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When does a supplier become a partner?

By Daniel Hicks, Advocacy and Influencers, O2 UK.

“As an Aussie I have a unique view of the world. Because I’m standing upside down.”

Not necessarily the best joke, but the words I used to kick off a presentation to a group of IT professionals. A group choosing the IT provider they wanted to support the lifeblood of their contact centre operation, supporting 6,500 agents and covering WAN, LAN, IP telephony and 24/7 support. So no pressure.

We’d already had four months of getting to know each other. Personally, I was impressed at the approach they took – assembling a team from across their business to provide input in to the overall requirements. Having a Head of IT who really cared about making the right decision for the staff as much as the business. And making sure that we had biscuits for every meeting.

Although I say it myself and it’s after the event, my opening line wasn’t bad.  Somehow it summed up why we won the business – because we brought a new perspective to their challenges and chose to act like more than just a supplier.

Before those four months we hadn’t worked with the people in that room. It was fortuitous that Gartner had suggested to them that we should be considered but, to be honest, before that first meeting I thought we might only be there to make up the numbers. But then that meeting, scheduled to last an hour, lasted three. Straight away I could see that culturally we were a great fit – both sides open and honest about what we could and couldn’t do.

Over the next few weeks my team and I made sure we could provide a response that addressed every aspect of the RFP. That’s business as usual, right? (That’s not a trick question, the answer should be “yes”). But we all know that equipment and products can be provided by a number of different suppliers, so it’s our people that make us different; providing insights, knowledge and advice outside simple IT discussions to demonstrably impact on business operations and strategic opportunity.

But from my experience, that only works when both sides want it to work that way. Not all customers want suppliers to become partners, and not all suppliers are able to transition to become partners. Thankfully, in this instance, the client was open to more.  And we always look to become a strategic partner as we know it delivers more value on both sides.

One of the ways we proved it for this client was through the head of our contact centre, who illustrated how we used omnichannel and social media feeds to enhance customer satisfaction levels. Explaining and detailing when and where it worked best in the buying process, and what that means for traditional communication channels, along with O2 employee training and support.

Other discussions from people across O2 covered how the customer’s traditional market base is changing as the Internet of Things becomes commonplace. And most importantly we led discussions on the potential for enhanced customer services and new revenue opportunities through product evolution and strategic partnerships. Those discussions are ongoing, because that’s what partners do. It’s that unique openness, that view of how customer and supplier can (and, hopefully, you agree, should) work together that leads to true partnership and prosperity.  And no-one needs to stand on their head.

You can learn more about our products here or drop me a mail and we can talk about what partnership is.

Ready to scale up your business? Call an O2 business specialist on 0800 028 0202 or call free from your O2 mobile on 8002.


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