The Word? Convergence

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Welsh B2B dealer The Word has spent almost 20 years with Vodafone. Its dedication is now paying off as it prepares for its assault on the unified commns market. Paul Withers reports on a debut OneNet partner

Dealership The Word is one that appears to have emerged from the industry wringer in good shape, and with an entirely new look. It has moved from retail to business connections, with the same network partner all through, and has more recently expanded its product set, its skill set and its mindset.

Vodafone is to make it a lead partner for commercial launch of its much-anticipated OneNet unified communications solution in the coming weeks. Solutions provider Mitel has made The Word its only specialist reseller to be headquartered in Wales.

And it has an injection of new and rare blood with the recuitment of industry veterans Nick Williams, Lloyd Bowden and Paul Nocivelli as head of fixed line, head of systems and business development manager respectively. The trio will help drive forward the company’s new vision of unified communications provision, by ensuring its straight mobile business is supplemented with a full fixed line business.

The Word is selling communications systems now just as it did 25 years ago, albeit significantly more complex solutions. In its early years it supplied and installed a range of telephone systems before moving towards cellular and installing and selling handheld mobiles.

It opened its first Vodafone Centre in October 1993 before opening further stores through the 1990s in Cardiff, Bridgend, Cwmbran, Swansea, Llanelli and Carmarthen, as well as having a B2B sales team covering clients across South Wales.

Vodafone-owned service provider Mobile Telecom acquired part of the business in 1995. Its relationship with the high street was stretched as Vodafone continued to expand its own retail portfolio.

The business was rebranded as The Word at the turn of the century and, in 2002, JAG Communications bought the retail estate. Meanwhile Mobile Telecom decided to exit the industry, meaning managing director Huw Stiley acquired 100 per cent of the issued share capital and the business was taken back into private ownership.

Explains Stiley: “That move from Mobile Telecom really forced my hand. My motivation was the technology, and there’s more of that in the business market than in the retail sector. Everything came together. I wanted to move into an area I was happier with in technology terms, and the opportunity to sell the retail stores presented that chance. The Word has transformed into a true B2B operation in the last 10 years. The customer mix has changed. Less than five per cent of our base are now individuals, but many have dealt with us for over 25 years.”

Loyalty in its relationship with Vodafone looks assured. The pair have worked together for nearly 20 years. Stiley insists he has never considered working with any other networks, and suggests business opportunities have not been reduced by limiting itself to a single provider. Its ‘premier partner’ status ensures this, he suggests.

“We hope to deliver the best proposition we can and Vodafone allows us to do that. We’re happy with the arrangement. The biggest advantage is the direct route we have into Vodafone. It aids us in terms of customer propositions.

“There’s a lot of dialogue between us about bespoke tariffs through to unique propositions that we’ve been able to deliver to customers. There is no way we would have that capability if we did not work directly with Vodafone.”

Stiley’s interest in technology has ensured its product portfolio has extended beyond straight mobile voice/data bundles for the business sector. It offers handsets, accessories, fixed line, installations, mobile call routing, phone and vehicle tracking and telecoms consulting.

Stiley likes particularly its digital pen solutions, which he suggests fit into the company’s philosophy to offer customers ways to improve work efficiencies.

“Our interest in technology means we’re always looking for new products to sell. Digital pens are good in certain working environments; they’re not complicated solutions and are easy enough for most to appreciate.”
As it has increased its product range, The Word has also spent the last six months assessing how best to move with the mobile market. It wanted to bring in experienced heads to reposition the company as a unified communications reseller. The first step in that was the appointment of Nick Williams as head of fixed line in March.

Williams spent 23 years at BT, providing voice and mobile solutions to bluechip companies across the UK.

Before joining The Word he headed up specialist teams within BT with a focus on providing voice and mobile services to organisations such as the Ministry of Defence, US Air Force and Capita Group.

Says Stiley: “We began to look harder at where the mobile market was going, working out where we could take our business. Nick’s appointment was part of a much bigger plan to take the business forward over five years and to form a real business strategy.”

Two months later Lloyd Bowden was appointed as head of systems. He joined from reseller Boucon Network Solutions, where he was managing director between October 2007 and December 2009. Bowden took charge of recruitment of a team of business managers to grow sales and establish relationships with key suppliers to enable the delivery, installation and support of VoIP telephony networks.

Explains Stiley: “We could see fixed line was becoming more prominent in the mobile market. Having some experience of telephone systems, we decided we needed to expand our capability and that it would be beneficial to have a deeper and broader knowledge of systems technology.”

Following, Paul Nocivelli joined the company as business development manager last month, having spent 15 years at BT Corporate Services, where he was latterly corporate sales manager for Wales. Nocivelli is responsible for bringing in new business and developing and building relationships with customers of fixed and converged voice solutions.

Stiley says: “Paul’s sound knowledge and expertise will play a big part in forming new relationships while building on our existing customer’s communications.

“Our new offering comes in response to customer demand for integrated communications systems that improve business efficiency. We are investing in new solutions which will diversify our offering and further expand our business model.”

To add substance to its strategy, and to hand firepower to the expanded team expected to deliver it, The Word was appointed by solutions provider Mitel as its specialist reseller in Wales in April.

Mitel serves all-sized businesses with products ranging from small software-only solutions to building of complete communications infrastructures.

“This partnership is testament to our expertise in the converged telecoms market and long-standing reputation of providing excellent service to our customers. The partnership means we can offer our customers the best telecoms systems on the market with the added benefit of our strong account management services.”

Moreover, The World will be among the leading Vodafone dealers to resell its hyped and hotly-anticipated OneNet unified communications offer.

Stiley is clearly excited by the impending launch but is coy on precise details. Still, he’s happy to draw comparisons with rival offers, describing OneNet as a “true converged product”.

“We’re very excited about OneNet and pleased Vodafone has involved us in bringing it to market. We expect to be in a position to be selling it very soon. We’ve seen it and it works amazingly well.

“My understanding of some of the other network propositions is they’re more tariff dependent. My interpretation of OneNet is that it’s a true converged product, which sits in a hosted environment, is controlled and billed by one party and is perhaps less cobbled together than some of the other propositions.”

Full article in Mobile News issue 467 (July 5, 2010).

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