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Windstream Enterprise takes swing at improving customer service reputation

Telecom operators have historically struggled with delivering exceptional customer service, but Windstream Enterprise (WE) hopes to right the ship with a new "WE will Commitment" to current and potential customers.

In regard to customer service, Windstream's CMO Mike Flannery says: "The bar inside of the telecommunications industry isn't very high, and the pandemic has really affected employees, customers and potential customers in a way the industry probably wasn't as well prepared for, but that I feel Windstream was pretty well prepared for."

Taking into consideration the new challenges that Windstream's customers were facing due to the pandemic – such as ensuring their remote workforces could securely access enterprise applications from home – Flannery says, "What we arrived at was a fundamental need to change our business model and how we position the brand."

Now there's a happy customer
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Windstream Enterprise is backing the new customer commitment with contract flexibility, free upgrades and guaranteed 100% uptime for customers of both its OfficeSuite UC and SD-WAN Concierge services. Flannery says there won't be rate increases for customers for the length of their contract for OfficeSuite UC or SD-WAN services, and some customers will also qualify for up to five months free for those services.

Flannery also says Windstream is in the process of implementing a customer success role where hundreds of the company's employees will solely focus on onboarding and training customers to use the UC and SD-WAN services.

The impetus behind this shift in approach to customer service resulted from Windstream moving from an annual to quarterly analysis of its relationship Net Promoter Scores (NPS). Flannery says the service provider surveyed 50 customers, gathered 1,300 customer verbatims and collected 460 pages of comments from customer-facing Windstream employees. From the results of those efforts, Windstream identified that customers want four main assurances – stability, reliability, flexibility and accountability, says Flannery.

In addition, Flannery says the service provider's goal is to achieve a positive 50 for relationship NPS score for its enterprise and elite customers. Windstream measures its NPS scores across its product sets, and customer experience with care, repair and service delivery. For transactional NPS, Flanner says care scores are in the 50s-60s, service assurance in high 30s, and service delivery in high 20s to low 30s. On a relationship basis, the NPS score depends on the customer, he says, with results ranging from a score of high 20s to 60s.

Windstream brand gets a facelift

The "WE will Commitment" to customers also started as a result of Windstream's own internal restructuring.

"This journey to rethink Windstream Enterprise started while we were in restructuring and it really accelerated when I assumed the role of chief marketing officer around the July timeframe," explains Flannery. "We made the decision to start doing our relationship NPS on a quarterly basis instead of an annual basis."

Windstream started a restructuring and rebranding effort last year after exiting Chapter 11 bankruptcy as the company was struggling to reach a financing agreement with Uniti Group.

"Windstream filed for a voluntary Chapter 11 reorg in February 2019 following a court ruling that found the company had defaulted on its debts in 2015. Tied to that, hedge fund Aurelius Capital Management was awarded a judgment of $310 million, plus interest of up to $61,000 per day," wrote Light Reading's Jeff Baumgartner.

Ultimately, Windstream reached a settlement with Uniti and was able to move forward from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, complete a financial restructuring process as a privately held company, reduce its debt by over $4 billion, or about two-thirds, and gain has access to approximately $2 billion in new capital. Three divisions also emerged from the restructuring – Windstream Enterprise, Kinetic by Windstream, and Windstream Wholesale – which address enterprise, business and residential customers.

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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