Cable Show 2011: MSOs Focused on Retaining Business Customers

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Chicago - After years of building up its small business customer base, MSOs are now increasing their efforts on retaining those commercial customers with beefed up customer service and new product offerings.
At a Wednesday panel session at the Cable Show here entitled "What Customers Want: Tailoring Services to Fit Unique Business Needs," Accenture partner John Hanson said the amount businesses spend on telecom services each year in North America is expected to grow 11.4% from $114 billion in 2011 to $127 billion by 2014.
Cox Business senior vice president Phil Meeks said that there is still room for growth in the market - Cox passed the $1 billion business services revenue milestone last year and expects to double its market share in the business space within the next six years. Meeks said that in addition to traditional business voice and data services, Cox is looking at emerging opportunities such as managed communications services.
"There is plenty of runway in the small marketplace," Meeks said.
Other operators are giving managed services a hard look, particularly because it serves a need for very small business that may not have the expertise or the manpower to manage their own networks. And by delivering quality services to those customers for a number of years, MSOs have established a track record and a trust with customers.
Charter Business corporate vice president Jim McGann said that small business customers expect their service providers to be the experts in the services they are providing. And that has helped in customer retention efforts.
McGann said that Charter Business views retaining a customer to be just as important as winning a new one. He added that as part of those efforts, Charter Business is moving towards improving the customer experience and making it easier for them to do business with Charter. Along those lines, Charter is allowing small business customers to buy and activate services totally online.
On the customer service side, Charter Business created a customer retention management organization whose goal it is to reach out three times a year to each customer.
McGann said the effort has had a "pretty good impact" on customer churn.
Time Warner Cable senior vice president of business services sales & marketing Craig Collins said that the potential of managed services drove one of the company's recent acquisitions -- hosting and managed services company Navisite. Collins said that while Navisite focuses primarily on larger enterprises, it is testing along with Time Warner Cable just what types of services smaller businesses desire. He added that some of those services may begin to see daylight in the first quarter of 2012.