10 Techniques for seducing Roaming Partners*
and 10 mystery cities…
Can you guess the famous cities of the attached images? The top ten people to write to firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answers will win a prize. Answers to be announced on June 1st. All photographs taken by ROCCO HQ.
This article lists 10 techniques which can be used to get Roaming Partners to sign Roaming Agreements with you. Seduction may not sound like the right word for the skill needed to get other Operators to be your partner, but what we really mean here is that you have to “win them over” to your way of thinking. This article is intended to help you get your roaming agreements signed and launched quick!
If you are reading this in London, Tokyo, Rome or New York you may as well go back to your Caffe Latte because there is very little I can tell you folks about the art of seduction. You all live in cities which for decades have been key roaming destinations, with top attractions and hundreds of Inbound Roamers you can easily get any agreement that you want. However if you are in one of the worlds least favourite destinations, or small somewhat insignificant islands you will know exactly what I mean when I say…. Attracting Roaming partners to work with you and to launch quickly is very hard work.
Number 10: Join Industry Associations
The Basic Technique: Join Industry Associations such as the GSMA. It maybe an obvious one but there are a handful operators using confidential documents who are not members of the Industry Associations and the Operators who are Members of these associations usually know who they are.
If your not a member of Industry Associations then you should start with this (If you don’t know how to get all of this started, you can contact the them directly or drop me a line at my contact details below). Get your membership and start looking at the conditions and obligations you must follow to be a Member, the Roaming Agreement documentation doesn’t even start to cover your obligations.
The Seduction: Be an active participant in Industry Associations. This means you should go to their meetings, understand the documents discussed at them and raise useful points or even start producing documents.
This works because your potential Roaming partners have visibility of you and this means that your company is serious about the Roaming Business and will probably be very professional when forming agreements and making commitments for testing. This is a super important.
If your boss is not convinced of this methodology, then identify your top ten high revenue Roaming Partners and identify which meetings they will attend. He or she will soon see how attending Industry Association meetings will not only speed up launching with these partners (great networking opportunities) but how attending meetings will give you training on all kinds of operational issues.
We noted from our How we do Roaming in 2015 Survey that many people still believe in the GSMA as a source of networking. So don’t hesitate to make use of their meetings.
Number 9: Cultural Awareness
These days the world is getting smaller, travel in general simply feels more possible than its ever been before. But we don’t all get to travel as much as we might like, especially for important business and sometimes this is not wise but we have to live with it and understand our companies bigger picture.
The majority of Roaming teams in GSMA Operators don’t get to travel or experience roaming. So some imagination is needed to get the relationships progressing and build rapport from the comfort of your desk. We all need to be multi-culti these days and its a time investment that saves time and pays off tremendously well.
The Basic Technique: Approach each Roaming Partner with an awareness of their culture. This means that you have to imagine yourself travelling in their culture. What is it like? How do they do things? Whats unique or admirable about their culture? Talk to them about it. Tell them how important it is to your Roamers and how interesting it will be when they can Roam to that country.
The Seduction: Greet and thank your Roaming Partners in their own language. This may seem difficult, but it is not really. You can easily download a list of the web of how to say hello, goodbye and thank you in over 400 languages. Make a point of personalising your greeting to each partner so that your request will be remembered and rewarded with an answer. They will thank you for your efforts even if your entire message is not in their language.
This works because your potential Roaming partners will remember you and if you have performed well, this means that your request is going to be prioritised and treated differently from others. Let us just remember that our colleagues working in other Operators may have a priority list to work to, but they will also have their own favourite people in the Roaming Partners they like to work with. Be one of them.
Number 8: Sociability
“Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, friend to one, enemy to none” – Benjamin Franklin
Being sociable is a skill that some of us have naturally and others clearly lack. Sometimes the last thing on earth you might want to do is contact someone from a different culture and try and bond with them.
I used to have a Roaming Coordinator working for me who had this exact problem. He found it painful to follow up with Roaming Partners and typically would complain about why they weren’t contacting him back. He was clearly uncomfortable with chatting to them and it came across to the people he contacted, creating an awkwardness instead of building rapport.
Sociability is a hurdle because it usually requires openness that some people or cultures find extremely challenging.
There’s a value in the way you socialize that is tremendously powerful to the delivery of projects. Play the role well and I guarantee you that you will get the kind of results that you need to reach your targets.
The Basic Technique: Get yourself connected to the GSMA Infocentre 2 and build your community of contacts in Roaming Partners through this tool. You should also have a Linked-in profile that may help you to find the right contacts too.
This works because you become more visible towards your Roaming Partners and you start to build relationships that you can draw on in times of need.
The Seduction: This is easy, in a world where no one has the time to make a personal approach; the one communication technique that never seems to fail especially when combined with persistence is the telephone.
We are in mobile communications, put your important Roaming Partners on your speed dial and give them a weekly call. Don’t be a nuisance but make a conscious effort to call them at a specific time each week, they will start to expect your call and perhaps they will even prepare for it.
I used to work with a brilliant IREG Manager who lived in Manchester England, she had the idea to send a small present (from her own personal money!) from Manchester United Football Club to her important Roaming Partners, as you can expect she stood out from the crowd with this approach and she got all her IREG targets met quickly and made some good colleagues around the world.
This works because it not only builds a relationship with the Roaming Partner which may help in future requirements you may have but it also just gets the project (Roaming Agreements are individual projects and don’t forget it) moving faster.
This industry is built on relationships. Now I know that making a special effort like this takes time, but the results of this extra effort demonstrates to your manager that the time taken to build relationships will in effect speed up the overall delivery of your Roaming Agreements.
Number 7: RAEX
These days we’re tuned differently to receive information. Our processing powers are more sophisticated. Information was KING but now if information is not easy to consume and relay then simply the process stops.
In the Roaming world the kind of formal information received from less experienced Operators is quite concerning, it may be out of date, contain the wrong contact details or not even be fully complete. Documentation packs are a great idea provided all the information is relevant but it’s rarely the case that a Roaming Partner gets all the information they need in a single e-mail, meaning they have to follow up. Following up is another process were going to talk about later in this series of articles.
In other words get it right first time.
But it’s more than that. Think about what we really want. When Operators decided to invent a processing solution for key Roaming data (RAEX) it was through a common need to process quicker and easier Roaming information. In an ideal world there would be no documentation; i would send you and XML file containing all my information on forming an agreement with you (contract included) and you would be able to act quickly to consume and process that information (like a machine to machine device). But alas we’re not quite there yet.
The Basic Technique: Ensure that you provide as much useful and relevant documentation as possible in your initial mail.
IR.21, AA.14 are necessary documents and should be up-to-date at all times. Ensure all contacts, phone numbers and e-mail addresses are valid and tested. Always use the latest versions of these GSMA documents.
The Seduction: Find a way to exchange with your Roaming Partner all the information needed in a consumable format. Make sure your IR.21 and AA.14 IOT and OpData are RAEX Compliant. If the documents are in RAEX format they can be pulled into local databases easily and this allows the operator to run specific reports which create efficiency for them. There are some operators who may even refuse you if you don’t use RAEX.
Provide in your infopack a document which gives an executive summary of your network. Present your network well, building a story of your unique selling points. Provide coverage information or links to coverage information especially for LTE/4G.
This works because good communication is a great time saver and time optimiser to any Roaming project. A well presented Documentation pack gives a clear message to a Roaming Partner that you as a new operator are professional and mean to do business in an efficient and organised way, setting the right tone for a fruitful long term Roaming relationship.
Check out our article on 50 Reasons for RAEX
Number 6: Planning
In Europe the Regulators recently raised a demand upon Operators under Regulation to offer SLA’s to ARPs (Alternative Roaming Providers) in order to guarantee service levels between all three parties in the delivery chain for Roaming.
This caught my attention because service levels as formal as this have never been requested before between Operators in the Roaming scenario. Commercial demands an customer complaints tend always to get the attention of Operators and generate action in scenarios where service fails or response times are not adequate enough. However when working as a Roaming Manager it always concerned me just how unequipped Operators were to respond when SLA’s are not formally agreed in contracts. I recall such a fault case when one of my roaming partners lost their GPRS coverage for two weeks and were completely unresponsive to my customers needs (i got a second network in that country and steered traffic to the new partner asap).
This situation needed to be explained because its quite unique and important for this industry and should be understood in context of my recommendations below.
The Basic Technique: Roaming agreement provision or delivery is rarely run like a project, but thats no reason why an Operator faced with a challenging delivery with a Roaming Partner shouldn’t put some project planning in place and set an SLA for actions taken towards the Roaming Partner.
Following up is naturally important to guarantee responsiveness from your Roaming Partner. You should consider that as a basic principal. Unless YOU follow up then the “project” WILL NOT be delivered.
Get on the phone! Follow up on regular intervals (for example try every Tuesday morning at 10am). Treat your delivery of the Roaming Agreement like a project you must attend even if you’re the only one in the meeting.
The Seduction: Create a project plan and SLA for your responsiveness and delivery and then beat it.
Map out timelines for contract delivery, testing dates, and launch. Tell the Roaming Partner the schedule your working to and that you will respond within 24 hours whenever they contact you. But you won’t respond in 24 hours you will respond in 12 hours or less (because that’s the kind of quality of service your Roaming Partner can expect when working with you).
This works because they will be impressed with your professionalism, meticulous approach to delivery of the agreement and most importantly, they will know that when they have time to deliver an agreement with you, that you will be there waiting and reactive to their needs.
Number 5: Traffic
“What have you got for me”?
Isn’t that how you would like to put it. Let’s cut to the chase, traffic is one of the most important factors (but not the number 1) to a Roaming Partner when faced with a beauty contest of Operators wanting their attention and it can get action fast. Inbound Roaming Traffic represents in many ways the financial factor since it signifies pure and simply what revenues can be made from a Roaming Partner.
If your coverage area isn’t significant or you haven’t rolled out all the services you would like, taking about your Outbound traffic is a big plus.
We will get into discounts later in this series, but in general terms a Roaming Partner is going to look at your traffic as pure standard IOT inbound revenue, which normally comes at very little cost to them as they have already built their Mobile network for their own customers and inviting your customers to visit their network is just like having a paying guest in your own home (your bills are already paid and a little bit of extra cash never hurt anyone).
The Basic Technique: Provide Traffic figures. How many Roamers you have and what are their habits. Normally if you’ve planned your Roaming Roll-out plan well and your customers are influencing your decision about which Roaming Partners to work with, then it’s probably clear to you the benefits of working with Roaming Partners in a specific country. But don’t just leave it to chance, find out from your Marketing department who the customers are and what traffic they suspect they have and tell your Roaming Partners when you first contact them.
This works because it simply adds value to your Roaming Agreement, because if you have good traffic, the estimated financial benefits will probably be several times greater than the costs incurred in resources for testing and opening the agreement.
Traffic is simply Roaming accounting, ensure there’s win win profit.
The Seduction: Make a breakdown of traffic by pre-pay v post-pay, consumer v corporate. Identify what corporates you may have which your Roaming Partner also has if possible as this often makes perfect business sense.
In the case where you have a major VIP who wants to travel to that country and roam, then tell your Roaming Partner about it and drive the timescales for delivery well.
Number 4: Compliance
As Roaming people we are motivated to achieve our goals in the most efficient and accurate manner possible especially when it comes to Roaming information. So when faced with important data, our instincts are to correctly interpret and react—particularly when faced with signalling information, faults and fraud data, IOT information, Contact Details etc since an inaccurate behavior on our part could result in a great and direct loss to our company.
With that being said, people attempt to gain an accurate construal of the situation from MS word documents and files which may not optimally be easy to consume when faced with 200+ Roaming Partners and impossible to achieve well with more than 400 partners.
A big cheer for all those Roaming people out there who are the captains of Roaming, that as best as possible (however hard and time consuming it is to do) hold the Roaming department together, often with little acknowledgement or realisation of the efforts made to keep their ship sailing in the right direction.
It must also be said that in our industry, Roaming people are not often rewarded for acting in accordance with the beliefs, suggestions and commands of authority figures outside of their own management line, such as the GSMA and/or other community norms. Individuals are likely to comply with authority figures who are internal to their company and whose orders or actions effect directly their pay, working conditions or future career.
Typically however these internal authority figures are not close to our industries binding processes, or may not believe that they need to take action, that it will effect them reputationally or may have a financial benefit (since often the benefits are construed to be low or hard to calculate). In many cases they don’t see the opportunities to take their Roaming department forwards by investing a little and gaining simple returns in efficiency gains and increased productivity.
I don’t really know of any network globally who isn’t going to be interested in further productivity for their Roaming department; however many operators still find themselves “non compliant” to Industry requirements simply because they aren’t aware or have other priorities.
As part of the GSMA Compliancy project which I was lucky enough to be directly involved with (and initiate, the idea was inspired by TripAdvisor, Ebay and Amazon) the GSMA now looks for Operators to self certify themselves against a number of key documents/ industry initiatives that all bring tangiable benefits not only to themselves but to all Operators. While the driver is to judge operators openly on their compliancy and create a community of compliancy heroes, the benefits of becoming complaint are not only worthy, but forward thinking and will I believe one day propel GSM Operators into a new level of productivity.
And as we stand at the wheel of our ship we can finally see our navigation efforts may be paying off, because there is light on the horizon. We have tried for years to use social psychology and influence to get industry projects off the ground. We have used words, actions or the mere presence of our attitudes and behavior to bring about a change. But the driving force behind compliance is not moral responsibility. Change in our industry may only be driven by financial impact. So today as a number of important industry Operators behind the Compliance project decided they will only work with Roaming Partners who are “compliant” we may start to see some positive changes.
The Basic Technique: I personally advise any operator to prepare internal business cases for compliancy and take immediate action. Become fully compliant to the most important rules and documentation in our industry.
The Seduction: Become more complaint than your competitors, to all the documents and be the best in your country “Premium Operator” working specifically with Operators who are also complaint. Tell your story of why you became compliant. Join an elite list of Operators who are compliant and whom most operators globally will want to work with.
This works because you will quickly get a good reputation as an Operator.
Number 3: IOT Discounts
I remember 15 years ago when deal-making didn’t really exist. We simply accepted the Inter Operator Tariff (IOT) we were offered and passed on the costs to our customers.
Cost consolidation due to mergers meant that big operator groups started to appear and those without a group formed alliances to defend themselves against these groups.
Steering capability then came along and the world changed. Every Operator started sending their minutes to the most optimal partner in terms of price, coverage and services and moving the minutes from those partners who either didn’t offer deals, good coverage or good rates.
These days deal making is not so political but more driven by true commercial strategy. IOTs remain the high value factor in the Roaming department – simply because there’s a lot of money to be saved when finding the most optimal win-win deal and because when you have all the roaming you want and your facing the financial squeeze, there are always some savings possible on wholesale rates which may allow for bigger margins in Retail.
It’s not to be underestimated that IOTs between Roaming Partners are only as good as the deals behind them but what is clear is that this is an Industry of discount deals so if you want to play in it you got to think strategically, get yourself a good deal maker and start negotiating.
The Basic Technique: Offer a small discount on what you perceive to be the IOT of your competitor (5-10% ought to do it). Under no circumstances do Operators in the same market share their IOT’s with each other so you have to experiment and try and work out the market rates yourself. To offer a discount of this kind optimally you can update your RAEX AA.14 IOT with the specific IOT you want to give and treat this as the standard IOT for everyone, or the Standard IOT for the specific partner your after. A good RAEX Agent can help you with this. All discount deals are out of scope of GSMA PRDs so there’s no use looking for guidance in their documentation.
The Seduction: Offer discounts that you know are competitive. Hire a great IOT Negotiator to help you understand the best rates offered in your market (obviously competing Operators don’t share their IOT information with eachother let alone their discounts, but) an experienced IOT Dealmaker will know what rate to pitch at depending upon the specific market, region and other deal they have made.
Making bespoke IOT discounts partner by partner can be done in RAEX AA.14 IOT but this is not common practice yet. The problem here is that AA.14 IOT is only unidirectional and not bilateral. Therefore you will need to find a great Discount deal template somehow and start working with it. GSMA have recently launched a Discount Deal template as part of AA.50 but it’s only very basic.
This works because if an operator believes they can get a better price from you than your competitor, it will be cost effective to open a Roaming Agreement with you.
In our Survey “How we do Roaming in 2015”, we were amazed to find out that 12% of Operators still did not offer IOT Discounts.
Number 2: Good Network Coverage
One of the most important pre-requisites of forming Roaming Agreements with new Operators is what coverage they offer in their territory, is it ubiquitous or does it just cover major cities or does it just cover the capital city?
Coverage comes in at number 2 in my list of most important requirements for getting Roaming Agreements because its fundamental to the success of Inbound Roaming. Let’s imagine my subscriber gets to your country and doesn’t latch onto your network. Most likely it will be because your competitor has grabbed the customer at port of entry into the country and since they have better coverage they have held them throughout their Roaming experience in your country. Quite an asset having a big network!
So the first question from your Roaming Partner will be, “is this coverage across the whole region/country/territory”? If your coverage is not great as an Operator then you have a bigger challenge than most Roaming Teams. While this is outside of your control of influence (thats for the network build team to work on), it will still be a big factor to your success in Roaming rollout.
So if your coverage is not optimal what can you do to assist your Roaming Partners to recognise this… there’s some guidance below. But before I get to that, a word or two about Coverage Information or maps.
Coverage information today as always in the history of Roaming is KING!
When we consider the situation with new generations of services we know very well we will not have ubiquitous coverage of 4G in most countries at launch. So anyone taking a 4G service from an Operator as a customer or Roaming Partner should check if the Operator is offering fallback to 2G/3G coverage, and will want some coverage information for the 4G network. On reflection this feels like the period when we first launched 2G or 2.5G/GPRS so while customers maybe prepared for this it still helps to pre-empt the request for coverage data.
There used to be a time when as part of the pack of information which was exchanged between operators was a hard copy of a coverage map. Each operator had to print coverage maps more or less indicating their coverage and cascade them to their partners.
One of my highlights as a Roaming Coordinator was receiving these beautiful maps full of colour and with the Operators logo in the corner. We used to have to file them away carefully and send them to clients on demand.
I also recall calling my national competitors every month to understand what Roaming Agreements they had launched and exchanging our results. It was significant news to know what International coverage each operator had because it was Marketing warfare (I remember being a Roaming Coordinator at the time when Cellnet finally took over the lead for International coverage from Vodafone, a significant moment in my early career).
Every Marketing department wants to have the most Global Partners!
Then in Europe the situation changed, coverage became ubiquitous, Operators would talk about 99.6% coverage and therefore the need for coverage maps was over. When we started to get discounts on IOTs and Steering of Roaming allowed us to steer traffic the need for attending to coverage maps lost significance. Numbers of agreements were increasing. Then the internet took over the need to show coverage information for us all.
But something else happened too. Operators stopped advertising how many Roaming Agreements they had and started talking about Global Coverage. Now there was really no need to express how much coverage you had by number of Operators but also by maps because the customer was told simply there was Global Coverage.
This is when in my opinion the customer started to get dissatisifed when Roaming, because the marketing message of Global Coverage was not taking into account the fact that an Operator in a third world country didn’t have ubiquitous coverage and infact only really had coverage of its capital city.
Coverage was “patchy” even in some major countries of the world. You most certainly couldn’t take your Nokia up the K2!
Today we still need good coverage information. The GSMA holds some maps contributed by Operators. The Operators Internet pages holds more detailed information. Although maybe its not scrutinised as it used to be, Coverage information/maps represent to your Roaming Partners your networks efforts to build a significant network and a network that customers will be satisfied roaming to. What it also means is that an Operator is building their network instead of cutting it (for reasons of economy) which does and can happen believe it or not.
The Basic Technique: Show your coverage at the point of the Roaming Agreement. If you’re in a developing network show how the coverage is going to be developed or deployed.
The Seduction: Know your network well. Offer detailed online coverage maps. Be aware of what areas are covered and be prepared for questions on them. Know your “network build” especially if your in a developing network. It’s also important to understand which coverage hot spots are important to customers.
Remember, as well as network fault information, if your Roaming Partners express disappointment or concern with your network coverage, pass this information on (including your lost inbound revenue figures) to your network build team, who will consider the lost roaming revenue alongside the domestic lost revenue when considering their strategy for network build.
Good knowledge and evidence of your coverage works, because if an operator believes that you have significant coverage (more or comparative to your competitor), it will be cost effective and justifiable to their team to open a Roaming Agreement with you.
In our Survey “How we do Roaming in 2015”, we were amazed to find out that 14% of Operators do not get Roaming agreements because they have poor coverage.
Number 1: Services
I spent a couple of weeks at the beginning of this series of articles deciding on what would be my number 1 technique for seducing Roaming Partners. Coverage is super important, in the future compliancy will be too, offering discounts is a must but when it comes down to ensuring the customer is satisfied I believe that every operator must ensure that they prioritise services over all else, because it is services which differentiate an Operator from its competitors and because it is services that ensure the customer can stay connected as they want.
If you don’t have services competitive in your market, you must get them. Even if you perceive their isn’t immediate demand you will see once you start talking with Roaming Partners what a differentiator services can be and how not having services will also block steering of Roaming and discount deals to your network.
Let’s take for example a new Operator entering into a market where there are already Operators. Services differentiate. I recall an Operator in Europe doing this. While the two other operators in this country were sleeping, a third operator came into the market offering all the latest services. The existing operators had not anticipated that the new operator would go beyond the existing market demand. Perhaps the market in question did not even know it could have newer services because both operators in that market didn’t want to invest in new services. The moral of the story is that services provide a competitive edge that is about investing in a customer. In the market I’m referring to, within a year or so the new operator had churned 40% of the subscribers to their market and attracted the majority of Inbound Roaming traffic.
Ok so what I’m suggesting here is not easy for a Roaming Manager to deliver as the implementation of services is a decision for the entire Network and due to domestic demands as well as Roaming demands and in economic crisis may not make sense. However the Roaming Manager is in a position to influence the rollout of services by bringing to the attention of senior management the importance to Roaming Partners of a full service capability for Roaming. Talking in actually financial terms, what losses does your network actually suffer from not opening CAMEL for example? You should know what it means financially, even if the numbers are somewhat hard to make tangible.
I read recently in an Industry Survey that actually some networks believe that Roamers are second class to their own customers. Some Operators may even want to offer a lesser service profile to Roamers in the future. This seems contradictory to Customer demands to me… do they want also their roamers to have a worse experience when Roaming on other networks? In balance, when considering the revenue benefits from Roaming, Operators may even want to consider launching services for Roamers specifically, even if their domestic customers do not demand them. It is in reality feasible and achievable to do so if an Operator wants to.
As we start to see LTE footprints emerge and the footprints start to get bigger… why wouldn’t any new network want to invest in the future to build a customer base for tomorrow as well as today. In the case of Services at launch of a new network…build everything. To translate this using the old expression… build Rome in a Day!
Let’s not forget about the opportunities that M2M brings for Roaming (but that is for another day).
The Basic Technique: Launch all services available. Start with plans to launch LTE A, LTE, 3G, CAMEL at minimum.
The Seduction: Be the first to market, offer something different, ensure that services launched are covering major locations at minimum. Consider packaging in your Wi-Fi hotspots (talk to me if you don’t know what this means).
This works because having all Services launched means that customers of all kinds, but especially Corporates can get consistent service when Roaming. This works because we all deserve the opportunity to Roam and communicate as we want and more than ever customers have a choice today not only of GSM Operators but with Wi-Fi and OTT Players.
In our Survey “How we do Roaming in 2015”, we were amazed to find out that 5% of Operators still did not have CAMEL services to offer service to Pre-pay inbound Roamers.
So there it is, the top ten techniques at least from our experience in Roaming. I think they provide a sound basis for any Roaming Department to boost their Roaming footprint and expedite their rollout. At ROCCO we now provide temporary resources for Coordination, IREG, TADIG etc and we specialise in providing resources that can help you with your strategic direction as well as help you find resources to build a permanent Roaming team for you. Why not contact us to see how we could boost your Roaming revenues, productivity and think more globally about your potential.
*Revised from our articles written in 2012 to include up to moment thoughts about Roaming in 2015 from our “How we do Roaming in 2015” Operator survey.