The Future of Wireless and Telecom Expense Managed Services

Wireless industry comrades and fellow industry professionals, in case you didn’t get the memo, a Telecom Expense Management provider does exactly that, the management of telecom expenses usually via a software program. So let’s not further confuse customers by telling them it will help them solve their real telecom and wireless problems…you know the ones that they are tasked to deal with on a day to day basis? Yeah, exactly, if you jumped on the wireless managed services bandwagon to take advantage of naïve customers in an emerging industry because your wireline expense management business was dwindling, you probably don’t know.

And another thing that is really bothering me….Why is it that wireless industry analysts, experts and carrier representatives enjoy using the minipc dubai buzz words ‘Professional Services’ and ‘Managed Services’, yet it is always positioned as an ‘afterthought’ when they use it in their marketing materials, when interacting with the media and on their websites? I first noticed this trend (yes, trends unfortunately work both ways) when Sprint launched their Advanced Mobility program in the winter of 2005 and then re-launched it again in the summer of 2006. Conveniently it was [re] launched after the exit of their former CEO Len Lauer and after coming off one of their worst sales quarters ever, with less than 200,000 net post paid adds. This was far behind the #1 and 2 carriers, Cingular and Verizon respectively, having each gained more than 1.1 millions net new customers. Maybe Sprint thought people had forgotten about Advanced Mobility’s quiet launch in the winter of 2005 or perhaps never even noticed it the first time around. Was this re-launch to provide a ‘WOW Factor’ and the perception of ‘new things to come on the horizon’ with the change of upper level management?

This new division of their company was promoted as an “end-to-end mobility solution, providing businesses a one-stop shop, single contract and centralized bill, with every element of a mobility solution including the hardware, application software, mobile voice and data usage, professional services, and Sprint-centralized customer care”, minor detail: [Only compatible with the Sprint Network and it should already be something included with your monthly service plan]. Indeed a better clincher phrase for the Sprint ‘Advanced Mobility” Program would be: “Glorified vertical industry application sales team for Sprint hopes to generate new revenue stream through better sales practices”.

So here is an original idea for all carriers, telecom expense management providers and other entities wanting to promote Professional Managed Services, try ‘leading with the concept of Professional Managed Services’. Now isn’t that revolutionary?

Lesson # 1 about Professional Managed Services: Serve your customer first! Eureka! Never mind technology, gadgets, software and applications that YOU think can benefit the customer. They are all irrelevant until you understand THE CUSTOMER, THEIR BUSINESS and what THEY are trying to accomplish. How can you help them get a grasp on what they are currently using by helping them to recycle their old products or dispose of them properly? How are they currently using, and most importantly, wish to use the products and services that have already been deployed? How can the customer build better practices in house to more effectively use their products and maximize their Return on Investment? How can they save money on their wireless bill? Can they even make sense of the bill? Who cares about a camera, mp3 player, video feature or a million gigabytes of memory? Chances are the features may not be important to the customer. Does the product support internet/data and email capability? If they have a late model phone (post 2002), chances are with a $10 feature added to their current voice plan they can get email and browse the internet. If they say I don’t want to use T9 predictive text to type or I would like to get a larger screen, then you show them their options, which may be migrating to a Smartphone with a keyboard attachment option or a Blackberry or PDA. Let it be their decision, not yours.

Think about where most of these multi generation handhelds came from. A senior executive was probably traveling somewhere and saw an advertisement in the airline magazine or saw somebody at a conference using some new ‘bells and whistles’ handheld and they thought to themselves, “I want my mobile workforce to be able to ‘do that’.” So their administrative assistant or IT Administrator researched the device, ordered them, had a difficult time setting them up (and customer care and the original sales rep was unfortunately little help), and consequently they never got to use the feature and services that they wanted in the first place. Now they are paying for services they wanted, but were unable to figure out how to make work.

The crux of a Professional Services relationship is about understanding the customer and what they are trying to accomplish, then helping them to provision the service so that it works with their existing technology and in house software. Then comes the training of end users on how to properly use those services and making sure they understand how it impacts the greater objective(s) of their organization.

Visiting a customer site and saying all that stuff you have is outdated and you pay too much on your bills, just let me help you get set up with these new products and services and this gazillion dollar telecommunication expense management software to scan your invoices is a sad attempt at trying to be a ‘creative salesperson’ in today’s competitive environment. Always provide the customer with a true value add. Although they will be diplomatic in their interaction with you, if you don’t properly set the expectations and then live up to them, they will not call you back or ever consider you for future services. Ultimately, this will not only diminish your credibility with them and that of the industry but also your employer’s. So think of the customer needs first and realize that these are the best practices of a ‘true’ Professional or Managed Services company:


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