- bug fix 9211 – Prevented posting single payment into two accounts
- bug fix 9082 – Added prompt to inform user that changes to package price and tax will apply to subsequent — not current — invoices
- bug fix 9199 – Added Select None option in Mass Emails
- bug fix 9115 – Allowed user to remove only setup fee from invoice
Archives for May 2011
The internet industry is changing in ways that will affect the fundamantal assumptions upon which network architectures are designed, prices set, and new opportunities measured.
The 2010 State of the Internet Report from Akamai (registration required: http://www.akamai.com/stateoftheinternet/) shows that in all states except Iowa, average broadband speeds are over 2 Mbps. Akamai reported that the fastest broadband adoption was in Montana, where over 63 percent of connections were over 2 Mbps by the end of the year.
The average speed for the U.S. as a whole was 5.1 Mbps. Average connection speeds rose in most states or were basically flat, but declined by 8.5 percent in Mississippi.
“I think we will continue to see connection speeds growing quarter over quarter and year over year,” said David Belson, research director at Akamai.
Users’ expectations are increasing, and they expect to get more bandwidth for a lower price every year.
Netflix is a major cause of the increased bandwidth usage — but also causes bandwidth demand. If you can provide the speeds that Netflix users demand, you can profit, but for many WISPs, Netflix is a cause of pain. The pain is, specifically, the cost of upgrading every AP and router in order to provide higher bandwidth to every end user in the network.
According to recent reports, Netflix can account for 20 percent of total bandwidth usage, and Netflix users are averaging 10 hours of video per month, which is high, but it also means there’s room for growth. “While Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, commented that the cost of bandwidth to an ISP is about 1 cent per Gigabyte, every ISP I have spoken to says that Netflix does not know the real cost since they don’t operate a network and are only quoting raw bandwidth pricing, which does not include any of the other expenses associated in upgrading the network, including hardware,” wrote Dan Rayburn of StreamingMedia.com and an analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
Options will increase, prices will decline, and the prevailing pricing model from internet movie providers is unlimited content for a flat fee. “What a choice. Just about every film released will be streamed. The price? It’s coming down, fast. Netflix offers unlimited streaming for $7.99 a month. If you watch 20 films a month, that’s less than 40 cents per show. Amazon and Google are upping the ante here, rolling out their own streaming sites. There are many more. Amazon is using streaming as a loss leader, offering free movies to buyers of its preferred service,” writes Jim Hillibush of the GateHouse News Service, a commentator whose writings are syndicated in local papers across the nation.
The Pew Internet & American Life project reports that more Americans are watching video online and links to the video of the PBS interview on the topic.
If customers cannot get the bandwidth from fixed wireless, they may soon have a cellular option that provides 10 Mbps. A report from RootMetrics that was written up by Wired found that Verizon’s LTE network achieved speeds of 10 Mbps a full 90 percent of the time. That’s “good enough” for residential users.
Verizon expects its LTE service to cover more than half of the population of the USA as soon as the end of this year. In its most recent annual report, it said, “by the end of 2011, we expect LTE to be available in more than 175 markets, including those already announced, covering a population of more than 185 million people throughout the country.”
Equipment is improving, but that’s not necessarily good news for wireless providers, who have replaced their equipment far more often than competitors who use other technologies. With the new equipment, the fixed wireless industry will separate into early adopters and those left behind. In February of 2011, DragonWave announced a 2 Gbps PTP backhaul link, designed for cellular LTE networks. It will be used by the most advanced fixed wireless providers, too.
Adding to the cost of your network: in the past, usage was spread out over time, but those in the forefront of IPTV deployment report that usage now spikes on Friday evening. At the FISPA/WISPA Service Provider Summit in Orlando, one ISP said that “usage on his network generally runs at 14 Mbps but peaks sharply on Friday night between 6 PM and 9 PM to about 120 Mbps for those three hours.”
You have to build for peak usage, which is rising fast.
Can you show your customers how much bandwidth they’ve used — and when they used it?
CEO’s Blindness with Regard to Customer Service
You’re perfectly aware of your competitors’ blind spots, but can you see your own? You know that the internet industry’s leaders fail to see their companies’ own problems. Let’s take a look at how the biggest companies are doing.
There’s Dan Hesse of Sprint. He claims, “customer service is job one. This is the number one priority of the company.” So how are they doing? Reviews on DSL Reports are mixed. Reviews on epinions are universally negative. Does Hesse know the problem or do his people shield him from the truth?
In an interview, Hesse said, “the customer experience is much more than customer service. It’s retail. Network quality, ease of use of phone …” So how’s the network? A recent review of Sprint’s portable Wi-Fi device, the MiFi, said, “the only demerits for the device are related more to Sprint Nextel than the device itself,” referring to network availability and speeds.
In an ad, Hesse says he recently looked up “unlimited” in the dictionary and found that it’s something his competitors don’t offer. Maybe he should look up “Sprint”.
There’s so much to say here that it’s difficult to figure out where to start, but a company that threatened to sue one of its customers for contacting the CEO has numerous issues.
Verizon seems to have responded in the right way to at least one extremely unhappy customer — you don’t want to receive a customer complaint that says in part, “even if this was my second or third handset, I would understand. However, the representative was ready to send me my eighth replacement handset in less than a year …”
On the other hand, a couple who waited 7 months for a FiOS refund were initially referred to a debt collection agency …
Comcast is being proactive with customer service. They have an interesting dedicated Twitter team.
But Comcast is still making mistakes.
The most notorious one was a few years ago when a woman walked into a customer service center with a hammer.
One advantage that you have over Comcast customer service: you don’t have a phone tree that’s impossible to understand.
There’s a famous video of a customer service tech sleeping on someone’s couch.
But this video, a seven and a half minute rant, describes a bureaucracy that cannot even find a home address accurately and cannot get their customer’s name right. “You cannot even get my *** name right? You’ve got my social, my pay stubs …”
These are the leaders of the internet industry, and they are failing their customer service. Do you know how you’re doing? In his article, 29 CEO Blind Spots- What are Yours?, Scott Maxwell of Open View Partners writes, “You may have started with a clear voice of the customer, as you were on the front lines of your organization. But as you grow, you lose a real sense of the customer because you are exposed to a limited sample and you are getting filtered information from sales, customer service, marketing, and other departments. You need a true voice of the customer if you are going to perfect your delivery into the market. The more complete, the better.”
It is important to survey your customers and to interact with them yourself. You should be analyzing website traffic, and you should also be, “actually asking your customers about their experiences with your company. This doesn’t have to mean complicated survey forms or big studies; in fact, those methods might actually separate you from the information that you want to gather. No, what I mean is to actually talk to your customers,” writes ClickZ.com author Sean Carton (chief strategy officer at idfive in Baltimore and formerly the dean of Philadelphia University’s School of Design + Media). He has plenty of good advice. In fact, if you’re looking for marketing and customer survey tips, ClickZ.com is a great place to look.
Many businesses, however, feel they cannot improve customer service because they are cutting costs.
If you are cutting costs, make sure that your customers don’t see the cuts. In the hospitality industry, “some restaurants cut hours or closed on some nights but did not shut down completely. Some hotels had cut back the housekeeping staff and reduced personnel in other, less obvious places like management and the back office.”
Save money in the back office, perhaps by outsourcing, but keep all of your customer service staff.
You’ve survived. There were 8,000 internet providers about eight years ago, and more than half of them are gone.
You’ve grown. You reached an important subscriber milestone a few years ago. You added an employee last year. You’re thinking of adding one this year. You’re business occupies more real estate than ever before.
Before, this was hobby, now it’s a business.
You have a budget. You replaced the Excel spreadsheet (or the folder with the receipts in it!) with a professional business budgeting system. You know how much you spend on everything. You know how much it costs to build a tower, you know how much you spend on people, and you know how much your growth plans will cost.
You have procedures. Your installers have a checklist. They report details of the install to your head office — not just “it’s done” but the exact CPE used. You’re considering adding a photograph of every install to the file, but you have not yet done so.
Your customer service person (and the service that answers the phone after hours) uses a checklist as well as scripts for specific problems. If any problem is too much, there’s a phone number to call.
When you built this network, you were the network manager. Now there’s a network management system that wasn’t there before. There’s a beeper (maybe two) so that someone else gets called before you get called if it’s 2 AM. The CPE is all the same now, except for the CPE that some of your early customers still have.
Remember when you used to spend one day each month on bills? Half of the day was just checking invoices and putting them in envelopes. Now, you have a service for that, and they charge you less than a dollar per invoice.
Remember when you hired your first employee? You recently promoted someone from customer service to sales. Your business is now known in your town, and across most of the county. You have a busy social schedule attending meetings of several Chambers of Commerce, local charities (such as the Red Cross), and even eating some of those dinners with politicians that you once swore you’d never do. Getting to know the mayor, the police chief, and the fire department has helped you a great deal — and you’ve been able to help them. And people know that you’re helping your community.
You managed to take a vacation last year. Granted, you checked your laptop every day — often several times each day — but you got away from the office, and your family was thrilled to travel with you. It had been a long time between road trips.
You’re not adding customers as rapidly as you used to. Instead, you’re adding services. You’re looking at Voice over IP (VoIP). You’re doing network support for some of your most important customers. In the past, you provided the support for free, but now there’s a monthly contract, and you get paid and your customers like your employees.
You’re about to build a data center. It will not be very big. They measure most data centers in thousands of square feet, but yours will be measured in hundreds of square feet. It won’t have a diesel generator attached to it, but it will be constantly watched by some very experienced technicians, people you’re proud of hiring when they were much younger. It has customers already even though it has not yet been built. You’ll have some important servers in there.
But you’re most important achievement is the ability to do what you’re doing right now. The details of the business take care of themselves, so that you can be the manager, not the worker. You’ve got the time to think of the improvements you’ve already made and to plan the other changes you’d like to make.
What would you like to improve next?
- bug fix 8902 – Required strong passwords for users
- bug fix 9055 – URLENCODED passwords for webmail login
- bug fix 8938 – Prevented non-recurring line item from being detected as recurring
- bug fix 7912 – Prevented software lockup during payment posting
- bug fix 9070 – Automatically updated custom field names throughout the software