What is your name and your organisation?
Robert Akehurst, bOnline

What is your role at bOnline?
Head of Product

How long have you been working for bOnline/been in the industry?
I originally joined bOnline in 2012 as a developer. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to grow along with the company and take on many more responsibilities.

As Head of Product, I am now responsible for our product roadmap, ensuring we are in touch with our customers’ needs and leading continuous improvement of our core products.

What are the key trends that you are experiencing currently in the market?
As the market shifts to a younger generation, we need to consider how younger users make purchasing decisions.
Digital buying is changing. 52% of SMEs want to buy online without talking to anyone. Self-signup is showing a growth in users wanting an online sales journey rather than talking to a salesperson.

What do you see as the main industry challenges at present?
I remember growing up with TV advertisements about the terrestrial TV to digital switchover and helplines to make sure individuals aren’t left without TV. Awareness of the PSTN switch-off is nowhere near this level and many customers will be left in a last-minute scramble.

If there was one thing in the industry you would change or want to resolve, what would it be?
Number porting is a logistical and operational obstacle. For many new customers, this can be a barrier to onboarding. The number porting process needs to be seamless and easy from the customer’s perspective.

What opportunities do you foresee for the sector?
There are opportunities in simplifying the customer journey and creating a simple and easy UX, giving small businesses a solution that just works but can easily be customised to their own business needs.

What benefits do you get out of Comms Council UK membership?
Keeping up to date with political, economic, technological, environmental, and legal factors affecting our industry. It’s also beneficial to receive shared knowledge and input from industry experts.