Optus opens 126 small business specialist stores, SMB call centre

Optus is kicking off an SMB support campaign through the introduction of more than 100 specialist stores, a call centre, and improved support services.

Optus has announced opening 126 small and medium-sized business (SMB) specialist stores as well as an SMB call centre in Adelaide as part of a renewed focus on supporting small business owners across the country.

The telecommunications provider already had 26 business centres, and will also introduce "premium" support services for SMBs in order to "show that we're the small business support network", managing director of Optus Small Business Rob Parcell said.

Optus has also employed a greater number of Business Specialists to provide advice and assistance.

"Many SMB operators are time-poor and want access to quality service around the clock. Whilst many are happy to visit our stores for a fast transaction off-the-shelf, we know others require a premium level of service to help them grow, and we're committed to delivering that," Parcell said.

"Most small businesses owners don't work 'nine-to-five'. They conduct their business from their home, the front seat of a van, or a shared innovation space. They need access to a reliable, high-speed connection to the world and an expert team who understands their unique communication needs."

Optus has been focusing on business owners of late; last week, it introduced Retail Assist, a mobile point-of-sale product developed in collaboration with Microsoft, HP, and Australia's major banks, which enables retailers to manage inventory, verify stock, examine stored customer information, and process sales from an in-store mobile device.

As part of this focus on SMBs, Optus is offering four small business owners a chance to win a week-long trip to the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil. Former Olympian Ian Thorpe will be leading the Olympics-SMB campaign, with Parcell noting that the partnership with Thorpe will evolve into a "whole-of-business ambassador program" in future.

"As a former athlete, I'm excited to partner with the team at Optus as they work to deliver game-changing experiences for their customers," Thorpe said.

"I'm especially looking forward to forging a strong relationship with Optus as it delivers more sports and entertainment content."

Optus in December announced a 10-year deal with the Australian Olympic team to become its "official telecommunications partner", in return providing funding for the team to travel to the Olympic Games.

While it did not disclose the amount of the deal, Optus described it as "one of the Australian Olympic Committee's biggest ever national sponsorship deals", noting that it will cost sponsors AU$23 million to send the Olympic Team to Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games.

In April, Optus similarly became the telco partner for the Australian Paralympic team under a 10-year sponsorship deal.

Optus repositioning as a multimedia company also saw it most notably acquire the exclusive rights to broadcast the English Premier League (EPL), taking the most-watched football league worldwide away from pay TV provider Foxtel.

Optus will be broadcasting the EPL exclusively to Optus mobile and fixed customers via the Fetch TV and Apple TV set-top boxes, as well as through apps, a website, a satellite service for more remote viewers, and a sub-licence with the Special Broadcasting Service, which will also see Optus broadcast the 2018 FIFA World Cup over TV and mobile devices.

In order to "reshape" its workforce, Optus announced a restructure of its Enterprise and Consumer divisions announced last month through a series of redundancies. Under the restructure, Optus will consolidate and make redundant a number of jobs, with a company spokesperson telling ZDNet that depending on "redeployment opportunities", the upper limit on the total jobs to go would be 480. CEO Allen Lew last week would not be drawn on the definite number of jobs going.

Optus on Thursday reported a net profit of AU$901 million, up 7.1 percent year on year, for the 2015-16 financial year.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) was AU$2.77 billion, up 5.6 percent, while operating revenue was AU$9.12 billion, up 3.7 percent.

Optus also announced on Monday that it is partnering with small business owner -- and actor -- Mark Wahlberg as part of its SMB campaign.

"We are working with Mark on a campaign that encourages small business operators to believe big," Parcell said.

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