Customer service tactics to boost broadband marketing

This is the last of a four-part series on using customer service as an effective community broadband marketing tool.

The past few weeks have been fun engaging in a conversation about preparing to create a level of customer service that translates into strong marketing that helps you withstand incumbents’ marketing onslaught as well as increase revenue. This week I want to wrap up by giving you some recommendations for customer service activities after you launch.

Manage expectation of services

You can’t build it all, all at once. Once you announce the network, quite a few people all over town will want service available as soon as the network goes live. However, as one project manager stated, “Somebody has to be last.” How well you convey that message and how equitable constituents perceive the roll out establishes a subliminal positive or negative image for the customer service. You can’t market “Customer Service is Job 1” and have credibility unless your business actions from the start reflect that message. Google in Kansas City is fighting a negative “service” image in low-income areas because of the company’s focus on building to areas that have money and the perception it doesn’t care about poor neighborhoods.

Want happy customers? Deliver good customer service.

Want happy customers? Deliver good customer service.

There’s another element of managing expectations effectively. Once the network starts to roll into the various neighborhoods, there is going to be a seriously pent-up demand for broadband, which is kind of a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that you’ll sign up a lot of subscribers right out of the gate. The bad news is that if you haven’t prepared enough of the right resources (installers, help desk staff, tech service people, etc.), you won’t be able to meet this demand. This too can put a cloud over your customer service team, and you’ll have to fight an uphill battle to establish an image of being a customer service-driven.

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Creation orientation intensifies impact of customer service

This is the third of a four-week series on how to make customer service your most effective community broadband marketing tool.

Last week I talked about the tech prep needed to get your customer service house in order and increase your odds for community broadband success. This week we should talk about the business communications prep that’s also needed. And as I’ve said repeatedly, this work starts long before the network launches.

To turn customer service into a righteously awesome marketing tool, you need a creation orientation rather than a problem-solving orientation. Much of broadband is driven by the latter. “We have a problem – broadband sucks. We don’t have enough money. The cable guy is always late. Subscribers are on hold for an eternity. Customer service becomes endless exercises in conflict resolution. It’s difficult to be proactive in this type of environment plus you miss many of the marketing benefits customer service could produce.

Conversely, using a creation orientation enables you to make something that bigger, better, more awesome than what has gone before. Applied to customer service, rather than focus on building a faster “problem-solving” operations, how about creating an organization-wide culture of service that’s frequently ahead of customers’ wants and needs. Subscribers look forward to working with you rather than dreading the call.

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Customer service technology gives community broadband marketing edge

This is the second of a four-week series on how to make customer service your most effective community broadband marketing tool.

Last week, I explained why customer service is the keystone of community broadband marketing success. Large incumbents throw millions at trying to destroy even small towns’ network business, yet these public entities survive and thrive because great customer service creates insanely strong customer loyalty.

Building market strength through efficient, speedy, reliable service depends heavily on technology. The tech that goes into broadband infrastructure plays a huge role in the quality of your customer service, as does the tech you use to execute and manage customer service tasks. Non-techies as well as tech staff need to understand this 30,000-foot view on the subject.  customer-service

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In David and Goliath world of community broadband, customer service brings down Goliath.

This is the first of a four-week series on how to make customer service your most effective community broadband marketing tool.

Communities are pursuing various strategies to get faster better broadband. Is yours one of those communities that are issuing RFPs for needs assessment studies? If so, you should devote some of this assessment to studying the secret that’s driving the success that cities such as Chattanooga, TN, Salisbury, NC and Danville, VA are having?

David-and-Goliath-the-Blaze-TVWhen you look at the dozens of success stories, particularly those such as Lafayette, LA, Reedsburg, WI and Wilson, NC that faced the gazillion-dollar marketing might of huge telcom and cable companies, you find marketing is the key to their success. But not marketing in the form of slick brochures and funny YouTube ads. Effective customer service is the marketing equalizer that’s giving the broadband David’s the upper hand over incumbent Goliaths.

Reedsburg, a town of 10,000 people, faced not one but two industry behemoths, Verizon, whose wireline assets were later bought by Frontier, and Charter Communications. Outsiders probably thought the Reedsburg Utility Commission’s (RUC) fiber network was doomed from the start, but the public utility’s former Marketing and Sales Director Catherine Rice understood early what would be the keystone to their marketing success.

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My comments to FCC supporting Chattanooga, TN & Wilson petitions to remove anti-muni net laws

It is way past time the FCC step in and put a stop to state legislative intrusion into the broadband affairs of Chattanooga and other local communities that are best able to make choices that are in their constituents’ best interests.

Over 400 public-owned networks operate in the United States, according to the Institute of Local Self-Reliance, including 89 fiber and 74 cable communitywide networks. Evaluating these networks’ impact on job creation, education and stirring innovation, as well as their financial sustainability, uncover hundreds of success stories that can be replicated once the barriers in Tennessee drop.

Some networks such as those in Cedar Falls, IA, Thomasville, GA, Santa Monica, CA and Bristol, VA have operated successfully for over 10 years. Danville, VA’s public utility’s network that launched in 2004 helped cut their unemployment in half, down from 19%, by directly enticing several large companies to the area, and driving a local technology industry that otherwise likely wouldn’t exist. Santa Monica, CA’s fiber network, launched the same year, reduced government voice and data communication by over $750,000 a year while building a $2.5 million surplus through the city’s savings plus selling fiber services to local businesses. Furthermore, community networks’ ROI often is not about revenue but benefitting the public good.

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Happy 3rd anniversary, Gigabit Nation! Check out the 10 most popular interviews

A humongous Thank you! to all of you listeners and supporters of Gigabit Nation.

Three years ago today, with a month’s worth of guests booked, one sponsor (Hiawatha Broadband Communications) and just a general idea of where this would end up, Gigabit Nation launched. The only radio talk devoted to helping organizations improve the sad state of broadband in these United States.

My first guest was Jim Ingraham, VP of Strategic Research for Chattanooga’s public utility and fiber network operator, EPB (Check out the interview). Tomorrow, I’m in Chattanooga to celebrate the show’s third anniversary in a special 90-minute live interview of some of the key leaders and stakeholders who have contributed to the success of the city’s now famous gig network.

We’ll highlight some of the major milestones the city has reached thanks to its network, as well as take a peek at Chattanooga’s gig future. I’ll also be review some of the high points in Gigabit Nation’s 3-year run.

My guests and I have created nearly 200 hours of solid advice, community success stories, broadband policy discussions and future outlooks. Monthly live and downloaded listens have gone from a couple of thousand to 15,000. When Gigabit Nation speaks, people listen: broadband project teams, elected officials, local broadband stakeholders, policymakers, vendors and service providers of all stripes.

Here in reverse order are the 10 most popular interviews since Gigabit Nation 2011 launch:

10.  16 Meg Muni WiFi Network – Chattanooga Continues to Rock!

9.  Gigabit Innovation Rises from Chattanooga’s Testbed

8.  Post-Sandy, the Future of Broadband and Smart Grid

7.  FTTH Conf, Tue: Smart Grid Economics, Kutztown Magic, UTOPIA

6.  The Big News about Google Fiber in Kansas City?

5.  Closing the Digital Divide in KC, One Neighborhood at a Time

4.  Maximize Broadband As An Economic Development Asset

3.  WISPs: Tips for Better Engaging These Broadband Stars

2.  $25 Million Broadband Success Story in Maine!

1.  Crowdfunding to Pay for Broadband Networks? Yes, Please.

I’m looking forward to another great year of awesome interviews, as well as your continued support and listenership.

Btw, you company execs who are trying to increase your presence in the community broadband market – you really should consider being a Gigabit Nation sponsor. Ping me! Let’s talk.

What This Year’s Survey Says About Broadband and Economic Development

Survey saysBroadband has consistently been described as a tool or asset to help communities improve local economic development. In the past few years, a lot of effort has gone into positioning broadband as our newest utility, vital as our mainstay electric, gas and water utilities. Every year I dig a little bit via a survey to learn how much the hype about broadband’s impact on local economies reflects the reality.

This year’s survey asks members of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), the largest professional association of economic developers, key questions regarding broadband’s impact on local economies. These questions test some general assumptions made about outcomes that broadband produces, and also enables survey respondents to assess some of the value broadband brings to their communities.

Get the full report here. Some of this year’s findings include: Continue reading

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