During our ISP Virtual Summit this year, we hosted a webinar that focused on best practices for regional operators on a variety of topics. Moderated by Preseem CEO Gerrit Nagelhout, the experienced panel for the session was helmed by Abbi Hubler, COO of Tekwav, and Matt Larsen, CEO of Vistabeam.
During the webinar, these experts discussed everything from lead generation to customer success to the importance of documentation and processes. You can view the full webinar here or read on for a recap of the session.
Messaging and Lead Generation
Abbi kicked off the session with a look at marketing methods that regional operators can use to generate new leads and spur growth. One thing that’s important to note right away is that marketing requires patience. With any marketing tactic, it can take up to six months before you see results, so you have to stick with it and see it through. When you start to use a tactic, decide what you want to track so that you can measure it properly. For example, are you looking for leads and new customers, or is increasing website visits more of a priority right now?
As well as giving tactics six months to play out, you also have to remember that it can take up to seven marketing touches before a potential customer interacts with your company. Examples of marketing “touches” include viewing an online ad, hearing about you via word of mouth, visiting your website, or even seeing your branded truck drive down their street. It won’t take exactly seven touches each time, of course, but most people are going to need more than one before contacting you.
With respect to messaging, Abbi said that it’s important to focus on your strengths. For example, it’s unlikely most regional operators will be able to compete with big telcos on speeds or pricing. However, you can compete on things like quality, customer service, and knowledge of the area, so it’s important to stress these advantages in your messaging.
Promotions are also a great lead generator—for example, if a customer refers a friend, maybe you offer them a $25 credit and then give the new customer $50 off their install fee.
Also, don’t forget to ask leads and customers how they heard about you. This way, you can accurately track what’s working and what isn’t. Abbi mentioned that Tekwav is seeing success with digital ads, door tagging, flyering and vehicle branding, and suggested these as a good place to start for any regional ISP.
Lead Management and Customer Success
Once you have new leads in the door, it’s important to manage them correctly so that they enjoy a smooth path to becoming a customer. To do this, regional operators should invest in a customer relationship management system (CRM).
Abbi said that implementing a CRM was a big turning point in the way TekWav managed the sales process, as opposed to just using billing software. She said a CRM will save you so much time and headaches, and makes it easy to see how many leads are in your funnel while removing manual work. Also, even if a lead decides to go with another company, it’s a good idea to find out why so that you can try and correct that for the future where possible.
Customer success is a vital part of your organization, as these are the advocates for your customers and are responsible for retaining your customer base, making sure payments are made, etc. They also collect customer feedback, good and bad, which you can then use as a way to improve your service and your processes. It’s important that they don’t take too much on, however, or it can take away from their customer-centric focus. For example, if you have your customer success team involved in sales, it may be time to take that off their plate.
Abbi also spoke about the importance of branding, setting a clear company mission, and developing a healthy culture, as these help you present a unified message to the public and prime your organization for growth.
Building a Healthy Infrastructure
As important as public-facing departments such as sales, marketing, and customer success are to your growth, you’ll also need a solid internal structure to ensure that you’re consistently delivering great service.
Matt from Vistabeam’s presentation focused on the following specific areas:
- Proactive Network Monitoring
- Inventory Control
- Scheduling System
- Processes and Standardization
- Dashboards and KPIs
Vistabeam knows a thing or two about growth as they’ve gone from having three towers to now having more than 300 infrastructure points. Clearly, this is too much to monitor manually. Having a system in place that can alert you when something needs attention before the customer notices or calls is essential. For example, Vistabeam uses Preseem to proactively find issues and track access point capacity so they can provide their subscribers with a consistently good experience.
They also have two backhaul points for every location, which results in a more resilient network with backups in place to maintain service in case anything goes down. Matt also stressed the need to have standardization on everything, even down to naming conventions on interfaces.
On a large network, it’s necessary to have clear standardization and processes, so that everyone stays on the same page and unnecessary confusion is not introduced. This also makes for much easier troubleshooting. Having these in place is essential if you want to scale up, as is making sure that you have quality and inventory control.
It’s also important to remember that standardization doesn’t discourage creativity, it provides focus and support. Make sure you enforce this on a regular basis, with quality checks, audits, and an annual review of standards.
Documentation prevents knowledge bottlenecks, where you might have only one person in the organization who knows how to do a certain thing. When this happens, knowledge transfer can be blocked in the interests of job security or maybe just because there’s not a good internal system set up for knowledge sharing.
Making sure you have robust documentation also enables employees to be more self-directed, as they don’t have to ask someone every time they encounter something new. Vistabeam developed its own intranet that includes all documentation and is accessible to everyone. This is another necessity if you want to scale up. Also, make sure to use a ticketing system, so that you have a history of interactions with customers, as well as an ongoing log of what worked and what didn’t when resolving issues. This enforces accountability and can also be used as a data source for performance reviews.
Some tools for standardization and documentation that Matt recommends include:
- Centralized calendar
- Project management system
- Vehicle tracking
- Automated reporting
Develop Dashboards and KPIs
As the saying goes, what gets tracked is what gets watched. As a result, it’s important to pinpoint and track the data that gives you a true picture of how your organization is really doing.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) show progress or regression and are needed for planning and goal setting/tracking. Create dashboards to watch your KPIs, and use Business Intelligence tools for drilling down into complex issues and refining those indicators.
As an example of a “bad” KPI, Matt mentioned that at one time they were measuring phone tech efficiency by the number of tickets closed. However, what was happening was phone techs were closing tickets whenever a call they placed to a customer went unanswered. This provided misleading metrics, and their tickets weren’t really being resolved.
On the other hand, he mentioned that Preseem’s AP Subscriber Capacity data provides a good KPI, as this tells them exactly which access points have capacity and which are oversubscribed. This means they know which ones to address and, in the case of undersubscribed APs, where they can focus their marketing efforts to add new customers.
We hope you enjoyed this recap of our Best Practices for Success session. Watch the full webinar below!