For the cable industry, the cornerstone of commercial services continues to be small businesses, Bill Stemper, president, Comcast Business Services, told Cable Show attendees during the panel discussion “Commerce, Communications & Connectivity: Competing for Market Share.”
“(There) is a segment of many millions of businesses that spend modest amounts of money, but it adds to a huge market that I think we are uniquely capable (of) serving effectively,” said Stemper. “All of the other things we are growing into…but our unique gift we have been given is that there is this large segment of business customers that have not seen competition.”
The small business segment also presents an opportunity for managed services as small business owners have been early adopters of the willingness to outsource and allow others to host certain services, said Craig Collins, SVP, marketing and sales, Time Warner Cable.
When “attacking” this specific area, there are three steps to pay attention to – understand who the customers are in the addressable footprint, build bundles according to segments, and be able to support them.“(You) don’t want to launch anything before (you) can have support and care around the services,” Collins said.
One of the challenges in meeting the needs of this market is not technical, but rather letting small businesses know there are alternatives available. “(They) do not come to work in the morning with a to-do list that says call Comcast. We have to disrupt their day to get their attention,” Stemper said.
The same problem goes for mid- to large-sized businesses, Dave Pistacchio, president Optimum Lightpath, said. “If somebody has a network service and…it is not broken, to get them to mess with it is a challenge. It is a risk changing out your network.”
To get their business, cable operators must put together solutions that cause them to overcome the inertia. “Price is an important piece, but not the only (one). The value piece is one of the biggest movers,” Pistacchio said.
Markets can’t always be neatly divided by number of employees. For example, a Web company could have a few number of employees, but require large amounts of bandwidth, Pistacchio said. For his company, customers are segmented into $1,500 per month, up to $10,000 per month, and more than $10,000 per month.
Customers also can be segmented into verticals, which represent a “huge” opportunity for cable operators, said Phil Meeks, SVP Cox Business, specifically mentioning hospitals and medical offices. “What the federal government is doing, spending money to digitize medical records is good news to companies like ours.”
Between the age of 65 and death, seniors will be afflicted with at least six chronic issues. “This will crush healthcare unless it changes,” said Mike Braham, VP Cox Business, Southern Virginia, during a subsequent panel. “We have to change the parameters…and use all the assets we have available in the cable industry.”
Hospitals and medical facilities need a medical grade network solution. “We are taking care of patients. These are life and death scenarios…the different things we are doing have to be patient centric,” said Eric Logie, director of information systems, Alvarado Hospital, which has implemented a telemedicine program.
“We have to build in many multiple layers from anything from Internet to telephone to TV service,” Logie said.
As for making the jump to cable, Alvarado’s move to Cox was done in stages. Data came first. “We let that go for a while and saw how reliable they were, how responsive to their needs. If there is an issue with any of the services can we call them? Will they respond,” Logie said, noting that when they realized the support was better with cable than it had been with the telcos, they switched to voice too.
“Success breeds success. We’ve built on incremental growth and reliability along the way,” Braham said.