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The Common Denominator in the Digital Age: Customer Experience

March 28th, 2019 by

While digital transformation may increase efficiency and save money, it’s really about investing in the most critical area of your business—customer experience (CX). CX is much more than a buzz word—it has become a key point of differentiation among businesses across industries—and rightfully so.

Having the privilege of working closely with brands in a variety of industries—Windstream Enterprise has become intimately familiar with their specific challenges. We recently had the opportunity to attend two of the largest events in the retail and healthcare industries:

  • NRF “Retail’s Big Show,” hosted by the National Retail Federation
  • HIMSS19 Global Conference & Exhibition, hosted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

Digital technology’s transforming each industry’s approach to the CX and customer journey

Prioritizing the customer journey

What’s most fascinating is how digital technology is transforming each industry’s approach to the customer journey. The retail industry is something most of us have seen and experienced first-hand with the domination of e-commerce giants like Amazon and the rise of mobile retail trends.

The healthcare industry is taking a page from retail, making a concerted effort to prioritize the needs and preferences of consumers. In healthcare, the consumer is the patient and the competition is getting fierce in this market. The patient experience (PX) is now a primary focus for healthcare providers of all sizes.

We’re seeing parallels between these two key markets, with the common denominator being an intense focus on what the CX in the digital age should look like. Below are three CX areas we can expect to see amplified in 2019.

  1. Omnichannel. A deep focus will be devoted to catering to the needs of customers and that means having the information they need and want available in the ways that are most convenient to them. Digital and physical touchpoints will need to work together flawlessly. The in-person experience must align with the online experience. Whether customer interactions are via phone, web, chat, social media or mobile app—to access support, appointment scheduling, records and purchase/payment history—everything needs to be fully integrated. According to the Aberdeen Group, companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, so the value of investments in this area cannot be overstated.
  1. AI and Machine Learning. Artificial intelligence (AI) is setting the stage to take CX to the next level by automating the analysis of disparate data points to create more meaningful and actionable information. AI enables progressive organizations of all kinds to automate and personalize CX in creative new ways. Companies willing to leverage machine learning also have the potential to gain a greater understanding of customer behavior and patterns—which can give them a leg up against competition. With such an enormous amount of data available, it will come down to each organization’s ability to efficiently collect, process, and analyze that data to maximize the value that can be derived from it—for customers and all those who serve them.
  1. Personalization. There is a clear trend towards personalization. Not only do retailers and healthcare providers have access to more personal information—customers and patients now expect a personalized experience. Despite the fact that some consumers may be wary about the amount of personally identifiable information (PII) stored in systems beyond their direct control, they still expect to have promotions, discounts, rewards and products tailored to their specific needs—not to mention, personalized service and interactions.

It doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re in—improving CX is the key to increasing retention, satisfaction and revenue growth in the digital age. To that end, maintaining security, resiliency and connectivity are also musts. The future of digital transformation looks bright but will require investments in the right digital systems and initiatives to continuously enhance the full lifecycle of the customer journey.

A Commitment to Customer Experience: Making it Easier to Do Business with Us

February 14th, 2019 by

When I joined Windstream Enterprise, the company was on a transformative journey, in every respect of the word—encompassing investments in our systems, products/solutions, processes, people and our brand—with the central objective of embodying a culture focused on our customers.

This commitment to radically change how we approach the customer experience came with the mandate to be a true partner for our customers—open and collaborative, agile and qualified to help them solve their most complex business challenges.

As a B2B technology services provider, our offers are designed to improve the way businesses serve their customers, which provides us with a unique perspective. The attributes we value so highly and strive to embody: responsiveness, agility and innovation, are the very traits we embed into our solutions to help our customers deliver the best experience possible to their own users and customers.

Windstream Enterprise is committed to helping our customers execute their digital transformation roadmaps as they adapt their business to perform, compete and succeed in a rapidly evolving market. To do this, we’re investing in the best digital experiences for our customers.

Windstream Enterprise is investing in the best digital experiences for our customers

Empowering our customers

We live in a digital world. How customers engage with our company and solutions online is critical to their overall experience. Windstream Enterprise offers a variety of connectivity, communications and security services. Our goal was to unify all our best‑in‑class services into one integrated digital experience for our customers—the proverbial ‘single pane of glass’ customer experience. I am proud to say we’ve achieved just that with our revolutionary customer portal, WE Connect.

WE Connect delivers personalized experiences that align to how our customers think and operate, offering immediate access to relevant and targeted information about all their services where they want it, how they want it, and when they want it. We placed great emphasis on including self-care, visibility, reporting and control functions to empower our customers with the freedom to manage and customize their business‑critical services to their unique needs and preferences.

This empowerment transcends to other ways in which we are committed to supporting our customers in a digital world. We continue to be focused on enhancing and expanding our digital support channels like our online community, online chat capabilities and recently launched storm center program, to ensure our customers have instant and convenient access to the information and support they need to operate their businesses.

Commitment to improvement

Another “secret” feature of our WE Connect portal are advanced user analytics that continuously improve our customers’ experience by giving our DevOps team insights as to how customers engage and where the experience is lacking, Of course, the best insights come directly from our customers themselves. Customer feedback is the foundation of everything we do. We survey our customers regularly seeking feedback on installation, repair and support, to further optimize our processes. We have instituted a Customer Experience Action Board comprised of VP-level executives that meets monthly to review our survey data. Our customers can be assured—we read every comment and take the feedback received very seriously— setting key initiatives based on how we can best address customer concerns.

While we remain committed to enhancing our customer experience at Windstream Enterprise, we have the pleasure of helping our customers do the same through their investments in next-gen technologies. We wholeheartedly view each customer as a partner and pledge to continue to invest in new ways that will make it even easier to do with business with us. Stay tuned for more exciting enhancements to come.

2018 Milestones Are a Win for Our Customers

January 15th, 2019 by

When we introduced Windstream Enterprise (WE) at the start of 2018, I talked about digital transformation creating a huge opportunity for providers to help customers that other service providers were largely ignoring. I promised that WE would serve as the network partner businesses expect but rarely find—a “customer-focused, agile, responsive and trusted advisor committed to helping them connect, transform and elevate their business.”

I’m happy to say we made great strides in fulfilling that promise by hitting a number of aggressive milestones in 2018.

2018 Windstream Enterprise milestones are a win for our customers

SD-WAN

Last July, Windstream Enterprise announced that within its first year, our SD-WAN solution had already been purchased by more than 1,000 customers—making us the lead player in the highly promising SD-WAN market. That momentum has since accelerated, reaching over 1,600 signed customers before the end of 2018.

Those sales reinforced that the SD-WAN core competency we developed is truly resonating with customers as they pursue digital transformation. The media noticed, too: In September, TMC named our SD-WAN Concierge solution a “2018 Internet Telephony SD-WAN Product of the Year” award winner.

Further on the 2018 SD-WAN front, our solution met the standards for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) Version 3.2 Compliance, which helps customers who process credit cards achieve and maintain their own PCI compliance. We also introduced SD-WAN Cloud Connect, to deliver highly secure, private, dedicated access to leading third-party cloud ecosystems.

UCaaS

Just last month, WE surpassed 500,000 seats for our cloud-based unified communications as a service (UCaaS) solutions. As more and more businesses made the move to the cloud, our solution provided the exceptional visibility, control, and speed of delivery they required.

On the way to that milestone, TMC named WE’s XCaaS Powered-by-Avaya a 2018 “Unified Communications Product of the Year” award winner. We also enhanced our contact center as a service (CCaaS) solution to deliver full omni-channel capabilities including the ability to seamlessly link customer contacts across voice, digital, and open-media channels.

Fixed wireless

In September, WE announced that our hybrid fiber-wireless capabilities are now available in more than 50 major metropolitan markets coast-to-coast, with a footprint covering over 350,000 pre-qualified enterprise businesses.

This is an especially big deal for enterprises needing secure connectivity with the absolute minimal downtime achievable. Our fixed wireless solution complements and operates in parallel to WE’s 150,000-mile core fiber footprint, delivering faster connection speeds than copper—from 1.5 Mbps to 5 Gbps—with service-delivery lead times of under 45 days.

Moving forward

In 2019, Windstream Enterprise will continue its aggressive drive to assist businesses of all sizes with their digital transitions and initiatives. I don’t want to pre-announce solutions, but you’ll see new offerings and enhancements which keep our customers at the core of everything we do, through greater network visibility, greater ease in controlling network infrastructure, and a marriage of technical excellence with operational streamlining. It’s going to be a very exciting year for WE and our customers—stay tuned for new milestones to come.

Big Telco Proposes Hitting Your Bottom Line to Improve Theirs

June 18th, 2018 by

The telecom industry has gotten riled up recently. If you have been paying attention to the news, you know that the biggest telcos are asking the FCC to make a policy change that would have huge impacts on both residential and business customers. At the end of the day, Windstream Enterprise stands for our current customers and those of you who will become our customers in the future. Our loyalties lie with you, not the big telcos.

Given current government leadership’s fervor for rolling back regulations, it’s important to remember that marketplace oversight often elevates public interests above the profit motives of monopolies and near-monopolies.

That’s certainly true of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which sparked a wave of competition that brought more choices and in many cases lower prices to businesses and consumers. Big Telco is working hard to reverse that dynamic, pushing the FCC to repeal a key element of the Act. If they succeed, it will hit corporate America’s pocket book. And it will hit hard.

The element under attack: Among its many provisions, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires ILECs (incumbent local exchange carriers) to offer UNEs (unbundled network elements) to competitive providers, at prices that include a reasonable profit. This has enabled a new class of providers (like ourselves) to deliver innovative services without having to duplicate ILEC infrastructure – which, after all, was paid for in full by ILEC customers. In addition to greatly increasing service options, UNEs helped to keep costs under control by fostering competition among a larger number of service providers. In other words, we help you manage your costs while enabling you to run your business your way and better serve your customers.

Big Telco would like to increase its profits by giving consumers and enterprises fewer options at higher prices. Through the USTelecom lobby group, the ILECs are pushing the FCC to end their obligation to make UNEs available. If they succeed, the largest U.S. telephone companies will hit enterprises with a serious double-whammy:

  • First, the proposal calls for giving ILECs the ability to increase rates for their embedded base of UNEs up to 15% — a cost increase it admits would be passed to end customers. The increase would take effect immediately upon acceptance of the proposal. With no incremental costs to the ILECs, it is purely a profit boost that will hit the largest consumers of services from competitive providers the hardest.
  • Then, the proposal calls for the termination of embedded UNEs within 18 months, with the projected result being that “40% of end-customers will migrate to next-generation services in Year 1.” Windstream Enterprise has helped many enterprises that have already migrated, and we know that providers make considerable up-front investments of time and money so that customers can realize the benefits of next-gen technologies. While we promote next-generation networking as an option, it’s unjust to force a transition on the ILECs’ preferred timeframe, like it or not.

For these reasons, Windstream Enterprise strongly opposes the USTelecom request. Although we are an ILEC serving communities in 18 states and a USTelecom member ourselves, we’re also a competitive service provider in markets where we’re not the ILEC. We know how much enterprises have benefitted from UNEs. We also know the financial impact of an immediate 15% increase in telecommunications costs for these enterprises. And we are extremely concerned about the business disruption they’ll incur with forced migration to next-generation service within a brief window.

Simply put, this proposal is a roadmap for inflicting pain on enterprise customers for the benefit of Big Telco.

That’s why we have joined forces with other competitive service providers and champions of a competitive telecommunications marketplace to persuade the FCC to reject Big Telco’s proposal. Together, we have persuaded the FCC to extend the comment deadlines, giving all interested parties more time to review and respond to USTelecom’s proposal.

We hope to help shut down that proposal completely. If that can’t be done, we’ll press hard for a more reasonable transition period that eases the disruption ILECs are so eager to force on enterprise customers. You can also read more about our official positioning here.

At the end of the day, our job is to help you transform your business by providing innovative network solutions and elevating your experience with us so you can do the same for your customers. That’s why we don’t have boxed solutions and refuse to get “boxed in’ by competitors” proposals that stand in the way of us putting you first. We’ll continue to advocate for you in these deliberations and will keep you posted on the progress as it unfolds.

IT Transformation: No Longer an Option. It’s a Mandate.

February 13th, 2018 by

Whether you’re a veteran of the networking and communication industry or new to this sector, the tectonic shifts that accompany businesses’ rapid migration to the cloud and adoption of next-gen technologies have been felt by customers and network providers alike. This transformation shock would register 9.0 on the Richter scale, and lest you think the change has run its course, think again. We’re in for a wave of aftershocks as business and IT transformation evolves to keep pace in the digital economy. With it, the role of the network is changing, and an exciting, but ultimately rewarding journey awaits those willing to take it.

The transformation journey begins

The great irony of the current situation is that as businesses migrate core workloads to the cloud, they often run into a challenge they might not have considered; that their current legacy network architecture is not prepared to support transformative change. At the same time, the legacy service providers they depend on have a history of not being easy to work with and less than responsive to their evolving needs. This is especially true for often-ignored mid-market customers. In the wake of all this migration and change, there is a huge opportunity for a provider willing to take on the challenge of helping the customers that other providers have ignored or can’t keep up with.

A transformative new brand for a transformative era

It was with the needs of these customers in mind that a few years ago, we began to transform our own business. To get where we needed to be, we knew we had to make some important changes. We began with the customer, instituting a new company-wide, customer-focused culture to radically change our customer experience for the better. And, to differentiate and distance ourselves from the world of tactical providers we had to become an agile, responsive partner with solutions designed to empower businesses to address their most essential business technology challenges.

We also had to address our technology capabilities, investing heavily in infrastructure upgrades including SDN across our nationwide network. This creates an agile, intent-based programmable network fully optimized to deliver in an always-evolving, cloud-driven environment. Then to put that technology to work, we introduced a broad range of strategic solutions ideally suited to enterprise customers who want greater control and who seek to drive business innovation and deliver a differentiated customer experience through superior connectivity, communications and collaboration.

Together, these changes have been so significant that we are fundamentally a different company today than we were just a few years ago.

I will admit that the process has not been easy. Change never is. At times, it felt like changing the tires on a bus that’s moving at 100 miles per hour. Our conviction about making these needed changes, however, was greater than our fear of losing control while stopping the bus. And when momentum is on your side, you’d better keep going.

Introducing Windstream Enterprise

Looking back, the massive transformation was necessary to become the kind of provider that customers choose to do business with. While our journey is far from over, we’ve come to the point where it was time to take things to the next level with an update to our brand to match.

  • Our Net Promoter Score (how likely a customer is to recommend Windstream Enterprise to another customer) improved 43% in the past year alone.
  • We’ve launched 17 new products in just the last 3 years, including industry-leading solutions like SD-WAN with Concierge service and UCaaS that give customers a real edge in the cloud-driven environment.
  • The impact of these introductions has been immediate. In 2017, 76% of sales included a strategic product, and 71% of revenue on new logo sales is from strategic products–up from just 23%.

With these results fueling our progress, I’m proud to introduce Windstream Enterprise (WE), a new brand for our mid-market, enterprise and wholesale business. The WE brand reflects the changes we’ve made and the many to come as we continue to evolve to serve our customers’ needs.

As our journey continues, we will not lose sight of the singular goal behind the Windstream Enterprise brand: to be the network technology partner businesses expect but rarely find—a customer-focused, agile, responsive and expert trusted advisor committed to helping them connect, transform and elevate their business.

A special thank you to all the businesses who have presented us with the challenges and opportunities for you have helped drive the customer-focus and innovation that define the WE brand. We consider you partners and co-sojourners and look forward to sharing your journey with you.

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