In the telecoms world there’s always been a hard line between B2B and B2C services – often to the detriment of customers. This line means that different companies or divisions within a large digital service provider (DSP) target these markets with different products and price plans, and using very different supporting infrastructures (billing, CRM, provisioning etc). If the line between postpaid and prepaid customers was hard, then the line between business offerings and consumer offerings is even harder and higher.

Since the Digital Economy is shaking up the business market, it’s time to re-consider whether these divisions are still relevant and helpful.

At a very high level we could argue that customers are customers, and ultimately we’re still selling to, and supporting, human beings. However, this doesn’t take into account that these two markets are currently managed and perceived very differently. The complexity of corporate accounts, and the products and solutions some businesses demand, mean that the separation has persisted.

But this structure was established in a very different time, when people worked in offices and industrial sites, and IT allocated the spending centrally. In the last ten years we’ve seen an increasing number of trends that have shaken up the business market:

  • more people are working at home
  • there are more contractors who work for a firm for short lengths of time
  • there are more mobile workers and people are spending more of their time commuting
  • IT decision-making is being decentralised and we’ve seen the advent of BYOD (bring-your-own-device), BYOA (bring-your-own-application) and BYON (bring-your-own-network)
  • business applications are now available as-a-service
  • tech-savvy employees expect a more consumer-like experience of instant access to IT and telecoms resources they need
  • there are a growing number of microbusinesses and more people running hobby businesses due to the tools and platforms that are now available for them to do so easily.

Changes like these have blurred the lines between consumer and business markets at the lower end. Today, business and consumer services are seen as being twin personas of the same customer. These changes are also affecting larger enterprises, although this market has been slower to change.

But what does this mean in terms of experience?

Just as the artificial divide between prepaid and postpaid services is not customer-centric and means DSPs are losing out on opportunities, too hard a divide between B2B and B2C services risks the same. In many cases, small businesses perceive no benefit to opting into business services and thus DSPs lose out on addressing their needs better, since they are ‘hidden in plain sight’ amongst consumers.

Likewise, there are some types of consumer who may wish to opt into certain types of ‘business’ service and be willing to pay for that, but the option is not made available to them. (eg gamers may pay for a better network experience and service level guarantees)

Rather than thinking in terms of predefined ‘buckets’ of offerings, DSPs should provide a spectrum of service offerings and allow customers to opt into those services that fit their needs. There should be no hard lines if customers want to add additional services. And no prejudice as to who is permitted to buy a service. Instead, buying should be made easier. It is not up to the DSP to dictate what a customer buys, provided they can afford it and any dependencies are addressed.

Quality of experience is itself a product, which is something that successful DSPs will remember. They will also stop thinking  in terms of B2B and B2C but rather think in terms of the quality of experience spectrum and how they structure themselves to meet the evolving needs of customers without placing artificial barriers in the way.

Posted by Teresa Cottam

Teresa helps B2B service providers improve their commercial results and the customer experience they deliver through research, insight and analysis that builds effective strategy. She is a judge of the GSMA GloMo's for customer experience and enterprise innovation, and for the UK Cloud awards. You can follow her on Twitter @teresacottam

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