Former England basketball player Richard Thompson jumped at the opportunity to become TalkTalk Business Director of Partners in August in what he says is a slam dunk of an opportunity to build up the channel operation.
Thompson has been part of the TalkTalk Business team since joining as a graduate 16 years ago in Partner Sales as an Account Manager. "This was a great learning experience, right at the coal face," he stated. "When the opportunity presented itself to lead our partner business it was one I absolutely jumped at. It is the largest and most important part of our organisation and very much the growth engine of TalkTalk Business, which makes it an exciting place to work."
Prior to heading up the partner arm Thompson held a variety of senior management positions ranging from leading B2B strategy, sales operations, marketing and trading. For the last two years he worked as the Commercial Director for TalkTalk Business across all GTM channels. "My priority now is to connect with all of our partners, so I am spending a lot of time meeting with customers, understanding their challenges and seeing how we can help each other grow and win," he added. "There is a wealth of opportunity and the market is buoyant. I am also reviewing how we set ourselves up for success, where we need to invest and how we strengthen and improve."
The channel is at the forefront of TalkTalk Business's growth strategy. The company has over 800 partners and 180,000 business end users, while four million 'live' customers use its network. "I have an obsession with being easy to do business with and providing our partners with the right engagement model," stated Thompson. "Our partners are at the heart of our strategy, so it's fundamental that we provide them with data and voice services that can be consumed in a simple and reliable manner. It's important to acknowledge that we address the entire spectrum of indirect channel partners, whether a carrier or systems integrator through to a start-up."
TalkTalk Business has over 20 years experience supporting businesses of all sizes, from national retailers to sole traders. And over the last few years it has invested significantly in the core network. "In the first half of 2017 we have seen wholesale growth of 15 per cent year-on-year," noted Thompson. "The investment we have made in the network, training and collaboration with partners has seen the business make significant strides over the last 12 months. Partners can trust us with their customers' mission critical data and voice services and commit to SLAs in the knowledge that these will be met successfully. The reliability we offer is better than the industry average for Ethernet delivery and we have been leading the way with new ways of working with Openreach. This sets us apart and ensures we are constantly ahead of industry standards for Ethernet."
The company has also migrated its wholesale partners to MyNet, an online portal that allows real-time management of circuits from order through to bill. Orders can be quoted and saved for 30 days while integrated mapping functionality enables partners to see the Openreach infrastructure and the complexity of an order to better understand the options available.
"Visibility of status updates, case management and engineer notes all happens in one place, reducing complexity and enabling partners to manage their customers' expectations," added Thompson. "They can make changes quickly and easily to their account, increase bandwidth and add resilience on their circuit without having to call us. We will be adding advanced features and performance monitoring so that partners can see what we can see. By increasing transparency and enabling greater control our network starts to become their network. We also currently have MyNet APIs in trial that offer wholesale partners all the same functions but integrated within their own portals and systems."
TalkTalk Business's declared intention is to lead the access evolution as new higher bandwidth technologies come to the fore. "It is important that we are at the forefront of this curve, giving our partners and their end customers choice," commented Thompson. "Our Cloud-ready connectivity technology offers configurable multi-service access options, available across public and secure private networks, supported by a range of optional boots. The other side of the equation is voice and the transition to next generation services. Through our SIP and expanding hosted voice capability we are well placed to support our channel partners."
TalkTalk Business is an ambitious company with a DNA grounded in disrupting the market. "This will see us continue to invest in our network design and capability, product innovation and our service experience," confirmed Thompson. "Importantly, we will also look to strengthen our account management and overlay teams to support our growth.
"I am lucky to have been given numerous opportunities to grow and develop while at TalkTalk. When I originally left Partner Sales I took on a strategy project to lead a five year plan for TalkTalk Business. It was a hugely challenging and rewarding experience which taught me a lot, but also gave me the confidence to broaden my channel ambitions."•