Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Selling SMS Services in Australia

One of the key challenges faced by our sales team in Australia is selling on the benefits of reliability and availability. It seems there are still a lot of people who consider these generally less important when choosing and SMS service provider, price is what it's all about.

The UK market was like this a couple of years ago. But we've seen a definite shift towards customers using selection criteria that include reliability and availability more recently. Notably several customers who left us for a keener priced service and come back finding it didn't meet their requirements.

In these early days, price was everything it was about proving business cases and trying out ideas. This isn't critical to my business, why do I need to pay for a UK routed service when I can buy it more cheaply off-shore.

These services typically used off-shore routes taking advantage of lax interconnect policies to submit messages to subscribers on the UK operators without paying interconnect fees (3p between UK operators and possibly more internationally). The UK operators soon started closing these routes with AA19 Interconnect Agreements, effectively pricing the off-shore routes out of the market.

As the price went up, people started to notice the intermittant nature, or total lack, of delivery receipts.

The non-GMT timestamps (the time the message is marked as sent is that of the sending SMSC and not the destination) became an irritating source of confusion.

The availability of these systems were constraining business processes that had come to rely on the delivery and/or receipt of SMS messages.

We've always built our service around the best quality routes for send and receiving messages ensuring delivery receipts are available, timestamps are correct and the system is available. It did take a while for the the UK market to realise that we had a point.

Recently in Australia, Telstra seemed to have blocked one of the key offshore routes in used by many of the budget SMS providers.

Most likely this was due to high levels of spam. Cheap routes make it economic for SMS spam to be carried. The problem for legitimate traffic also using this route is that the operator will just block everything, irrespective of content. Another way availability can suffer.

This kind of incident is obviously great news for Esendex and companies like us who provide quality services. Telstra is educating the market about the true cost of using off-shore routes far more effectively than any sales pitch from us.

Not everyone can justify a quality service straight away, back to trialling, proving business cases, etc. The problem is they come to rely on the service more quickly than they expect and when it goes wrong, things get messy.

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