Learning about telecoms integration

Published on 22-03-2018 03:48PM

Andy MacGreggor, BT Local Business

In a quick summary can you please tell me about BT local businesses?

BT local businesses was created in 2002 and it is now 40 partners of BT or franchises really who only work for BT. All of our people are trained at BT and  they have access to all the BT systems and essentially form the sales arm for all BT business.  Before this, BT had some serious issues with customer satisfaction with national call centres not really offering the local knowledge or personal interaction that could be offered by a local team. To offer a better service they decided that they were going to start BT Local Business which started with 80 centres originally and later, adjusted down to 40 slightly bigger ones. This has done remarkably well for BT and now our customers know their local company’s phone number and they get through to the same people whenever they need to. I've been doing this since 2003 and many people will see me and know me and we are always here and always available. Our area covers from Southport through Liverpool, Wirral and into Chester and North Wales and there are just 33 of us in the team.  We have nine people in the field and the rest in the office offering customer advice and services, so it works very well for BT and our customers

Can you tell me a little about your background?

I was working in London and across the country for BT and then I met my wife and moved to Wirral with BT and then the local business model started  At the time I was studying SMEs on behalf of BT and that's why I’m so passionate about them. We were trying to understand how they work and how we could better serve them and I had been to Italy and Belgium to take part in some studies. To a large extent BT Local Business is an SME and I am proud of that but we have the added advantage of working for and with BT so we’ve got this great brand to promote and get support from.  BT have come in for some stick over the years but at the end of the day they never run away from their responsibilities and as the local representatives we make sure that's the case. We are a champion for the customer and it's been great since 2003 when we started and there were only six of us and myself and now there are 33 and I’ve enjoyed the whole journey and the whole transition and getting the extra territory on the back of our hard work.

Question about BT being the only service provider

It just wasn't a good journey or experience for the customer you may have been a customer based in Liverpool who phoned BT and you could've been bounced onto Croydon which isn't always great you know if you speak to somebody in one office you might want to speak to them again and people want to see people locally you know we've had the same number now for years and years my customers can dial that number and always get through to me. Our key accounts all have the direct dial number of the person they usually deal with so you can build a relationship and develop trust which makes it a much better journey for the customer

So what are the latest developments for digital and BT?

We have seen the Internet and the cloud take off and this is a great opportunity for us. Customers across the country who want fast Internet connections and they want it to be reliable and they want the ability to be more agile with the way they run their business and be a bit more flexible. BT, like many other telecoms networks responded to the challenge with more fibre being present in the ground and this is either going straight into customers premises or extending the reach of the exchange to the green cabinets which effectively moves the exchange closer to the customer and the customer closer to fast Internet

This move towards faster Internet means it’s now easier to utilise cloud based systems which they may use within the workplace and also cloud based telephony and this brings further benefits, including home-based work with reliable access to the cloud based systems and telephony. We are also seeing a massive integration of the mobile network and the fixed line network. BT now owns EE so we have customers who have one main number but if one person was out of the office and the main phone rings, they could answer the phone on their mobile. All the calls are recorded and they can transfer calls between themselves whether they are in the office or out of the office.

Their mobile phone or smart phone is replacing the phone on the desk and that’s probably one of the greatest things I've seen happen. You can call from your mobile as if you've made the call from the office.  You don't need to use your desk phone separately as you can make the call from your mobile whether you are in or out so there is real integration between the two platforms.

In all my time with BT local businesses and BT before that it's one of the best advancements with the best advantage for businesses and nowadays with the cloud based portal it is out there. We've just installed a system for a haulage firm which has over 40 users. One of their biggest issues is with drivers losing their devices and them wondering how to get a replacement to the user for the next day and now we can do that for the next day and that side of things for me is really useful

At the moment BT are the only firm that offers such integration. We're working in partnership with a firm from Sweden  and when we originally brought this into the country it was for big customers with 100+ users  but now that's come right down to as few as five users. This has opened it up to the SME market  and it's really helping those smaller companies that need to be light of foot, that need to be agile and we can respond to them with a flexible system. Personally I'm really pleased that all of this technology is now available for SMEs rather than just the bigger firms  I love working with smaller businesses and wouldn't want to be in the corporate market place. I study SMEs a little bit and I just think it's a really good thing  for small firms

How do you view your relationship with Wirral Chamber

We are a member of the Liverpool and Wirral chambers but the partnership we have with Wirral chamber and the way they integrate their Strategic Partners and allow us to get involved with things presents us with a great opportunity to network and get our message out to potential customers.  That face to face introduction is much more effective than email or a phone call or a website presence. I think getting out to see local businesses and taking that local business model further but with the backing of BT is the best combination. The closer we work with the Chamber the more we get out of it. It’s a partnership in the literal sense of the word and we both benefit from the relationship but like everything you have to work at it and get involved.

What is your territory? 

We cover Liverpool originally and then Wirral came on board as well  and Southport and down to Chester and also across into North Wales. BT have rewarded us with a bigger territory in recognition of the success we have had so far. They say “If we have a good partner out there who is already working well with customers and keeping the customer satisfaction level high, then they can have the opportunity to take on those extra areas so that's how we got the Wirral, North Wales and Chester.  I can be across in Bangor one-day or Aberystwyth and then in Chester the next and we try and keep to our own areas so there is only ever one point of contact and you can build and maintain relationships.

So who manages your client’s accounts?

We defer everything to BT for the install and the billing is also through BT so our clients are BT customers and always get a BT engineer maintaining and installing their equipment but they will also have a phone number for our local support team. Customers like that because they’ve got someone local managing their installation and if they have any issues at any time they know they can speak directly to us and we will. So this way we can offer the best of both worlds, with the technical know how and world leading products and services of BT and the personal support of a local supplier.

Do we have any issues in the Wirral regarding our digital capacity compared to the rest of the country? 

No absolutely not.  The Wirral has a cross-section of areas some which are somewhat remote and some larger conurbations like Birkenhead and Ellesmere Port.  Liverpool city centre by comparison is  just one type of area but Wirral is nice and diverse with lots of different types of businesses and no more problematic for capacity issues than anywhere else in the country really.

Remote areas, such as North Wales can be quite challenging at times. I might have a farmer who suddenly decides to move two miles up the road on the same piece of land and ask us to get his phone working. Nowadays when people come to us; even if they're looking at something a little bit remote we can do a survey from the desk straight away to give them an idea of what services are already in the area.

BT now grade everything on a 1 to 4 basis so if I go to Holyhead or somewhere challenging like that, it might be graded as a four.  But even so, we can do many more installations than we used to because the green cabinets are being fibre enabled and that effectively brings the exchange closer to the client so there is more availability and more customers are able to get the right products and services at the right price without a lot of upfront costs which is really great and I'm really passionate about that.

Have you heard of lease lines? They used to be something that only bigger companies had which delivers superfast Internet from the broadband side of the exchange so if you're getting 100mb then you get 100mb always available up and down and these things used to cost thousands of pounds a month. The bigger companies would have it and it's absolutely great but of course telephony is also Internet intensive and everything relies on the Internet from their phone calls to the way they manage their systems. Customers can get this stuff in many areas so there are so many services available. One of the challenges we have is explaining what's available and that's why the In Business event next week is a good opportunity for us so that we can get in front of people and tell them.

That's my message at the in business event next week: speak to us now because there is an awful lot available, has Internet broadband speeds now,   The latest thing being rolled out is called G fast, a new type of Internet connection where they're taking the Internet from up to 80 meg downloads for businesses to up to 330 meg that’s a product that I see lots of businesses using as a superfast tool. For businesses that are maybe a bit remote they are introducing a new broadband with a 4G Sim on board, so if there's any issues with the broadband it drops over to the 4G Sim as backup. We have 4G on our mobile phones now and in many places you can get 40MB download in a lot of places like Liverpool city centre. I can see that going to 60mb or 70mb  so the fact that your broadband Router is now backed up by that is absolutely useful, especially for people that are remote. That adds another dimension to the service and that's part of the integration I was talking about before  I think it's one of the great things I've seen since BT bought EE  The integration and the possibilities are phenomenal and when I talk to businesses and ask them “What do you need?” actually a lot of it is already available.

What predictions do you have for the future of Digital?

There will be massive potential as fibre becomes more available and it becomes commonplace to have a pipe going directly into your business.  I may be put out of a job in the future because just like you do with your sky subscription now, you'll be able to go online in the future and order another phone line or other service with the click of a mouse. And you may be in Wirral but ask for a London number and it will just be an online portal where you simply say “This is what I want” and your system will just be upgraded remotely.

They say that 65% of kids in primary school today will have jobs that don't even exist at the moment. That's a really scary fact and exciting, so businesses have got an awful lot of transformation to do and we need to do a lot of educating at school level and at university level about what kind of roles they should get into.  Technology is evolving faster and faster and we are finding more and more applications for it. Driverless cars are almost here and McDonald's have got the screens which allow you to order remotely which have shaved 2500 jobs so everything is transforming and becoming IT based.  

I think IP is becoming the new digital and things will simplify as services become more integrated. So much is going to change that once your superfast connection is in, you'll then just say “Okay! life is changing for me so I want something different” and that will probably be one platform, one portal that you operate everything from. I think that businesses need to transform and I'm really chuffed to be working in such a dynamic environment where we can help businesses with that transformation

 What are the best and worst aspects of your job?

The best part of my job is getting the right solutions for customers and working with them as they change and grow. My most exciting clients are ones where they have to transform and we can help them achieve their goals. For me that's the best part of it if I'm honest with you on a personal level. Many of us in BT local business used to work for BT but now we work for ourselves we understand how important people are to a business and we've got great people in our business. I have been on the journey from the start as we evolved from BT and it’s reassuring to know you've got people you can rely on working with you. I've got some customers who I've worked with since day one who come to me for advice and they go away and they look at options and then when the time is right they come back and you finish the project.    

What about outside of work? What do you do to relax/

I like cycling and I do quite a bit of road cycling and my cycling club do quite a bit for charity. This year we're going from Liverpool to Holyhead to Cardiff which is approximately 400 miles to raise money for Alder Hey Children's Hospital. Last year we supported stand up to cancer which is a charity that BT supports but this year we are trying to do it for a cause more local. My cycling club is the Southport Sausage and Bacon Cycling Club. We go out on Saturday morning and we stop off for a sausage and bacon butty on the way. We know all the best cafes to stop at so we plan one of them into our route and we cycle back with a full tummy. Other than that I have 5 kids and a grand daughter so that keeps me pretty busy really just dealing with family life.