Bring Everything Together
Telecom master agents can help their partners enter the managed services game successfully with Cloud services and products like managed security and managed disaster recovery. For the agent, the transition feels new, but not unrelated —particularly with VoIP services replacing many traditional phone lines.
If a telecom agent only handles a client’s phone bill, the client can easily drop the agent at the end of the current contract. With VoIP offerings available for SMBs and enterprise alike, many organizations would take the contract’s end as a signal to find voice solutions from an IT service provider.
By empowering agents with the skills to manage more services, telecom master agents stay relevant and profitable. For the client, the value comes from finding agents with fruitful partnerships in both the telecom and IT sectors.
Partnerships Between Telecom Agents and IT Providers
Clients want seamless service that adds value. Ultimately, they do not need to concern themselves with whether a telecom agent or IT service provider delivers the products and services. While telecom agents have work cut out for themselves, IT providers can also use help in managing the customer relationship.[MM1] This creates a unique, new opportunity for partnerships between IT and telecom agents.
On the telecom side, agents can work with clients to discover the services needed and then turn to carrier connections and IT providers to supply the means. For the IT provider, business increases because telecom agents do plenty of legwork and assist with sales.
With the inevitability of change in the market, telecom agents need these methods of diversification and product updates to continue providing meaningful value for clients.
[MM1]I find these sentences to be a bit confusing. I am not sure what the writer is trying to say here, so I don’t feel comfortable revising. Maybe ask them to clarify?
The cloud continues to grow and increase the shadow it spreads across the globe. The cloud is one of the fastest growing technologies, and it is making it possible to manage everything from clients to employees regardless of their location. While this can save considerable time and resources, the cloud doesn’t relieve companies or IT managers of the responsibilities they had before shifting to cloud-based solutions.
Within the cloud, the CIO and the IT team still are responsible for tracking cloud vendor performance and ensuring that they have the necessary leverage to mitigate shortfalls and improve their usage of the technology. Because cloud technology and solutions are in their infancy, there is a steep learning curve that IT professionals and executives still are learning to navigate.
The Swiftly Moving Cloud
Ultimately, cloud vendor management and people skills are paramount. While an IT department may have decades of experience under its belt, the speed at which information moves and flows through the cloud means that the IT team needs to stay on top of things before they spin out of control. In fact, effective vendor management requires solid communication and professional management skills that IT departments haven’t needed to use until recently.
Cloud vendor management and IT departments should be cognizant of the following points:
Contract negotiations and the proof of concept. Your IT team should have a front-row seat for this, because it will make it easier to address issues before they occur. Service level agreements, division of labor, proof-of-concept, and point people should be clearly identified and spelled out before anything is signed.
SLA monitoring and coordination of day-to-day projects. Meetings should be held regularly—at least every quarter at. The more meetings that are scheduled, the better. During these meetings, performance and SLAs should be carefully reviewed and adjusted as needed.
Communication to users. Coordinated communications with end users allow for more efficient management and adjustments in a timely manner. This benefits everyone and makes it possible to avoid many problems that can arise when communications breakdown or when they are are delayed.
Security and process integration. It often is necessary to detail the process and integration of cloud solutions into a business’s existing infrastructure. As such, it’s imperative that businesses and their employees understand their roles in keeping information secure.
Enhancements. Specialized applications and expertise require your business to work closely with internal users to ensure that everything is not only functional, but also that it is operating at a streamlined and efficient level. This filters down the chain and makes it easier for vendors and those who are relying on the systems to complete their tasks in the best way possible.
These five elements are essential to bringing everything together. The skills and practices not only facilitate strong business relationships; they also ensure that your business is meeting the needs of your clients on a daily basis.
By making sure that your IT services are top-notch and being led by a strong, communicative, responsive team, you will be setting your services apart from the competition and making your services ever more appealing to your clients. In fact, your communication skills and responses to customer requests are the cornerstones that will help your business grow its own shadow in the ever-expanding world of digital communications.
In an age defined by a rapidly changing telecommunications landscape, choosing the right commercial services can be difficult for business owners and managers. Yet, it’s more important than ever to have telecom solutions that boost business and drive results while providing team members with the tools they need to collaborate, communicate and perform.
Hiring a consultant can help. Telecom agents work as go-betweens, liaising contracts and services between companies and one or more service providers. The advantages of working with telecom consultants are too valuable to be overlooked, and here are five reasons why businesses should strongly consider bringing one on board.
Five Reasons to Hire a Telecom Consultant
Telecom consultants work for their clients, not the service providers. A telecom consultant’s job is to secure the best range of services at the best possible rates for their end clients. They don’t work for specific service providers, and they aren’t compensated on upselling products and services. Agents leverage relationships with multiple carriers and service providers to deliver flexible, affordable and high-performance packages to their end clients — that’s all they do.
Consultants provide invaluable technical support. Many small and mid-sized businesses lack the in-house resources to properly implement telecom technologies, and service providers don’t always provide the kind of support companies need. Telecom consultants oversee installation procedures, providing expert guidance and proven know-how to ensure there’s no downtime and businesses get the high-performing service packages promised.
Consultants assist in contract negotiations. Most service providers are notorious for saturating their contracts with complicated jargon, fine print and indecipherable verbiage. What’s more, businesses are often surprised to learn about contract limitations, restrictions and technicalities after the fact. Telecom consultants take care of contract negotiations on behalf of their clients, ensuring their clients’ interests are fully protected from the start. With intimate industry knowledge, agents can also negotiate better terms for their clients.
Telecom consultants help businesses leverage Cloud technologies. The Cloud is changing the way companies use telecom technologies, but many businesses don’t know how to take full advantage of it. Telecom consultants match Cloud solutions to their client’s specific needs and help them make seamless migrations to Cloud-based platforms.
Telecom consultants don’t require upfront investments. Telecom consultants are not paid by their client. Instead, agents earn commissions from the service provider when they refer a client. The relationship works well because providers are under immense competitive pressure, and agents provide them with new avenues to secure long-term business. This is also a win-win for businesses. Telecom consultants are paid monthly based on the length of a client’s contract. In other words, they are incentivized to maintain a positive experience and relationship for their client.
The best part? Working with a telecom agent is available at no cost to businesses. There’s no reason why a company shouldn’t meet with a consultant to learn how their business might benefit.