Do businesses get a fair deal on mobile?

The mobile market is a very competitive one. As we brace ourselves for Christmas, we can expect to ourselves showered with special offers as vendors and providers try to make sure that their product is the one under the tree.

 That’s certainly the case for the consumer market: we’ve see initiatives this month from O2 and Vodafone that have been aimed at attracting new customers – and, more pertinently, keeping their old ones.  But what of the business market? Are business buyers being left out of things? Are the mobile phone producers doing enough to encourage them to make purchases?

 Most definitely says Vodafone UK’s director of small business, Stuart Rowley. “We’re constantly innovating: whether that’s by bringing new technology such as unified communications or IoT to businesses or by creating offers and plans that mean firms both large and small can get the most out of their mobile service. As an example, earlier this year we launched a new range of mobile solutions custom-made for those running small businesses with up to nine employees, many of whom rely on mobile services to keep connected to their customers, suppliers and staff. “

 In some ways, businesses are already ahead of the game. They will have much savvier purchasing departments, run by people who cognizant with all aspects of contracts. So, it’s not likely that, for example, we’d see the same amount of over-paying that was reported by Citizens Advice last month, or see examples of holiday-makers hit by bills for thousands of pounds as they have not understood the implications of roaming,

 “I think the business market is less dependent on, or attracted by drama,” says Bryan Betts, analyst with Freeform Dynamics, “Sure, drama gets headlines but it's a consumer thing. Plus the biggest rip-offs have been linked to individual contracts that bundled in handsets, which isn't necessarily how businesses buy phones.

 It’s also true that while consumer plans are highly price sensitive, business deals may be more dependent on other factors. For example, says Rowley, customers can select the support which is right for their business. The plans offer a range of business-focused features such as: damage insurance with Vodafone Rapid including 4-hour phone replacement, or there’s the Business Premier tariff, where a data-share SIM is included.”

Businesses can still change

As can be seen from these sort of products, what’s more important to these customers is the variety of services on offer – there’s little mention of price. While it’s true that no business is going to pay more than it has to – and small businesses In particular will keep a tight grip on the bottom line - savings of a few pounds won’t be high on the CFO’s agenda: parents may be able to turn off their teenagers’ international roaming when they go abroad, but that’s not going to be appropriate for a C-level executive.

Individuals can go without a phone for a few days , even teenagers -although in normal circumstances they have to be surgically detached – but for businesses, mobiles are a lifeblood. “A mobile is no longer just used to call or text a customer or colleague on the go. It’s possible to run your business from a mobile device and from anywhere, and there are a huge range of cloud-based business apps out there to help businesses do just that,” says Rowley

Given this dependency, there would need to be pressing reasons to make a change. That’s not to say the companies will always be happy with the way that things are. There will always be deals or a better range of services on the table: the knack will be finding them.

 As Betts points out “Business users should benefit too but it's going to happen slowly - or slower - not least because businesses are usually tied into longer-term contracts. It's also harder for businesses to change than it is for consumers, whether because of the bureaucracy or simply because it's seen as somebody else's problem.”

 Vodafone is looking to address this issue by offering a degree of flexibility. “We’ve adapted the One Net Business solution so SMEs can buy the fixed communication element of the service first, depending on where they are with their mobile contract. This means it’s easy for businesses to link their mobiles into the system when the time is right for them,” says Rowley.

 Although companies such as Vodafone are looking to extend their offerings, it’s not to say the business purchasers should be complacent. While we’re not going to see business deals bandied about this Christmas, it could be time to take stock and look what’s around.

 And just because you’re an established business. it doesn’t mean everything is as good as it could be. as Betts explains, there’s always room for improvement. “If you've got a good purchasing department and a serious number of phones you should have a pretty good deal already. But this is a good opportunity to see if there's more savings to be had.”

Maybe Father Christmas will be calling at a few businesses after all.