Through nearly 20 years of Carrier Report Card research at both the wholesale and retail levels, network and price have tended to duke it out for the top driver of purchase among buyers. Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than in the latest edition of ATLANTIC-ACM’s North American Business Connectivity Report Card, where network performance sits atop all drivers of purchase as it has since the study’s inception. It’s also the only driver of purchase with an importance rating above the 9.0 threshold on a 1-10 scale (10 being most important), reflecting the ongoing importance of high quality, reliable communications to business operations.
Right behind network performance is network security. With more and more sensitive data thriving in networked environments as ones and zeros, and more and more apps sourced from – and data stored in – remote locations, network security has emerged as its own vital driver of purchasing decisions. This driver surged ahead of price in importance in 2009 and has remained there ever since.
Any time price is not the top driver of purchase, operators should nonetheless approach pricing strategies with caution. Not only is price always nipping at the heels of the top spot, it represents one half of the value equation and often is the chief component in perceived value.
We introduced “ease of doing business” as a new component to our survey this year, and it debuted at the number four spot (of 13 drivers). “Ease of doing business” represents the net level of difficulty customers experience in dealing with their providers. Are contracts difficult to execute? Does a provider’s right hand know what its left hand is doing? Is paperwork excessive or lost? Do sales people respond quickly? Is information available online? Does service turn up on time? This category encompasses some other components we measure separately but includes the ever-vital measurement of customer frustration. When all is said and done, is your company easy to do business with? Given the importance customers assign to this question, it should be.
Rounding out the top five drivers this year are customer-service reps. Beneath the surface of this driver, we measure customer service on two fronts — professionalism and technical skills. While midsize-and-under service providers outscored large service providers on both measures, buyers on average rated customer-service reps higher in professionalism than in technical skills. Since numerous services include ranges of technical choices, companies with representatives who can provide clear and simple alternatives, and the required engineering backup, will increasingly win the competitive bids. Demand for technical skills presents an ongoing training challenge, but no one said it would be easy.
This analysis orginally appeared at the ATLANTIC-ACM blog at B/OSS Magazine.