Tuning In to Customer Demands

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Tell us about your organization.

CMA Communications is a leading independent cable-television company based in Dallas. As a small-to-midsize multiple service operator, we own and operate over 40 cable systems in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Nevada. We provide cable TV, video, high-definition -- all those great video services -- as well as Internet and telephone to both business and residential clients.

What were your customers asking for?

Our customers are consistently asking for a telephony solution as an alternative to the encumbering providers in our market. They are becoming much more educated about [Voice over Internet Protocol]. Upon researching, we found that VoIP service was the most versatile of phone solutions out there today. The [Session Initiation Protocol]-based offering seemed to be the most flexible service we could offer onto our existing networks. The features available were much richer than other telephony services.

We reviewed dozens of alternatives before ultimately choosing SinglePipe Communications, a facilities-based provider of wholesale residential and business VoIP services. I think our decision to go with SinglePipe was based on our strategy and success related to selecting strategic partners. We prefer to look at them as an extension of our organization and as more of a partner relationship than as a vendor relationship. SinglePipe demonstrated that ability to be nimble and had the key skills to do that. This partner relationship is similar to our other strategic-partner relationships, which are very important to us.

How has the implementation process gone?

One of the main reasons we chose SinglePipe was due to its demonstration of being able to integrate the product with our billing system and with our modem-provisioning partner. They not only agreed to integrate, but they did it in record time. The integration truly is the key ingredient. We signed a contract with SinglePipe in early 2008; we just launched commercially to paying customers in the late spring. Our first system, which we had been beta testing for about six to eight weeks, is in Laughlin, Nev.

In May we were complete with our billing system. We didn't start the integration until February so it really was what we in the industry would consider record time for such a large-scale integration of a product. They were the only vendor that demonstrated the ability and willingness to do that in that time frame.

What have been the main rewards?

Our customers have been very pleased with the product: There have been no service issues to date; the features are great. We believe that we will take this out to the rest of the market. We will continue to roll out new services with this product provided by SinglePipe. We have seen early on in deployments that the bundle [of cable, Internet, video, and phone] provides such a value to our customers -- it gives us good retention.

When we partner with companies, one of the reasons it's such a strong relationship is because there's a focus all the way to the end user. At the end of the day, we are future-proofing our services in such a way not only to meet the demands now but keep up with demands of the future. Of course, it's all about customer service. We know that they'll have a choice -- whether it be video, cable, or phone. We know the only way to [win] is through promoting good customer service. Having a partner with solid customer service that mirrors our vision allows us to do that.

What's in store for the future?

We're already beginning to test in other markets in preparation for additional roll-outs for residential services. We're excited with filling that out with commercial service -- a big movement in the industry where we feel like SinglePipe has a good grasp and support. We hope to be in that market by the end of the year.

SIDEBAR: 5 Fast Facts

How old is the initiative?
It began in January of 2008, and went live in May 2008.

Who was involved?
Primarily I was the point person in selecting the partner. And then it was a collective decision by President Doug Bridges and the executive team.

Best idea?
Number one, absolutely, is choosing the right strategic partners to help support our customers. That's without a doubt our best attribute.

Biggest surprise?
When we decided to get into the phone business, it was much more difficult than originally anticipated. A lot of that has been overcome by selecting such a strong partner. Network-coverage capability by many of the vendors was probably the number-one concern or issue.

Biggest CRM mistake?
One of the things that I think a lot of companies are making mistakes in is that they are waiting too long to get into the telephony business. A lot of it is fear of not choosing the right partner or provider. That time is adding up. The sooner you get into it, the better. Even if it's the wrong angle, at least you're learning.

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