Good signals from Aerial Telephones

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Paul Withers talks exclusively to Portsmouth’s finest – Aerial Telephones, O2’s Centre of Excellence partner of the year – about its 25 years in the mobile industry, and its continuing growth ambitions for the next five

The year 2011 has been a time of celebrations for the staff at B2B dealership Aerial Telephones, based in Portsmouth. Having recently been named O2’s 2010 Centre of Excellence (COE) partner of the year, the company has also just marked its 25th birthday.

According to its managing director Paul Davis (pictured), Aerial is continuing to gather pace, making no secret of his desires to retain O2’s top prize and continue to break its own internal sales records – something it says is already being achieved.

General manager David Hall claims Aerial has already exceeded its annual COE target for connections in the first half of the year – signing up more BlackBerry customers in the first six months of this year than it did in the whole of 2010. It is also on target to achieve a sub-five per cent churn level, he says.

“Our performance in the first half of the year has been tremendous, so myself and the team are very upbeat. The second half of the year looks even more promising.

“Being O2’s COE partner of the year is a big selling-point for us. We’re listed on O2’s website and if you dial into us it says: ‘Welcome to Aerial Telephones, O2’s partner of the year’. It’s a buzz for everyone.”

Aerial won the O2 COE partner of the year award based on its “consistent” quarterly performance during 2010, across volumes, customer service levels and ARPU.

Although it fell short of achieving the top position for each KPI individually, its overall performance saw it come out on top overall.

O2 solus
Aerial become an O2 Centre of Excellence partner in 2006, around the time the dealer programme was launched as O2 Advanced – Aerial become an O2 solus dealer in the process.

Aerial had previously connected its business to Vodafone, in 1986. But in 1991, it become a Securicor-approved dealer which began its 20-year relationship with what would later become O2.

Today Aerial manages around 20,000 connections on the O2 network. Accounts range from a single handset to as many as 1,200 devices, although it primarily targets businesses looking for between 25-50 phones.

Davis claims a number of customers on its base have remained since its formation. He highlights the importance of working with upcoming businesses from the start, mentioning a customer who started with just one phone but now has more than 400.

Like all COE dealers, Aerial has benefited from receiving an additional 5,000 connections as part of the programme, directly from the operator. It says it has also received customer bases from dealers which have either gone bust or simply gone solus with another network.

While Davis praises the hard work of his staff, he makes it clear it is the company’s ever-improving partnership with O2 that has and will continue to help it grow.

“Our customer base will increase as our relationship with O2 continues to get stronger,” says Davis. “We’re still working through the 5,000 lines O2 has given us as part of being in the COE.

“O2 and our customers have trust in us, and that is so key in a market where confidence can sometimes be low.

“O2 is by far the most forward-thinking network. You can talk to senior management quickly, get an instant response from them and its attitude is right. O2 was the first to introduce revenue share and the other networks have followed.”

O2 advantages
Davis says a key part of its success with O2 has been the presence of general manager David Hall, who joined from O2 in April 2007.

Hall, who spent 12 years with the operator, had headed up its dealer team for the south and its distribution operations with O2’s current head of partners Maggie Kennedy employed as one of his account managers. He later moved to work at O2’s corporate division, where he set up a team in London focussed solely on corporate business.

Hall admits his experience at O2 has proved an important ingredient in Aerial’s success, as he knows what the operator expects from its dealers.

“I’ve got a bit of insight into how the network operates so I know which buttons to press and when to press them,” says Hall. “It helps engage with the right people and helped establish relationships with key departments, particularly O2 customer care.

“When it comes to that financial support, how you present what you’re after, rather than just saying you need £20,000 to do a piece of business or to write the next campaign – it’s about how you present that and understand the language they can understand.”

Despite his O2 know-how, Hall is keen to emphasise the success of the business should be put down to its brand message: ‘Business communications with a personal touch’.

Full article in Mobile News issue 494 (August 1, 2011).

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