Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2015

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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8 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015 PROVIDER PERSPECTIVE I recently visited one of my clients to provide an update on several projects. Arriving in a rush from the airport for an early-morning meeting, I was looking forward to a boost of cafeine when I walked into the ofce. Te receptionist had unpleasant news. "I'm so sorry, but we only have decaf cofee in our break room today." Ugh, I thought. "Is everyone kicking the cafeine habit here?" "No," she frowned. "We switched cofee vendors this week, and they brought us only decaf." I looked around the conference room table. Te table was covered with Red Bull, 5-hour ENERGY and Monster drinks. "So, no regular cofee?" I muttered. "No Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, even gas station cofee?" Te receptionist shrugged. "Te new vendor's ordering system is impossible, and the salesperson hasn't returned my calls all week. We might have to switch back." "What was wrong with the old supplier?" one of the guys asked. "Well, for one thing, they were too expensive. Tey had very high minimum order requirements. And they were always out of the favored cofees," she explained. Switching vendors is always the answer when something in an ofce doesn't work, whether that's a cofee supplier or a cable provider. Te switch is one of the most challenging decisions, involving lots of debate, discussions and negotiations. Still, all too often, things don't go so well. "But the sales guy told me I could order by 5 p.m. Friday and have it on Monday." "He said there were no delivery charges." "She promised a money-back guarantee." Sure, they did – just as the cable TV sales guy told the multiple-dwelling-unit (MDU) property owner that "We will never have an outage" or "We make 100 percent of our appointment times." Yep, the vendor switch is an easy sell but very hard to deliver. For years, my company has dealt with MDU building owners that are making a decision to switch cable TV vendors. Teir reasons range from an outdated product line to a drop in quality of service to simply taking the client for granted. "Tey obviously don't want my business anymore," owners often say. So they switch. Te new vendor, which shows up with great marketing pieces and fancy new features, promises to improve everything from DVRs to wireless service. No more broken HD receivers or slow Internet. Te challenge for operators in the MDU market, and for private cable operators (PCOs) in particular, is that the switch requires tremendous attention to detail. Most cable providers – especially the bigger ones – don't get it right. Tey rarely provide enough resources or staf to make the switch a success. I tell the providers I work with, "Te switch is an opportunity to show your new client you meant what you said during the sales process: 'Our techs will be there on time. Tey will have the right equipment. We will handle all new customers before the weekend.'" Coordinating the switch is the hard part. Sales has to be in lockstep with operations. What commitments were made? How realistic are they? When my frm assists a provider that is making a switch, we create a conversion schedule with a detailed outline of installations and upgrades. We include specifc dates for all resident correspondence, we require on-site events for resident questions and we require daily updates to the property manager about progress during the switch. Tis becomes a document that all parties agree to beforehand. Tese steps are as important for a 50-unit building as for a 900-unit, high- rise tower. We also like to see the salesperson on site during the switch process. His or her presence shows that the operator is not only focused on getting new agreements but also wants to create new satisfed switchers. Te frst impression of a new provider is based on how it handles the switch. Just like the frst 100 days for a new president, this period sets the tone for the entire term. I strongly encourage each operator to focus on making switches a core strength next year. More success in how you handle switches will help you earn more switches! As for the decaf cofee debacle, I heard later that the company had switched back to the old vendor, and employees were once again enjoying favored cofees. v Bryan Rader is CEO of Bandwidth Consulting LLC, which assists providers in the multifamily market. You can reach Bryan at bryanjrader@yahoo.com or at 636-536-0011. Learn more at www.bandwidthconsultingllc.com. Flipping the Switch Taking over a new MDU account is a make-or-break opportunity. By Bryan Rader / Bandwidth Consulting LLC

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