One of the few companies in the world which really understands the senior market for mobile phones is Bazile Telecom based in Aix-En-Provence near Marseille in southern France.
I was lucky enough to meet one of the founders Yves Morel in their offices last week. What makes Bazile special is the Prestige service. This gives 24/7 access to an operator who can provide a number of services from calling an ambulance to ordering flowers, a bit like the concierge services you get with a Nokia Vertu phone or a posh credit card. What’s even better is the operator can connect you to a number. Either ask them to dial a particular number or select from a pre-defined phonebook. You can give them as many numbers as you like. You might just say “please call my brother”, although of course you’d have to do it in French.
The Prestige service is available on a wide range of Doro phones and a couple of Nokias but what makes it really special is the phone Bazile has designed called the Bazile Prestige. This is a one-button phone. Press the single button and it calls the operator. It’s almost the simplest phone ever built, I say “almost” because there is a century old pre-cursor, the candlestick telephone where you picked it up and spoke to an operator. Because the Bazile Prestige is a mobile phone it’s a little more complicated than a Candlestick and, while it doesn’t have a dial or a display, it does speak to you to let you know that you have a signal and decent battery life.
The Prestige service is also available on the Doro phones where pressing the assistance button calls the operator. This fits in well with Doro’s view that the button should not just be seen as something you press in an emergency.
The company name comes from the name of the figurehead Bazile translates to Basil as in Brush or Fawlty but without the same connotations in France. It has more gravitas as a name that older, more distinguished people have and a new name for young children. I guess this is more like Henry.
Bazile concentrates on service rather than price, it’s contract only and the per-minute cost is quite high for France, particularly since there is a new super-cut price operator. The emphasis on service has stood Bazile well and the company has continued to grow in the face of the stiff competition.
I very much enjoyed meeting Yves, his passion for building business around service and doing the socially right thing is infectious.
Operators who worry about their public image, and who are struggling to differentiate their services in a time when the internet companies are treating them as utilities could learn an awful lot from him.