Business services shift focus from acquiring to retaining customers

CHICAGO - Cable's business services organizations have a different challenge and a different way of approaching that challenge than their residential counterparts. On the one side, they need to acquire customers--something the residential players haven't had to worry about for years. And now, with some success in cutting into the traditional telcos' stronghold of small-medium-business (SMB) customers, they need to retain those customers.

"We have to be disciplined in being focused on the small business segment," said Jim McGann, corporate vice president of Charter Business for Charter Communications (Nasdaq: CHTR). "To retain the customer is equally as important as getting the next one. It is a significant upside in customer retention."

This is not to say there is not a significant upside in customer acquisition, panelists said during a session, "What Customers Want: Tailoring Services to Fit Unique Business Needs" at The Cable Show.

"Business services is a huge growth opportunity" but it can also be a tricky one "because you can try to do too much," said Craig Collins, senior vice president of business services sales and marketing for Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC).

There is also the realization that the phone companies have awakened and are not going to keep leaking subscribers like a hole in a sand castle wall at high tide.

"I'm most concerned about what I don't know yet and what I don't know yet are the new competitors who are going to come after my customers," said Phil Meeks, senior vice president of Cox Business for Cox Communications.

To offset those threats, from old and new competitors, Cox has "gotten much more scientific about managing our base," he said.

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