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December 2010
High-speed Growth
By Heather Head

     Twelve years ago, Time Warner Cable Business Class (TWCBC) began to provide products and services for the business telecom industry in the Carolinas. Its initial offering was Internet data services as its sole product. Today TWCBC provides a full portfolio of voice, data and video services serving customers in eight major markets across North and South Carolina.

     Over the past few years Time Warner Cable has embraced Business Class Services as a strategic growth engine. The company built a local headquarters in Ballantyne supporting sales, marketing, ordering, customer service and billing functions, increasing its workforce 20 percent year over year. Additionally, in 2008, TWCBC introduced a voice services product line that now serves more than 20,000 customers.

     All despite one of the worst economic environments in recent memory.

     Regional Vice President Maureen Rooney, who came to TWCBC in 2009 from a Chicago-based business services consulting organization, attributes the company’s success to its strong value proposition in a market that is looking for better options for improved customer service and economic business solutions.

     The company’s parent, Time Warner Cable, delivers telecommunication products and services to more than 14 million people across the United States. TWCBC delivers phone, Internet, Ethernet, mobile, and cable to more than 290,000 commercial customers. The company’s tagline, “You first. The technology follows,” expresses their commitment to solutions that meet customer needs.

     Time Warner Cable’s need for strong commercial services growth and hunger for achievement lured Rooney from a successful career as a consultant to this well-capitalized, but essentially new upstart. Together, Rooney and TWCBC are driving intense growth within the company and across the region.

 

A Good Connection

     Perhaps Rooney’s ambition arose originally from having to compete with six siblings. After graduating from Miami University of Ohio, she went into sales at AT&T in Chicago because she was motivated by two older brothers who had successful sales careers at IBM and Johnson & Johnson.

     She moved quickly through the company’s ranks, into sales training, then into operations. AT&T was eager to promote women into what, in the 1980s, were considered “non-traditional roles,” such as field operations and customer service. The vice president of operations recognized Rooney’s potential and suggested she move to Cincinnati and take over the customer service center.

     “Up to that point, I had never managed a single person,” Rooney remembers. “But there, I inherited a hundred technicians overnight. That hooked me.”

     Besides learning to manage people, during her time with AT&T Rooney handled multi-billion-dollar product lines, built a $300 million acquisition into a $2.1 billion enterprise, and earned an MBA in finance. She also had opportunities to consolidate disparate divisions together into coherent organizations, founded on standardized processes and commitment to quality.

     In the course of her rise through the ranks, Rooney had many opportunities to visit the Carolinas and had fallen in love with its climate, golf courses and other attractions. She watched friends move here, and listened to them tease her about not having made the move herself.

     “We do have airports here,” they would remind her. Eventually, she gave in and moved to Raleigh while continuing to consult with large enterprise clients nationally.

     Although she loved the challenge of analyzing a business and coaching it to success, she yearned for the opportunity to again lead, drive change and watch a company grow under her guidance.

     So when TWCBC announced it was seeking someone to take charge of its young and growing business operation in the Carolinas, Rooney was ready.

 

A Perfect Bundle

     Rooney immediately saw that the company’s aggressive growth model, emphasis on customer service, and strong value proposition were a great match for her background and ambitions.

     Before 2008, TWCBC had been operating in a de-centralized management model that was essentially based on each local market team determining selling strategies, services offered and pricing plans—the opposite of the highly centralized system Rooney had worked in. Each of the company’s regional markets was managed separately by a local management team.

     The model worked well for innovating new products in the field and responding to individual markets, but Time Warner Cable saw an opportunity to introduce standardized systems and procedures that would provide better customer service and improve performance across the region.

     Since her arrival in 2009, Rooney continues to drive cross-organizational metrics-based systems and develop the growth-oriented culture across the company that focuses on customer satisfaction, standardization, and aggressive growth. The company now measures and reports on dozens of key metrics such as service call response times, installation times, sales productivity, and specific customer satisfaction criteria.

     Customer surveys measure specific performance indicators that lead to better satisfaction. “It’s easy to understand whether your customers are happy,” she explains, “but unless you ask them and link their responses to specific metrics, you don’t know whether you’re improving.”

     She says the transition from a regional decentralized model to a standardized metrics-driven one has been challenging, but overall she has been impressed with the culture at TWCBC and how employees have stepped up to the challenge.

     “A company’s success starts with its people,” she explains. “If you’ve got good people who want to do the best thing for the customer, then they make the growing pains invisible.”

 

Successful Strategies

     To support employees, TWCBC strives to create an environment where achievement is rewarded and performance improvement encouraged. The team gathers quarterly to understand progress against their plan and priorities for the next quarter.

     However, Rooney admits that the fast pace and constant striving for the next level is not right for everyone. Each new employee is carefully selected for their ability to thrive inside a high-growth culture. When we interview people, we advise them it’s an environment with the opportunity to drive a lot of success,” she says. “But it’s also an environment that demands constant change and improvement.”

     Employees are stepping up to the challenge. “The really good news,” she says, “is that when I look at results from month to month, it’s mostly up, up, up. People really like to see the success they’ve created. We share with them the improving results and that’s rewarding to me and our employees.”

     In addition to her growth orientation and business measures expertise, Rooney brought a strong expertise in understanding different business market segments. The company has evolved a portfolio of services and products to serve a broad range of businesses, sole proprietorships to enterprise-class corporations.

     Rooney was a key contributor in a national working committee that developed a market segmentation strategy this year. The company began to provide targeted solutions and support according to market segmentation in the third quarter of this year.

     “We’re looking at customer attributes such as number of locations, how long a company is in business, number of employees, and workforce mobility requirements,” explains Rooney. “We want to know whether our customers value technology to differentiate their product and services or basic voice/data/video services to cost effectively manage transactions and information requirements of their business.”

     The segmentation allows TWCBC to serve customers and prospects according to how they interact with and use their technologies. The result is more effective product and service bundles, as well as better customer service.

     For instance, once the market segmentation plan is fully in force, a customer service representative receiving a phone call will automatically receive a notice identifying the customer as a “tech-savvy mobile,” “traditional main street,” or one of several other designations. The representative can then respond to the client’s needs according to that knowledge. Each segment will have customized sales channels, business solutions, and customer service options that fit their needs.

 

Growing Forward

     Competition is fierce in the business telecom industry and includes national players like Verizon and AT&T. Each market can have regional and niche players, such as Hargray in the coastal communities and mid-level players like Windstream.

     But Rooney says she feels confident in the value TWCBC offers its customers, and its continuing growth seems to justify her confidence. The current economy has many businesses shopping the market. TWCBC continues to build out its network connecting more buildings in the eight major markets it competes in.

     In the next year, the company expects to invest more than $45 million in network expansion and growth. In addition, the company is adding new systems and platform capabilities to better manage and serve its existing customers, ensuring greater customer satisfaction and retention.

     “Some of our competitors are pulling employees and resources away from this market,” says Rooney. “Clients are telling us that they haven’t seen a rep from their service provider company in months, and they see that it’s a big plus for our team to be local. We’re out there knocking on doors. We’re here.”

     Rooney has also been impressed by Time Warner Cable’s commitment not only to our business success, but in the success of the communities where we work and play. Since last year, Rooney has participated in the Charlotte Regional Development Partnership Board, a non-profit economic development organization. Time Warner Cable has committed $100 million nationally to its philanthropic initiative, “Connect a Million Minds,” a program designed to inspire middle school students to pursue learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math.

     Rooney says TWCBC will cross the $1 billion dollar mark this year. She expects it to be a multi-billion-dollar company in three to five years.

     “This is a $95 billion dollar market. We have the brand, the products, and the people to get a significant chunk of that market,” she explains. “We’re going to continue to standardize, to improve customer service and products, to focus on market segmentation, and then to really focus on providing the best customer experience possible. Those factors will take us a long way.”

     Rooney is equally hopeful about the economy. She says customers are beginning to make more purchases and fewer companies are cutting back. As the economy bounces upward again, TWCBC will continue to boost its customers to the next level with innovative, award-winning solutions and service.

Heather Head is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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