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Choosing the right mobile provider

Choosing the right mobile provider is an important decision for any modern business with employees on the go. Technology is becoming increasingly mobile, and for many SMEs, the difference between a good day and a bad day can come down to just one call and their ability to respond.

A missed call or email, but particularly a delayed response to clients, could spell disaster for SMEs. It’s therefore important that businesses are fully mobile and accessible at all times. There are a variety of different mobile providers to choose from in Australia that cater for an ever-growing range of mobile services. Here are some important steps to take prior to choosing a mobile provider and some crucial questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line.

Assessment
First and foremost, you must assess and understand the mobile technology requirements for your business before examining your options. When considering the following points, keep in mind your company’s growth plans, as your mobile service will need to develop and grow as you do.

Level of access required:

  • How many employees will share the company’s mobile plan?
  • Do you have any employees that are regularly out of the office? For example, sales teams spending significant time on the road or employees working from home?
  • On average, how much time do your employees spend on their desk phone vs. mobile phone? Do you need your mobile phone to act as both?
  • Is email and internet usage an integral part of the way your business operates?
  • Do you need to place restrictions on employee mobile usage, for example, the level of data they can download?
  • How often do your employees travel both interstate and overseas?

Account management:

  • Do you have an existing mobile contract that may affect negotiations with a new mobile provider? This will need to be flagged with your new mobile provider so that they can tailer a deal that’s right for you.
  • Is your business currently supplied mobile services in addition to mobile solutions, such as mobile broadband? If so, how many suppliers across the business are involved? Can you benefit from streamlining your suppliers?
  • Are your mobile services interoperable or stand-alone?
  • Does your business have access to technology conducive to the level of mobile access you require, or do employees need a handset upgrade to enable them to be as efficient and productive as they can be?

Price
As in all business decisions, one of the crucial differentiators with choosing your mobile provider is price. Once you’ve assessed your mobile needs, it’s important you engage a mobile provider that can offer you the services you require at the best possible price; but look deeper than just the quoted call rate. Ensure you’re getting genuine value.

The flexibility of your mobile plan is key to maximising the cost-effectiveness of your corporate mobile solution. Most of the major mobile service providers in Australia provide a certain level of flexibility and scalability to their corporate customers, but it’s important you understand the structure of the plans being offered to ensure it’s the right one for you. Generally, the most cost-effective plan is one that lets a group of employees share from the same pool of talk-time, rather than bill each single employee separately on general call rates. A shared pool option allows for greater certainty in your mobile spend each month, minimising the chance of bill shock. It’s unusual for mobile service providers to charge their corporate customers in this way, so do your research to ensure you don’t exceed your budget allocation.

It’s also worth noting the flagfall rate of the corporate mobile plan you choose. Flagfall is a fixed fee that mobile service providers charge to connect each call, with the total cost deducted from the monthly value of a customer’s plan. Some mobile providers, such as Vodafone Australia, have removed flagfall from their corporate plans, allowing greater cost savings and account transparency for customers.

Coverage
Mobile network coverage—both locally and internationally  will directly affect your ability to use mobile services. When thinking about your business’ requirements, also think about the locality in which your employees operate, evaluating how far they travel and the mobile activity required to conduct business effectively in those areas. Do your employees spend 99 percent of their time in metropolitan areas? In which case, paying a costly premium to a mobile provider that guarantees you coverage in Uluru may not be the best way to spend your business dollar.  Australia’s leading mobile service providers, including Vodafone, Telstra and Optus, have reasonable levels of network coverage with further enhancements expected to take place mid-2009.

International travel is becoming a more frequent component of how SMEs operate, whether for client meetings, product selection or undertaking sales. It’s crucial that your mobile provider offers you the best global network coverage with the best international rates, so that you can operate with minimal fuss and disruption wherever you are. While most leading mobile service providers can connect you globally, Vodafone is the only mobile provider in Australia to have its own global network. For this reason, it is able to offer extensive roaming throughout the world, with call rates at the optimum level of value. As with domestic calls, it’s key your mobile service provider offers a clear pricing structure for their international call rates. You shouldn’t have to pay more to your bill to receive great value international rates. Look for service providers that allow you to add on tariff options to your bill for free.

The internet is more important than ever for small to medium businesses looking to maintain an edge over their rivals. Look for a mobile service provider that offers the most cost-effective mobile data plans abroad. For businessmen and women who need to travel regularly, their mobile broadband needs to be able to travel too, so look for a service provider that offers the best international coverage and roaming rates.
Technology
Your corporate mobile package isn’t just about network coverage and applications, but the ability to operate your business using the best technology available. When choosing your mobile provider look at the types of handsets available with each of the corporate plans. Look too at the add-on technology available for your mobile solution. It’s important your provider notifies you when upgrades and updates are available so that your technology is working as effectively as it can. Applications are also an integral part of maximising your technology, so check whether your mobile provider allows business-friendly applications such as GPS.

Customer service

A loss in communications for a business can mean a loss in sales so, if things go wrong (and they will from time to time) it’s important you have a dedicated team you can turn to for help. When it comes down to choosing a service provider, many SME owners will see quality customer service as a make or break component. A knowledgeable, reassuring voice at the end of the phone line can make a world of difference when in times of crisis.

Choosing a service provider based on its customer service qualities can be difficult, however there are a few stand-out features that SMEs can look for when making their appraisal. Firstly, evaluate whether your mobile service provider offers a one-stop-sho customer service centre, offering advice on all your telecommunications components. Secondly, check if your mobile service provider offers free customer service. Some service providers can charge a fee for customer service calls, so check the fine print. Also, check what hours they operate in. You don’t want to be stuck overseas with no mobile, no internet and no customer service. Look for a service provider that offers free 24/7 customer care; essential for business users who find themselves working late into the night, over weekends or while overseas.

For larger businesses, mobile service providers are able to offer dedicated account management teams. And, if you are based in Australia, you will want a dedicated client executive team based in Australia which understands your business, the local market and account, and can talk to you in your own timezone.

Solution
When looking at the mobile solution for your business, smart SMEs should also look at other ways to improve business efficiencies and consider consolidating mobile service suppliers into one. In fact, services such as mobile broadband, mobile internet, mobile calls, fixed-line calls and WiFi are all essential to keep your business viable in 2009 and give you an edge over the competition. Understandably, several types of communication solutions can cause a bit of a head ache for CFOs, with several separate bills potentially hitting their in-trays each month.

To help streamline your communications solution, try to look for a mobile service provider that offers an all-in-one solution, as one bill for all your communications services equals much less of a headache for SME business owners and CFOs. This approach allows for easier financial reporting and maximised cost savings. Furthermore, look for trusted brands that offer their services as part of an all-encompassing package. This needn’t mean a compromise on the viability of the package for your business, so make sure that the service you purchase is scalable to ensure a tailored solution that fits your business like a glove.

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Hugh Humphrey

Hugh Humphrey

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