Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Business Strategy for Service Providers

From the 2018 FISPA LIVE Show Guide is my article about Business Strategy for Service Providers.

Join me for two sessions on Wed., 2/7/17 at FISPA LIVE:  Bundling to Compete and How to Have Your Best Year Ever!

For many years I have been chanting Layer 1 or Layer 7. In other words, either own the network (OSI Layer 1 – the copper, the fiber or the airwaves) or own the customer at the desktop. Layer 7 was my way of saying software – SaaS or Managed IT or UC or Virtual Desktop. Legacy ISPs have
provided their value-add at the data link (Layer 2) or network (Layer 3) layer. This resale model is difficult and not very profitable.

Since then, many members of FISPA have embraced a hybrid business model of resale, fixed wireless, fiber and managed services, combining several OSI layers.

Today, the business strategy of a service provider has to be about the Customer Experience (CX). Service delivery by the Big Guys is as automated as they can make it. That provides great benefits to the cost of service delivery, but it wreaks havoc on customer service.

“Profits follow customer satisfaction, not the other way around,” wrote famous management consultant Peter Drucker. The strategy should be to have a culture of caring. As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast.”

A few years ago Rackspace and Zappos were the talk of the business world due to Rackspace’s Fanatic Support and Zappos’ CEO touring the country about culture and happiness. Comcast and AT&T have yet to embrace any of those mantras. But that is good for you!

If you look at the UCaaS sector as an example, there isn’t a provider that stands out for service delivery. That could be the differentiation point for that sector and would result in decent word of mouth, the best social marketing you can get.

The Customer Experience in telecom is pretty awful after the contract is inked. It is at these points when you win or lose future business. Even if they stay through the contract, the bad taste in their mouth from poor customer experience will be with them. The big complaint during a network outage isn’t the outage itself; customers understand that. It is the lack of communications that is the issue. Customers seek clear communications acknowledging the outage, the estimated repair time, etc. That goes into CX.

Every touch of the customer goes into CX – from the installer cleaning up after himself to the billing admin’s friendly demeanor. On and on at each touch point is a chance to keep or lose a customer. It is also an opportunity to turn a customer into a brand evangelist. An evangelist will tell people about your service.

It doesn’t matter if you are an MSP, VAR, ISP or fiber operator, re-examine each customer touch point. One reason is to ensure that the processes and procedures are written down. Another reason is to get input from the people who work at that junction to provide feedback on ways to remove friction (and perhaps add some awesomeness).

Each touch-point is a chance to keep or lose a customer, and an opportunity to turn a customer into a brand evangelist that will tell people about your service. Current business strategies include customer feedback loops – for instance, implement a Board of Customers.

Internally, ensure that processes and procedures are documented, and create operational teams to get input from employees who work at every customer contact point (personal, phone, email, websites, portals and customer contact systems). Implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system that all departments and all employees must use will increase your knowledge base on each customer, and empower employees to provide a better CX. Be sure to monitor social media and proactively provide feedback (and increase market awesomeness). It’s little things that end up being major: Follow-up emails; handwritten thank you notes; clear, simple communications; and follow-through are the hallmarks of customer experience, and the keys to future sales.

As Zig Ziglar said, “Sales is helping!”

If you design a culture of customer experience, sales will increase. Taking friction out of the way for customers will streamline some processes. Just the exercise of looking at all these touch points – of the whole service delivery process – will provide some upside. And it is all upside when you have a strategy to make the customer experience better.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

ISP Table Stakes

What has become table stakes for ISPs?

On fiber, it has to be 100MB minimum.

Any service has to offer enough throughput so Netflix doesn't buffer.

The wi-fi, which the consumer cannot separate from the Internet pipe, has to work really well. This is a problem when the household has more than a dozen devices connected to an AP. Even AT&T has proclaimed, "Improving the in-home Wi-Fi experience has become ‘table stakes’ in the competitive broadband marketplace."

Google’s Chromecast and Home devices can cause temporary Wi-Fi outages, here’s why.

If you are going to FISPA LIVE, come see Marketing: Bundles to Compete.

Monday, January 15, 2018

East Coast assets of FiberLight were finally sold!

The East Coast assets of FiberLight were finally sold, according to Ramblings (and notes in an investor report by Atlantic Broadband owner, Cogeco).

FiberLight's history dates back to 1993 when the original assets were founded as ASCI. ASCI went on to became e.spire. In 2002, after another management buy-out, it became Xspedius Fiber Group. This company later spun out the fiber division as FiberLight in 2005 after yet another PE firm change.

Interesting to me: Atlantic Broadband purchased several dark fibres throughout south Florida from FiberLight, LLC for a consideration of US$16.8 million.

So an IRU cost that much now.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Get the Most out of the Trade Show

How do you maximize your benefits from a trade show?

Here are some simple tips to follow:

  1. Register early to get the best rate.
  2. Stay at the host hotel because you will run into more folks than if you are commuting to your hotel.
  3. Research travel arrangements - like airfare, cabs, buses, Uber, whatever. How expensive is parking?
  4. Have plenty of business cards [In fact, order some now at MOO!]
  5. What is your Goal? What two or three things do you need to take away from this show for it to be positive?
  6. Plan in Advance. Check to see what sponsors and speakers will be there. What sessions look interesting? Mark your calendar!
  7. For the biggest impact vendors like to have a booth or table. See about opportunities to sit on a panel. This gives you a little bit of spotlight.
  8. Bring two pairs of comfortable shoes and wear them on alternate days.
  9. Wear your badge in plain site. 
  10. Be sure to follow up with new contacts and vendors after the show. 
  11. Note anything interesting in a notebook (or a note taking app like Evernote). 
  12. Carry a pen or 2! 

Lately, some folks just take a photo of my business card - or quickly add me to LinkedIn. I still take notes on business cards  (hence the pens)

Good thought:  Take a moment after the show to make note of any exhibits or displays that you thought were particularly effective. What did they do that you could implement in your own company's marketing campaign?

Dinner:  Having a meal is a bonding experience. I always have dinner gatherings at shows. You can too. Many attendees have no plans, so inviting folks to dinner (even a Dutch treat) will quickly make you a friend.

Peter Shankman has some interesting things to add.

We'll see you in New Orleans on Feb 5-7 for FISPA LIVE and the following week on 2/13-2/16 at ITEXPO + CVX Expo + SDWAN in Ft Lauderdale.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

About Talent (Especially Millennials)

FISPA wanted me to do a talk on Millennials but I just don't have enough real world experience except in the startup world. But NYU Professor Scott Galloway does a good job of giving some advice on managing Millennials. Despite that it is about Retail, the data can be extrapolated to your business as well.

Enjoy this podcast

Friday, December 15, 2017

Are We at the End of Broadband Growth?

Are We at the End of Broadband Growth? is a blog post from Doug. Nut it leads me to speculate that one reason the Duopoly fought so hard to repeal Net Neutrality was that all their pies are full - voice, video/TV, broadband, and cellular. There isn't much growth left.

It is a game of take away now. That is an expensive game for customer acquisition.

Every recast contract is a write down since customers now want twice the speed for less money than they did 3 years ago.

The Duopoly (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter/Spectrum, Frontier, Altice) want to increase ARPU, but in cellular there is too much competition. T-Mobile and Sprint bring too much price pressure to bear. And they have to spend billions on 5G build out.

Despite having to lay tons of fiber, broadband rates are stagnant as well. Hence, the reason for all the hidden fees.

Something to think about.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Small Business Bundling for MSPs

I have been on a kick to change the sameness of bundling. Bundles are ways to increase ARPU, attract a client base and reduce churn. Bundling exactly as the Duopoly doesn't exactly help you.

There is a SMB survey about cloud challenges.

"Although cloud services have gone mainstream, some entrepreneurs and SMBs still have lingering concerns about SaaS and other on-demand IT services. Indeed,

21 percent said cost was a barrier to implementing a cloud-based solution;
53 percent said security was an issue; and
another 46 percent named workflow disruption as a problem."

They want to hire people to remove the tech from their workflow. It is an art to provide technology without it being a burden for the users.

Here are a couple of MSP service offerings that I noticed recently

"MSP Platforms: Uplevel Systems, provider of an SMB management appliance for MSPs, has launched Secure SMB Suite. First, a little background: Uplevel’s SMB appliance, which supports up to 25 employees, already integrates networking, VPN, WiFi, storage, security and remote management capabilities. Now, the expanded Secure SMB suite includes enhanced firewall and intrusion prevention system (IPS) capabilities, protection against ransomware and real-time threat intelligence to secure every facet of managed IT services, the company says."

"Managed Workplace’s Evolution: Avast continues to enhance Managed Workplace, the RMM platform first developed by Level Platforms. Avast acquired Managed Workplace as part of last year’s AVG purchase. Fast forward to present day, and the brand is now called Avast Business Managed Workplace. Eager adopters apparently include Integrated Enterprise Solutions, an MSP in New York. The company leverages the RMM platform and its integration with CloudCare — a free, cloud-based endpoint security administration platform."

BTW, if you use Autotask and Slack, look here!

One more idea: Managed Wi-fi!