In recent weeks I have spoken several times with IMPDA founder Chris Caudle and Fone Doctors proprietor Faisal Sheikh and all of us agree it is daft to have separate dealer forums trying to serve the same community. We need a focal point for like-minded dealers to get together and exchange ideas and views on the state of the industry.
The IMPDA website still exists as a resource for interested parties. But its forum is now under the umbrella of the Phone Dealer Forum.
At the moment, the IMPDA section of the forum is a “closed” forum, insofar as only registered IMPDA members can view the topics. However, we hope this section will later merge with the rest of the Phone Dealer Forum as well.
Eventually we would like all the various dealer elements out there to be available from the one resource. This would create more traffic, with only one set of log-in credentials needed.
Suppliers could have their own section within the forum, whereby they could promote their daily/ weekly offers and gain more business by attracting dealers they don’t currently work with.
Dealers on the forum already compare quality of service and other elements amongst various suppliers, and so suppliers should be aware of giving bad service or support to dealer customers as word inevitably gets around.
Level playing field
It is an argument that has been made many, many times over the years: Why are networks so intent on poaching customers from dealers? But the problem just seems to be getting worse.
3, in the first instance, went on record to say it is no longer offering exclusive direct tariffs, and is offering the same things it is making available through third parties.
While this move is very commendable, it means nothing if the same network poaches your customers anyway, long before dealers are allowed to contact them to upgrade and renew their contract.
3 is currently calling customers before month 11 to upgrade them. If they can’t get hold of the account holder on the phone, they write to them and invite them to upgrade direct. Orange is also contacting customers directly and offering exclusive incentives for customers to upgrade direct, instead of through their local dealer.
Dealers have suggested that instead of the networks poaching the customers, the networks should allows dealers 30 days’ grace to re-sign customers, after which they are open to everyone. Obviously, if the dealer tries to churn the customer to another network then the network has every right to offer crazy retention deals to keep them.
Another example of the networks working against the dealer, rather than with them, is T-Mobile launching its “My Faves” tariffs from the start of November through its own outlets only. The rest of us are left to pick up the scraps. We will be able to offer the new tariffs after Christmas, after all the hype has died down.
T-Mobile deserves to lose a lot of dealer business with this approach; I’m sure the independent channel will do everything it can to churn or recommend customers rival networks, rather than let them go to T-Mobile direct.
Don’t believe the Skype
3 launched the much-hyped Skypephone last week – basically, a fairly limited handset by a Chinese manufacturer called Amoi that offers free Skype-to-Skype calls.
Although Skype has been available for free on various 3 handsets for a while, the new Skypephone will automatically log into a users Skype account. The fair usage policy is set at 4,000 Skype minutes and 10,000 Skype texts.
But, like T-Mobile, 3 has announced it too will offer this package to customers from its 3 UK retail stores, and not via the independent channel.
Apparently 3 will wait to see if the product is successful before deciding whether to release it to the third parties.
So, again, we have another example of a network deciding that the customer is better served direct.
Dealers won’t lose a lot on this one, because customers can already get free Skype calls on contract phones if they want them badly enough – and dealers ought to know how to advise them on that. Try getting a Carphone or network retail salesman to talk about such intricacies, and the networks will realise what they’re missing in terms of retail expertise by missing out the dealer channel.
The SkypePhone, at £49.99 on prepay, is good value, however. But, then again, how many dealers actually sell 3 prepay?
I would certainly not want to pay full price for a phone and hope 3 pays enough commission to cover it – on the grounds it hasn’t been box broken.
To me, the fanfare behind the launch of the Skypephone is just marketing guff.