Dextra Airtime dealers were treated to a banquet and a flagon of mead at Coombe Abbey in Coventry last month. By candlelight, dressed slightly surreally as medieval lords and ladies, they were told of Dextra’s plans for the next 12 months.
Despite appearances to the contrary, the focus of Dextra’s dealer conference was on a way forward, not back; a future for independent dealers that lies in pushing business connections and tapping into additional revenue streams through data packages, mobile broadband and sideline offerings.
There was, of course, mention of cashback too, in light of the demise of Birmingham-based cashback dealer Dialamobile, which Dextra connected. There would be tighter control on cashback deals from now on, according to the distributor.
Meanwhile, the primary message from the networks, as always, was to reaffirm their commitment to the dealer channel.
Dextra sales director Angie Simpson told dealers: “We need to be planning for our future, because it is changing. We need to work together to be stronger and fitter.”
There are no surprises today, she added. “The focus on business doesn’t suggest the networks are moving away from consumer connections; there is always a place for quality consumer customers. The indirect channel is very important to networks, as they continue to offer the choice and the passion that the network stores and larger multiples can’t offer.”
The network message was transmitted via a news-themed video broadcast. Some network channel chiefs, such as Orange’s Steve Heald, were also available in person to answer questions from the floor. Others were conspicuous by their absence.
Still, the news reel featured interviews with each network operator, as well as Dextra managing director James Browning, and appeared to go down pretty well. Most appreciated the novelty, even if it replaced real face-time with most networks’ top channel chiefs.
The networks each had a shot at addressing the importance of business connections. 3 sales director Marc Allera acknowledged 3’s lack of strength in the business area, but suggested it was now ready to step forward.
“We’re now more confident in our processes to put more business connections through,” he said. “We will be upgrading our HSDPA network in the coming months. The opportunities for business are becoming more exciting.”
Allera’s statements were backed by 3 representatives later, who talked dealers through the network’s new mobile broadband offering and Mix & Match tariffs. Dealers were informed the tariffs could be either handset or price-led and would allow for more usage flexibility.
O2, Orange and T-Mobile all claimed to have the best business propositions, while Vodafone pushed its consumer packages, boosted recently by unlimited landline calls and text messages.
Orange head of independent retail Steve Heald said: “We took the first step in the business area to segment tariffs based on customer needs and usage. We will take the same approach when we roll out our data packages.”
Orange also explained its ‘Your Group’ family tariff, which allows 3,000 free minutes for up to four users to call each other. It also revealed business users had priority over other customers when contacting customer services.
O2 head of indirect David Plumb countered: “We have the top business proposition. The new tariffs we introduced at the end of April have been more successful than expected.”
Meanwhile, T-Mobile head of sales Roger Fletcher argued: “Our Business One plan is flexible to meet business customer needs.”
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