WEHCO Video: Transitioning to a New Managed Broadband Service Provider
“I was unexpectedly surprised. The pre-planning that Scott and Buddy did obviously paid off. I can’t tell you what they might have done different to have made it any smoother, which is a testimony to how well it went. We’re very happy with the level of service we and our customers now receive from ZCorum. We are also big fans of their TruVizion diagnostics software, which is much better than what we had before.“–Bob Young, WEHCO’s Vice President of Engineering
WEHCO Video operates cable systems in four southern states, where they provide Cable TV service, Broadband access, and digital voice to their subscribers. WEHCO Video’s parent company is WEHCO Media, which also owns and operates several newspapers.
Problem: How To Transition to a Better Service Provider with Minimal Customer Impact
In 2010, WEHCO Video was looking for a new provider of managed broadband services. The company they had used for several years was acquired and they were not happy with the level of service from the new provider. WEHCO had been relying on the provider primarily for provisioning of cable modems, diagnostics software for their cable modem network, as well as email services and support for their data subscribers. After the acquisition it became apparent they would not be receiving the level of customer service and engineering assistance they were accustomed to. Also, the diagnostics software they had been using was no longer being actively supported.
There were other reasons WEHCO was considering a switch. They wanted to improve their reliability by having multiple, local servers that were backed up regionally. This was not something the current provider was willing to do. Also, when WEHCO received a request for a static IP address from a business subscriber, the provider would take days to fill the order.
While WEHCO had good reasons to make a switch, they were also mindful of how a conversion could negatively impact their customers. They knew that a project of that magnitude was complicated. Their large customer base was distributed among nine separate cable systems in four states. If they were going to make a change, choosing the right partner was imperative, as was extensive planning. They did not want their subscribers to experience extended outages, and they wanted the conversion to be completed in a timely manner, so it was important to find a well-established and reliable partner they could count on.
As WEHCO launched its search for a new provider, it set an overarching goal of finding a partner – not just a vendor—a company that would be willing to work with them on their specific needs and be prepared to grow as they grew. They arranged an initial meeting with ZCorum and were favorably impressed with the approach taken by their Vice President of Technology, Scott Helms, and their Director of Technology, Buddy Bertram. Instead of trying to fit WEHCO’s circumstances to ZCorum’s capabilities, Scott and Buddy focused on understanding how WEHCO did things and used that as a starting point for planning what would be needed to ensure a smooth transition.
Solution: Keys to a Successful Transition – Detailed Planning & Close Collaboration
Over several meetings in the months before the conversion, Scott and Buddy became immersed in the technical aspects of the move, and spent an extensive amount of time studying each system. As part of that process they worked closely with Bob Young, WEHCO’s Vice President of Engineering. “I was very impressed with Scott and Buddy, and the time they put in beforehand to map out all the details of each step in the transition.”
A detailed project plan was created with an overriding goal to get the conversion done quickly in order to minimize the amount of time that subscribers would be receiving services and support from two organizations. To assure minimal customer impact, it was necessary to identify all the tasks needed to convert WEHCO subscriber email accounts and cable-modem provisioning.
Working together, the WEHCO-ZCorum team determined that the change of the provisioning and management of cable modems needed to occur over time to ensure a smooth transition of broadband service at each cable system. Together, they decided to convert two systems per week until all were transitioned over. However, they also wanted to ensure that there was sufficient time to plan prior to converting each system, as well as time after to handle any issues. The customer email needed to be transitioned all at once, and would be done just prior to the conversion of the first cable system.
While planning the conversion, ZCorum also began a project to integrate their subscriber management system with WEHCO’s ICOMS billing system so that link would be in place by the time the transition began. Staff at ZCorum also began working on the messaging that would be used to communicate with WEHCO’s customers to ensure that all subscribers were kept in the loop regarding changes to email, as well as the scheduled maintenance windows and expected service impact prior to each system’s conversion.
Evaluation: A Smooth Transition Leads to a Lasting Partnership
The conversion of WEHCO’s broadband services went smoothly and was transparent to WEHCO’s customers. All customer-impacting work was scheduled in the early morning hours so any outages would affect the least number of subscribers. Outages during the scheduled maintenance windows did not last more than thirty minutes to an hour, and the morning after each conversion WEHCO customers were able to connect and use their broadband service just as they did before. After each conversion, ZCorum tested the system throughout the next day to ensure everything was working properly.
Bob Young was impressed with how ZCorum handled the conversion and expressed high praise for the ZCorum team: “I was unexpectedly surprised. The pre-planning that Scott and Buddy did obviously paid off. I can’t tell you what they might have done different to have made it any smoother, which is a testimony to how well it went. We’re very happy with the level of service we and our customers now receive from ZCorum. We are also big fans of their TruVizion diagnostics software, which is much better than what we had before.”
After such a successful initial collaboration, WEHCO and ZCorum have continued to work together, forging a strong partnership focused on ensuring the best possible broadband service for WEHCO’s subscribers. They schedule a weekly conference call to go over current projects and processes, as well as to discuss potential projects and new features. Also, WEHCO corporate staff and the individual General Managers at each cable system now have a ZCorum Account Manager that they can contact directly for help, and they are able to get a static IP set up in hours rather than days. Needless to say, WEHCO is now receiving the attention they were lacking and both companies are pleased with their winning partnership.