Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Ofcom Update: Ofcom makes two new 116 helpline numbers available

Ofcom today confirmed that it will make two new pan-European 116 numbers available in the UK.

The two numbers are:

· 116 006 which will be used as a helpline for victims of crime. This will be a freephone service where calls to this number will be free unless a pre-call announcement tells the caller that a charge applies. This is often the case with calls made from a mobile; and

· 116 117 for a non-emergency medical on-call service which will always be free of charge in the UK, whether made from a fixed line, mobile or public phone box.

The next stage is for potential relevant service providers to express their interest in using these numbers by 1st October 2010.

Ofcom’s statement can be found here:

Friday, 23 July 2010

Ofcom update: New help for consumers to resolve complaints

Ofcom today confirmed plans to make it easier for consumers to exercise their right to take unresolved complaints to a free independent resolution service.

From next year, communications providers will have to include information of the relevant dispute resolution service on all paper bills. They will also have to write to consumers whose complaints have not been resolved within eight weeks to inform them of their right to take their complaint to a dispute resolution service.

Ofcom is also establishing a single mandatory Code of Practice with minimum standards for how providers must handle complaints from consumers. The Code of Practice will provide consistency in standards and will give Ofcom powers to take enforcement action against those providers who do not treat complainants fairly.

The full news release can be found here: Full release

The statement can be found here: Statement 

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Do you use these secret marketing tools?

Sales and Marketing Activity

If you use the telephone as a tool to take orders and field enquiries from your marketing activity how do you know how successful you are?

It was Viscount Leverhulme who said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don’t know which half.” 

The trouble with traditional marketing is that you know that you have to do it and with an eager air of anticipation and expectation you spend money on using Yellow Pages, weekly free press, monthly gazettes, web sites, email marketing, letters, leaflet drops, radio, TV, street adverts, brochures, 4N, BNI etc. Generally as businesses, we usually only ever have one main telephone number that is used, and if you only publish the one number on all of the above options you will hopefully capture the sale but unless you are rigorous in asking the question – How did you hear of us? you will never know what is the source of your sale and if what you are marketing in is actually working.

What is important is how to capture the hard data and to understand how effective each marketing activity you do is and so help you to justify expanding some areas of advertising and cutting back others therefore increasing the effectiveness of your lead generation.

Yellow pages have for years monitored the usage patterns of its users and have identified that the readers will call telephone numbers in the following order of priority:
  • Freephone (0800, 0808) numbers 
  • Local Geographic Numbers (01392 Exeter, 01904 York etc.) 
  • And the rest 0845, 0870 are avoided because of the perception of the company benefiting from the call 
Therefore it is recommend that you use 0800 and 0808 numbers for a number of reasons
  1. because the research data backs this up, and
  2. that prospects prefer to make a call that they know that they are not paying for. 
    So you need to measure your advertising using evidence based reporting.  The simplest and most effective way to measure the response is by using telephony platforms to collate the call data. This means that once you decide that you need to measure your marketing campaigns you will need to look for a supplier that will provide the right telephone numbers to publish on your individual marketing pieces and then a solution that provides you with the detailed information on inbound calls to maximise your lead generation activity.

    Converting Sales to Leads

    Not only is accurate and live data on your marketing performance necessary, you also ought to record each inbound call so that you can ensure that all staff responsible for making the sale are fully trained and following your sales procedures/scripts to maximise each opportunity. If one person, including yourself is off track then potential orders can be lost.

    Results are what business are all about, so the system you choose to employ needs to allow you to measure how many leads your marketing is generating and how your business is handling these sales calls. You need to obtain all the information you can possibly get to help drive your business forward.

    Accurate and Instant Marketing Data

    You have spent hours getting your creative right, wording, font type and size, the message, the call to action everything else you have learned from the Marketing AIDA, Attention Interest Desire Action.

    1. So what was your response?
    2. How many people bought from you?
    3. How many people contacted you?
    4. How well did you do at converting those who called into those who bought?

     The first step in this process is knowing who reacted to your marketing, this is the measure of your marketing effectiveness. All your individual telephone numbers can provide you with detailed information about who called and when, all you have to provide is the – 'what marketing item each number refers to'.

    Cost Benefit Analysis

    As you have collected so much more data than before you can now begin to collate the financial data for each marketing activity carried out and begin to understand what works and what does not.

    Using the call data you can determine the value of each activity and the most cost effective way to attract customers and clients to your business, ensuring that you get better value out of each pound spent on marketing your business services and products.

    Knowledge is Power

    When you have the information available to make decisions based on fact and you then act on this information you have the power to make a massive impact upon your bottom line.

    What has been outlined here is not rocket science, although it can and does to many look like a dark art, the reality is that by simple use of telephone platforms you now have the ability to capture the data with which to measure your marketing. You can then use it to make significantly more money than you currently are because you are focussing on what works rather than like Viscount Leverhulme all those years ago knowing that half worked but not knowing which half!

    For a full PDF version of this article click here to download it.


    Why call BT?

    A question that I’ve always wanted to know the answer to ever since I got into the telecommunications industry 14 years ago was why do most people tend to call BT first if they want a phone line or broadband service.

    BT has always been the name on most people’s mind when it comes to any services run over the telecommunications network, usually because of the masses of advertising they do.

    I’d like to tell you a couple of reasons why BT do so much friendly, touchy feely advertising...!

    Several years ago the telecommunications industry was de-monopolised meaning that BT had to open their networks to allow competition into the market place meaning that they were no longer allowed a monopoly within the industry. This allowed for an influx of smaller telecoms companies giving them the ability to buy into the networks and give users more of a free choice. With more companies coming into play, BT had to split it’s organisation up into two ‘BT Retail’ and ‘BT Openreach’.

    BT Openreach are the company that are responsible for looking after and maintaining all of the fibre and cabling over which most communications are carried. BT Openreach are regulated by Ofcom (Ofcom is the communications regulator that regulate TV and radio, fixed line telecoms and mobiles, plus the airwaves over which wireless devices operate). This regulation means that all registered telecommunications providers have the same rights and are able to utilise ‘BT Openreach’ to install, maintain and repair faults within the communications network, no matter how small or large they are. All of these providers pay ‘BT Openreach’ every month for their services and support.

    So who is ‘BT Retail’? BT Retail are a telecommunications billing company, these are the people that we all see advertise on the TV, radio, internet all of the time, which takes me back to my original point.

    Advertising costs a lot of money! BT Retail recoup all this money back from us, the end users by charging us for the services that run on the communications networks.

    Did you know that BT Retail can charge up to £30 or more to have a single phone line installed into your premises.

    BT Retail can charge hundreds of pounds more than their rivals to install ISDN line services into businesses premises.

    Their monthly charges are generally higher than their competitors are and in some cases the charges can be as much as 20% more than their competitors.

    Their call charges are generally higher than their competitors are and can be as much as 80% more expensive than the competition.

    All of these extra charges are for what? The exact same service you can find elsewhere, yet without having overseas call centres, or having to sign up for 2, 3, 4 or even 5 year contracts.

    We are all game for companies and individuals making money and profits and contributing to keeping the economy going, but I am baffled why people opt for BT when there are offerings in the market place that would suit the smaller/medium sized business giving them greater flexibility.

    Before you think of calling BT next time, why not see what other providers can do for you, you’ll save money, have a better level of service, and you’ll be dealt with by people based in the UK and you will be helping to keep costs down.

    Wednesday, 14 July 2010

    VoiP Set to Change Face of Communication

    An interesting article about the future of VoIP communications by Mini Swamy TMCNet Contributor.

    The era of telecommunications is evolving so rapidly that newer technologies are displacing the old, transforming the way businesses and enterprises operate. As they grow and expand globally, voice communication over long distances becomes a costly affair. VoiP was developed in order to facilitate cost-effective voice communication to anywhere in the world. With everyone slowly veering towards this technology, it is bound to become the primary form of communications in the near future........... click here for the complete article.

    Wednesday, 7 July 2010

    The ICO launches an online guide to data protection

    The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has launched an online guide aimed at helping business, charities and public bodies ensure that they manage data securely. The personal information online code of practice has been launched following an extensive consultation process. The code explains to organisations how the Data Protection Act applies to the collection and use of personal data online.

    The Personal Information Online Code of Practice also aims to provide tips allowing consumers to make an informed choice about whether they sign up for a particular online service.

    Mobile VoIP set to hit half a trillion minutes

    An article posted in ITPRO by Stephen Pritchard says that within 5 years, mobile users will make a staggering 470 billion minutes of VoIP (Voice over IP) calls from mobile devices.

    The number of voice over IP (VoIP) calls carried over mobile networks is set to grow a massive 30 times over in the next five years.

    Analysts Juniper Research calculate that users of mobile 3G and 4G networks currently make 15 billion minutes of calls using VoIP. But as faster networks become more common, Juniper believes this total will rise, to 470.6 billion minutes.
    Mobile VoIP traffic is also growing, as more handsets support Internet calling over Wi-Fi, including services such as Skype, and Apple’s new FaceTime video calling service on the iPhone 4.

    The competition from Wi-Fi-based voice calls – which typically earn no revenues for the mobile operators – is forcing mobile networks to look again at their policies for carrying VoIP traffic.

    If they do not, they risk significant financial losses, as users switch their calls from their cellular minutes, to lower-cost Wi-Fi alternatives.

    “We forecast that mobile VoIP over Wi-Fi will cost operators $5 billion globally by 2015,” said Anthony Cox, senior analyst at Juniper Research. “Wi-Fi mobile VoIP is potentially the most damaging of all VoIP traffic as it bypasses the mobile networks altogether.” 

    Juniper expects to see more deals between operators and VoIP services, as the mobile companies seek to defend their revenues from voice calls. 

    Arrangements such as those between Three and Skype in the UK, and with Verizon Wireless in the US will become more common, Juniper believes, as operators’ incomes from conventional, circuit-switched calls continue to fall.

    Mobile companies will try to “bury the hatchet” with VoIP providers and set up partnerships that will allow them to least capture at least some mobile VoIP traffic.

    The trend growth in mobile VoIP calls is expected to grow quickly among business users, who are more likely to use unlocked handsets with VoIP support, such as the Nokia E Series, or devices such as Cisco’s upcoming Cius tablet device.

    To view the full article click here