Efficient infrastructure means we can provide value and still differentiate on quality, says Plusnet Business chief
Enterprises are seen as a market under-served by communications service providers (CSPs) who could reap greater revenues by providing IT services in addition to connectivity. However, Nick Silverwood, the head of business at Plusnet, the provider of telephony and broadband services to the residential and small business market, says what small business customers really want is reliable, fixed price connections backed by high quality customer service. Moving to cloud or adopting unified communications are a long way from the minds of retailers who have just opened their first shop. They’ll wait until technologies are mature, he tells VanillaPlus managing editor George Malim
George Malim: What parts of the business market does Plusnet target?
Nick Silverwood: Our target audience within the business sector are the small and micro enterprises. The target profile is for single site businesses in hospitality or retail with fairly simple requirements for broadband and telephony services but who put reliability and working with a service provider they can trust as key to their requirements. They don’t want new technologies yet, they want to wait for technologies to be mature before moving to them in future.
GM: At what point do the needs of micro-businesses differ from what can be provided by your consumer, residential offerings?
NS: There are a large number of home-based businesses for which residential services are fine but, for those with their own premises or a need for 24/7 customer support, there are different requirements to residential services.
As part of BT Group, we have a very clear brand identity. We’re focused on businesses with fairly simple requirements and that means our focus is on providing great value broadband and telephony. Organisations with more sophisticated needs can buy specific services from other providers. The fixed price contracts we’ve launched recently have really addressed the main needs of our customers for cost control and price certainty. Our fixed price contract is a real feature.
GM: What are the challenges of providing these relatively simple, low margin foundational telecoms services to a cost-sensitive customer base while also providing the customer experience businesses expect?
NS: I’ve worked at Plusnet for 19 years and what’s always at the heart of our offering is to provide value and service. Our infrastructure has been designed to deliver efficient services which allows us to operate in the value space and still differentiate on quality.
I’m most proud of the people at Plusnet. As someone who as progressed through the business, it’s maintaining the culture of having the customer at the heart of everything we do that is so important. Our people carry that culture with them as they progress through the business.
Beyond having the right infrastructure we are making significant investments in our core systems. We’re conscious that our customers prefer to interact in different ways and we want to make it enable them to interact with us through whichever channels they prefer. The last thing they need is a provider who makes it difficult to work with them.
We keep it simple. We can provide the services they want at a price they can afford while delivering the customer service they need to operate their businesses effectively.
GM: How do you stand out in what is a crowded business telecoms market?
NS: That’s another of the major challenges in the business-to-business market. The number of providers is much higher than in the consumer market and every business provider is trying to meet the needs of the whole spectrum of businesses from a high street restauranteur to large corporates. We differentiate by focusing on the SMBs with simple requirements and not getting distracted from that.
GM: Is there a way to benefit from the brand recognition of Plusnet in the residential market and turn that into something that gives confidence to SMB customers and prospects?
NS: One of the other aspects that makes us stand out is our heritage. When I started in the business, our competitors were being consumed by larger providers but we’re still here, we’ve grown ourselves so we understand the painpoints our business customers go through. We launched our Plusnet Pioneers which are a panel of business experts, including our own finance director, who offer advice and personal experiences from some of the UK’s best known brands. Were celebrating inspirational business stories.
It all comes down to the words trust and reliability. SMB customers want more than just broadband, they want to know they can rely on their provider for support. Remember, these customers are restauranteurs, not IT managers. We have brand in the consumer market that we can stand beside in our business offerings which share the same values of great value alongside customer service.