Good reward and recognition schemes can encourage the right culture to drive growth in a channel business. Working from home has highlighted a need for useful KPIs. Teams with the right measures in place have found that productivity has gone through the roof. Sales teams are able to fit in more calls, meetings and webinars. Companies measuring not only call and ticket responses but also online statistics, such as the number of webinars completed, have seen an increase in activity leading to a surge in orders.
I ventured into the office for the first time in a long time recently and I noticed just how different working in the office is compared to working from home.
Firstly there is no privacy. Alone in my home office, I can take any call or Teams meeting at my desk without being overheard or disturbed. In the office, you need to pre-book a meeting room to do this.
Secondly, there are a lot of interruptions in the office. People at your desk catching up, making coffee or pulling you into impromptu meetings. On the plus side, you do get to hear what is going on in other departments in real-time. There is an energy in the office which is positive, encouraging and welcoming. Challenges can be resolved very quickly with the right people around a desk in just a few minutes. You get a better perspective of what is going on across the whole business in the office. You can read people a lot better in person and pick your moment better.
In the heart of the office you can visually see the culture. 'Customer First' as phones are answered and emails replied to as a priority. The way the team collaborates to assist partners and support them. Training people from home has been great to a degree. We can teach the job, processes, and systems but culture is something that needs to be observed and absorbed I think.
I read a piece on LinkedIn recently which said that working from home can be damaging as you learn from others and it is easier to do this in an office environment working closely with experts.
I do find that I get a lot more work done at home, working longer hours with no travelling time and fewer interruptions.
At Jola, we have implemented a flexible working policy. Some teams choose to be in the office every day, others 3 days a week and some prefer to work remotely. We are aware of some of the benefits and challenges and hope we have found the right balance.
In a recent partner satisfaction survey, Jola scored a Net Promoter Score of 56, which categorises the company as ‘great’, with 41% of Jola partners giving them 10/10 and 96% scoring them 7 or higher. In the comments section, Jola partners praised Jola products, pricing, portals and service.
Andrew Dickinson, Jola CEO, commented, ‘I am delighted with our NPS. We now have over 1000 resellers and MSPs choosing Jola as their mobile data and intelligent connectivity partner. Our relentless product development continues with a long list of new products designed to help partners differentiate their offerings and win bigger deals. We have a fully redundant highly scalable IP edge network with DDoS protection from Cloudflare, and we continue to grow and invest in people, products, platforms and processes. We have a fantastic team here at Jola who are dedicated to supporting our growing partner base and it was great to see so many of them named in the survey by partners.”
Jola celebrated its 8th birthday recently, after a year of growth that saw revenues surge by 80% and EBITDA double.
Jola also had its best year for signing new partners with ICT resellers, MSPs and specialists choosing Jola for their mobile data and intelligent connectivity.
There are very few administrators and support staff in Jola, in fact despite doubling the number of Jola partners in the last 18 months to over 1000, calls and tickets into the company have decreased. We have obsessed over removing human intervention from all processes, and since 2016 invested millions in real-time automation and intuitive, white-label, self-service portals. More than 40% of our 50+ staff are employed in sales and marketing. Their objective is simply to help our partners win more business, and we recruit 15-20 new partners every month.
A major advantage of our approach is that we can deal with resellers and MSPs of any size and we don’t need to sit behind companies trying to build a channel themselves. The mobile data market is competitive and there’s no reason for resellers to give up some of their margins to a third party whose only purpose is to compensate for the mobile aggregator’s lack of sales capability and automation.
Why is this such a hot topic at the moment and is it relevant to my business?
Have you ever had a situation where it was critical to hire a new person and you struggled to find them in time? Maybe you only received a few CVs and the ones you did interview were not up to the mark?
We needed to hire new marketing recruits at Jola. We attracted over 100 strong applications. What did we do differently?
Firstly we looked at our job advertisement and test-marketed the copy with people we knew would be great for the job. We found out through this process that we were putting off our target audience with the way we were describing the company. We were missing the opportunity to sell things we can offer candidates that other businesses recruiting similar roles couldn’t. We were putting up entry barriers by using jargon and insisting on very specific experience.
We not only changed the language and tone of our advert, but also added salary details, benefits and described what it is actually like working at Jola. We highlighted the career development potential, training and mentoring available and refocussed our copy on the values we were looking for. We looked at challenges faced by working parents, we looked at day-to-day challenges, getting to work, hours of work, place of work and made some significant changes.
All employees can work from home and no longer need to work 9-5. Our entire marketing team works part-time hours around their children. It is acceptable to take time off or work remotely to solve problems at home. We promote our inclusive culture. We encourage all types of diversity welcoming employees with neurodiversity and from the deaf community. We benefit from the complimentary skillsets which help drive the business forward.
Jola celebrates its 8th birthday in April 2022, after a year of growth that saw revenues surge by 80%, EBITDA double, and an investment from BGF that valued the company at over £40m.
Apart from innovative Layer 2 LTE offerings for ISPs and unique big data tariffs, Jola built a new, fully redundant, highly scalable IP edge network specifically designed to deliver high performance and secure mobile data services. Jola Partners’ critical services now enjoy protection from DDoS attacks and super-high speeds globally via the Cloudflare network. Cloudflare’s 121 Tbps worldwide network blocks an average of 86 billion threats per day.
Andrew Dickinson, CEO of Jola commented, “We have just closed the books on our seventh full year and won Megabuyte’s Emerging Star award for the Best performing Telecoms Services company for the second year running. We continue to grow and to invest in people, products, platforms and processes. We have a fantastic team here at Jola who are dedicated to supporting our growing partner base. It is great to see so many Jola partners building profitable revenue streams from our unique mobile data solutions.”
Recurring revenue businesses rely on customer acquisition and retention. It is tempting to focus all efforts on recruitment, but churning customers is a real concern for growing businesses.
Understanding and monitoring customer experience, can help to identify early warning signs, put in measures and reduce churn. By improving the customer experience, you can increase customer retention and revenue per customer, whilst also enhancing brand perceptions in the marketplace. By getting this process right, you create ‘fans’ of your business, ‘advocates’ who freely recommend your services to others and buy frequently from you.
In order to measure customer experience, you must first identify relevant KPIs. What are the measures in your business of customer satisfaction? Many companies use NPS (Net Promoter Score) which gives an overall satisfaction score. You ask the question: How likely are you to recommend us? You use an answer scale of one to ten. You may also want to ask more granular questions to understand satisfaction across each customer touch point.
Next think about what influences the satisfaction score. This can often be obtained through a comments box on your survey, or by calling a cross-section of clients to ask specific questions about their experience. Having the right products, at the right price, on the right management portals, is key, combined with excellent service and accurately and timely billing.
By surveying customers regularly and gathering feedback, you can identify any shortcomings and work with customers to improve them. Going the extra mile to fix a problem can save a churning customer, but when handled well, also turn them into an advocate.
A recent article written by Sheryl Sandberg in the Wall Street Journal, suggested that there is a crisis looming in corporate America with more than one in four women considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce. This got me to thinking, is the same thing happening here in the UK and if it does happen, what effect will that have?
LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co have run a study over the last six years and published their findings in the 2020 Women in the Workplace Report. It showed slow but measurable progress for women in all levels of management and that these slow gains could be wiped out within a single year, as up to two million women are thinking of leaving their jobs.
In the channel we are starting to see a rise in female leadership, but during COVID many women have felt the strain of extra responsibility and worry. This has amplified a need to work longer and harder than their male counterparts at work, as they feel they are held to a higher standard and judged more harshly if they fail. Many do not feel comfortable sharing their concerns, or even communicating their childcare issues, to avoid being perceived negatively at work.
Today women are under immense pressure at home and at work, taking the lion’s share of the childcaring, relative caring and domestic tasks. The American statistics show that among senior level leaders with partners, 63% of women have one who works full time, compared with 35% of men. Senior level women are therefore 1.5 times as likely as men to consider downshifting or leaving. The top reason they give is burnout. Ethnic minorities and those with additional conditions are finding it even tougher, as they often feel excluded and don’t always feel they can properly express themselves.
If I think of my own friendship group of senior managers in large corporates around the UK. I am the only one left working full-time with a family. Some went part-time, others gave up work completely and cited burn-out as the reason. In our own organisations in the channel, working from home has blurred the lines for many, and we are seeing illness levels increasing.
If we don’t address these issues, we will continue to see absence levels increase and employee satisfaction decrease, which could lead to us losing some of our most valuable employees, who would be hard to replace.
If we come up with a solution now, we can increase productivity, employee satisfaction and retain the progress we are making to achieve diverse and inclusive teams.
We need to look at working from home and how we can make this work for our employees. Encourage regular breaks and regular hours, as well as a good balance of two-way communication and trust to work alone. What I think we need is good managers. Socially I think we need to look at the balance of responsibilities in the home and support our partners for healthier work life balances.
Current guidelines advise us to work from home where possible. In our industry this is something we can do easily because we have the technology and already use it. During the last lock-down many of us found our businesses not just survived but thrived with teams working from home. Call answer times remained high, tickets were answered quickly and a surge in orders was processed efficiently. We sent home care packages and thank you gifts to our employees, we arranged online quizzes and benefitted from more time at home. As time went on however some employees found it more difficult to switch off. When the laptop and phone are in the sitting room with you, the temptation to continue working after hours is high. Some really missed the friendships and banter from the office and others struggled managing parental responsibilities with a full-time job.
As restrictions have lifted, anxiety levels are still high with parents worried about kids mixing at schools and colleges and the situation at universities around the country. Uncertainty has crept in with people not sure whether they should be ‘eating out to help out’ or staying in to be on the safe side. Some of us are worrying about relatives in care homes or shielding.
More worrying still is the affect the pandemic is having on our nation’s mental health. The Office for National Statistics said, “Generally, higher rates of suicide among middle aged men in recent years might be because this group is more likely to be affected by economic adversity, alcoholism, and isolation. It could also be that this group is less inclined to seek help.”
What can we do to help team members suffering in silence? Firstly, we need to know what to look out for. Common signs are:
- Long-lasting sadness or irritability.
- Extremely high and low moods.
- Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety.
- Social withdrawal.
- Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits.
If you are worried about any of your team there are resources available to help.
Right at the start of the global pandemic, the supply chain for devices, such as 4G routers, was affected. Factories in China had closed down and for a while devices manufactured there were in short supply.
Conferences were cancelled
Mobile World Congress was cancelled, Margin in Voice and Data went online and Channel Live was moved to January 2021. Opportunities to collaborate and partner were lost, as well as companies being out of pocket.
Fixed Line Services
Installation of fixed line services stalled, and some companies reported a decline in sales, as end users looked for an alternative solution.
The need for fast, reliable internet connectivity increased dramatically, with parents working from home and kids being home-schooled. Many households turned to online shopping and invested in online entertainment such as Netflix and Disney+. Although the need for faster internet connectivity was evident, fear of 5G increased, with online scare campaigns linking COVID-19 to 5G masts.
Changes in behaviour
As customers went online, businesses changed their approach, many offering buy-online options, supported by digital marketing campaigns. Messaging changed to reflect the mood of the nation. Companies started to empathise more and respond with positive messaging. Supporting the NHS and key workers became part of many advertising campaigns. As events were cancelled, so were the sponsorships and alternative ways to engage with consumers were developed. With much more time being spent on social networks across the age groups, new digital campaigns were rolled out.
What can we learn from this?
We need to be aware of the changing needs of our customers, as businesses implement return-to-work strategies. It may not be possible for all staff to return to offices, due to social distancing measures so companies may need help managing their IT and Telecoms in a much more flexible way. With so many companies being influenced by social media, do we need to consider our marketing strategies to attract new customers? With so many companies looking to buy online do we need to consider the way in which our customers are now buying services? Do we need to review what we sell and how we sell it? With social distancing here for a while do we need to re-consider the way we collaborate and partner with others to ensure innovation is not stifled?