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February 2008
Its Not Just Cable Anymore
By Carol Gifford

    Time Warner Cable Business Services is introducing its new services gradually, planning the region’s expansion based on the growth and demands of the market, according to Ron Cleboski, new vice president of sales for the Carolinas region of the company.

    “Time Warner Cable Business Services is expanding its services and offerings to meet the needs of the market and its customers,” explains Cleboski, a seventh-generation Houstonian transplant to Charlotte by way of Wisconsin. “The introduction of phone service using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is the latest service we now offer to the Carolinas.”

    Time Warner Cable’s new Business Services team also includes Bo Coughlin, regional vice president; Bob Walcot, vice president of operations; Fritz Ferrell, vice president of new business development, and Albert Blackmon, vice president of marketing. The goal of the new team is to be the premiere communications company in the Carolinas.

Business Class Telephone Service

    The Carolinas regional rollout of the new business class telephone service in August was a first for Time Warner Cable—the first time its digital phone service has been introduced in a regional market. The company brought in experienced leadership from other areas to implement the rollout across both North and South Carolina.

    “We offer a phone service that provides unlimited local and long-distance calling, combined with the most popular features available from the incumbent phone companies,” says Walcot. “This new phone service will grow with the needs and expectations of the market. By the end of the second quarter, Time Warner Cable  Business Services hopes to offer toll-free services to its customers,” says Walcot.

   Time Warner Cable Business Services started in the Carolinas in the early 2000s by offering Internet services to local businesses. It gradually grew its business communications products and now offers remote data backup, managed security, video and other value-added services such as television and music entertainment. All business customers receive their own business representative and can tailor the full suite of scalable broadband services to their company requirements.

    Cleboski says Time Warner Cable Business Services expects to reach as many phone customers in the next several months as possible. Well-versed in the culture of the South and eager to bring his energy and expertise to his new home city, Cleboski says he has big expectations and “can’t get things done fast enough” in his new job.

    “The Carolinas and our customers will see bigger and better services with our new phone offering,” pledges Cleboski. “This is an ever growing market and we look forward to great success.”

    “Our Business Class services have become a highly desired and sought after competitive alternative for small to mid-sized businesses, many of which had no choices previously,” Coughlin points out. “The Carolinas are known for economic strength and growth, and we see an enormous opportunity to serve this growing and often ignored small to medium business segment with our services.”

    In an ever-increasing competitive arena, Time Warner Cable Business Class customers appreciate the value offered through the bundling options, allowing them to save money on extra features that other telecommunications providers may charge for, such as per line charges, three-way calling and call waiting.

    “Many of our customers are on a tight budget,” says Cleboski. “If a four-line customer has to pay an extra $15 to $20 a month, it really adds up on an annual basis. If this customer saves an additional $200 a year with Time Warner Cable Business Services, he has money to use to buy a new printer or a new copier.”

    Time Warner Cable’s RoadRunner product has grown phenomenally fast. Residential customer satisfaction with their cable Internet service has led homeowners to ask for the same options for their businesses.

    “We grew almost by osmosis,” says Blackmon. “We started with a RoadRunner-like product with a few business applications. Then we broadened our offering to include vanity e-mail, Web hosting, DNS and other standard Internet applications. Over time we were able to offer metro-Ethernet services via our advanced fiber network to large enterprise and government organizations, challenging what was, until then, a tightly controlled market with little competition other than the major telecommunications providers.”


Full-Solution Provider

    By 2005, Time Warner Cable Business Services customers had started looking for a full-solution provider for all of their business needs. It took too much time and effort for small business owners to research telecommunications companies and make choices from various providers to satisfy different communication needs.

    “To be a provider of choice, we needed to offer a complete suite of services and be able to support those services better than the competition. Phone service was our obvious next step” says Cleboski.

    “We offer Internet services, cable TV, and phone service with free long-distance and unlimited domestic calls at very competitive prices,” explains Ferrell. Business customers can also receive special offers that may include free installation, free voice mail or discounted monthly services. “Businesses are also more likely to choose Time Warner Cable than other carriers because of our stability. We’ve been here in the community for more than 30 years and we’ll be here for many more years to come,” adds Ferrell.

    Business Class Services customers range from the dry cleaner, requiring a single phone line, Business Class Internet connection, and cable TV, to the small architectural firm requiring larger bandwidth to the Internet and satellite offices with 12 telephone lines.

    “We have made significant investments in our infrastructure in the Carolinas,” remarks Walcot. “Our telephone service is very reliable and includes a robust backup power system that ensures the service operates even if the power goes out at the business’s location.”

    Time Warner Cable’s advanced fiber optic network provides customers the most reliable and robust service available in the market today. And unlike DSL or other technologies utilized by incumbent telecom companies or CLEC’s, the service is not impacted by distance.

    “Our customers always receive the highest level of service available regardless of how close or distant they are. Offering phone services with 12 or fewer lines allows Time Warner Cable Business Services to dedicate our resources and attention to a segment of the market that has simply been ignored by large incumbents and constantly changing CLEC’s,” says Cleboski.

    Another reason for Time Warner Cable and other cable companies to offer telephone services to small businesses is the sheer size of the opportunity, according to recent report on cable telephony by the business group, Insight Research Corporation. It noted that small businesses, or those with less than 100 employees, have a greater need for enhanced communication and are “ready targets for a bundle of voice, Internet access and data services.”

    The report cites that competition between providers of residential telephone and broadband services is fierce but the competition for small businesses is just heating up; “on a per customer basis, revenue associated with providing a small business with data and voice services can generate three to four times the revenue of the residential customer buying a bundle of voice, data and video services.”

    The competitors are many, says Cleboski, including larger incumbent local exchange carriers, or ILECs, such as AT&T, Verizon and smaller competitive local exchange carriers, or CLECs.

    Cleboski understands his competition, he says, and how to beat it. He first worked for CLECs, small regional communications providers who compete with incumbent local exchange carriers, in Houston at a time when the industry demanded quick returns. He got “tired of chasing the money,” and after working for a company that went bankrupt, decided to change employers.

    He opted for Time Warner Cable and he and his family were transferred to Wisconsin where they spent four years before moving to Charlotte in November. They reside in the Weddington area and are very happy “to be back in a culture that is warm and welcoming and in a climate where snow is something you visit, not live in.”

    “We view all of the telecommunications providers as our competitors; but some of them have become stagnant, just answering the call of today and not looking toward the future,” says Cleboski. Time Warner Cable Business Services recognized a weakness in its competitors and aggressively pursued telephone services.


Committing to Growth

    Time Warner Cable Business Services is just getting started in its commitment to offer telephony. The introduction of such a new service comes with some growing pains.  
“There are a lot of moving targets. We’re building our sales team and we have a budget to hit. We have to make sure that we provide value for our customers and that we’re taking care of our employees,” Coughlin explains.

    Prior to regionalizing the Carolinas, all five divisions had the same Business Class services but offered them in different ways, with different rates. There may have been different product selections, different price points, and different phone numbers in two adjoining regions. Customers who had locations in both regions—with offices located literally across a freeway—might have been caught in the middle with different rates and different numbers to call for service.

    “With the launch of the new business class phone service, we have one consistent message throughout the two states, and more consistent pricing and marketing,” explains Cleboski. “Even though we have melded our five divisions into one larger region, our customers will continue to have local business representatives.”

    Another important new feature, says Walcot, is the introduction of one customer support center in Charlotte. “We offer customer support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” says Walcot.

    Time Warner Business Services is currently searching for facilities in which to locate its sales and support call center, as well as the management team. These new facilities will be in addition to Time Warner Cable’s already significant presence at their Arrowood campus. “We expect to grow a multi-faceted command center in Charlotte that will be a front-line customer support center and house our sales, support, executive and local team,” says Coughlin.         
   “We’re looking for the best of the best to add to our team to support the Carolinas region.”

Carol Gifford is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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