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O2 and small business: Simon Devonshire interview
O2’s business offering has evolved massively over the last few years. We caught up with Simon Devonshire, GM Small and Medium Business (and a small business owner in his spare time), to find out how it’s evolved, and what the future holds.
O2 Blog: Tell us about O2 and small businesses.
Simon Devonshire: O2 is famous as a consumer brand which means a lot of people don’t realise how many small businesses rely on O2. I’m mindful of how firms use the services we offer and any problems with their mobile phones or broadband service can have a massive effect.
I’m fanatically passionate about the success of British business. I spend all of my spare time when I’m not with my family working on and talking about business. Some people play golf, I do business. I’m very intimately involved in small businesses. I understand how difficult things can be. But when the technology goes right, small businesses can now compete with big businesses. I’m responsible for how O2 works with companies that have 1 to 2000 employees – small businesses don’t like to be called small.
OB: How has O2 changed what it does for small businesses in the past few years?
SD: When I joined O2 in 2007, 90 per cent of our small business sales were about voice alone. Now in London, in the last month, 90 per cent of what we sold was voice and data. When we started out that was unimaginable. People were obsessed with the idea of Crackberry addiction. Nobody says that about iPhone. We’ve transformed the way we advise companies and have had to transform our network to carry voice and data effectively.
OB: How would you sell O2’s advantages to a small business person if they were stood in front of you right now?
SD: It’s about things like free O2 to O2 calls which are included in our business packages. Customers want to have unlimited communication with colleagues. O2’s brand has a reputation for being a customer champion. What I think people tend to find impressive about our small business services is that we’re very human. We want people to make the right choice and to get the right technology. We use entirely UK-based customer service. We try to deliver as much of a human face as possible.
OB: Has iPhone changed things for small businesses?
SD: There has been a real consumerisation of business technology now. Sometimes you end up carrying multiple devices around. iPhone has changed the game from that perspective. People don’t want technology that seems old. They have an expectation of what technology can and should do for them.
OB: What place do tablets have in the future of small business communication?
SD: Tablets are the future. I’m convinced that, in a couple of years time, they will be as important as laptops. Quite how that will happen is hard to predict. The technology will fundamentally change over the next 24 months. If that pace continues, the capabilities of future generations will be amazing.
OB: Roaming charges often seem to be a pain point for small businesses. What is O2 doing about that?
SD: As an industry we’ll work a lot harder. We’ve very well placed to do that but it’s a difficult issue. Clearly multinationals like us have a lot more to do to integrate products. We invested in Jajah (a VoIP technology firm) and we’ve invested a colossal amount of money in further developing that technology at our innovation centre in Madrid.
OB: What are the most popular devices among small business users?
SD: Blackberry and iPhone remain really big sellers. There are still people who love a keyboard and Blackberry has a lot of good usable functions such as calendar and address books. Often the data transfer is more effective and seamless. BlackBerry tends to consume less data but iPhone has iTunes and the richness of the App Store. BlackBerry is starting to give them a run for their money on that score though.
iPhone is ultimately the pub table test champion. There is still a strong base of Nokia users out there in business. The tsunami that is Android is not really understood in the UK. As a public in the UK we like convenience and that’s what Apple is giving us.
OB: What is the most frequent thing small businesses ask you for?
SD: The biggest thing customers tend to ask for is to be kept informed. They want to make sure they’re getting the best deal, the best technology and are getting the most out of it. I sense that there’s often a disproportionate fear that they’re falling behind when the reality is that they’re probably not. They also want help. They want the benefits the technology can give them without grief.
Do you have questions you’d like to ask Simon? Join our Twitter interview with him on Monday March 14 at 13:00 where he’ll be answering your questions live – follow Twitter.com/o2.