SBC Introduces Small Business Bundles

By Colin C. Haley | Posted March 04, 2003
As corporations remain skittish about large, long-term contracts, communications service providers are aggressively courting small businesses to make up the difference in lost revenues.

The latest example is SBC Communications, which this week introduced its Connections offering, a new package allowing small businesses to mix and match local, long distance, broadband, Web hosting and wireless services. Its designed for companies with fewer than 50 employees.

Like their Fortune 1000 counterparts, small businesses want discounts and personalized service, as well as the flexibility to choose from different options, said Ray Wilkins, SBC's president of sales and marketing.

The promotion includes SBC Yahoo! DSL for $29.95 a month on a 12-month term or SBC Yahoo! DSL and Shared Web Hosting starting at $44.95 for a 12-month term. The contracts, aimed to reduce customer churn, represent about a 25 percent discount over standard rates. But some services are discounted as much as 40 percent off from regular monthly fees. Wireless service from BellSouth) can also be added to the mix at about a 10 percent savings.

In addition to these service offerings presented in one monthly bill, SBC also realigned its sales and support staff, and hired outside service workers, to back up the Connections initiative. SBC also plans on rolling out a multi-million-dollar print and radio ad campaign to promote Connections. The spots will emphasize the flexible offerings and price.

According to SBC, independent industry research indicates that small businesses choose their telecommunications services primarily based on price and customer service. Small businesses prefer flexible offerings of communications services and the ability to customize those offerings — as opposed to one-size-fits-all service plans. The SBC Connections plan is designed to directly address each of these preferences.

The ability to aggregate some or all of their communications services and receive significant price discounts, along with a single bill and a single point of contact is like a dream come true. At least according to Kimberly Schuster of Falcon Research, a financial research firm based in Palo Alto, Calif.

"We were fed up with too many cooks in the kitchen, and we only wanted to deal with one contact," said Schuster "Now that we have SBC local and long distance services, we go to one person, and we pay one bill. The rates are great and you can't beat the service."

The San Antonio, Texas, carrier, which operates mostly in states in the Midwest and West, has rolled out combined service offerings in the past, but those were primarily focused on the consumer market.

Others communications service providers betting on bundled services to win or retain small business customers include Covad and Verizon.

As more and more carriers attempt to woo small business, it may be time to shop for a new data and voice communications deals.

Adapted from internetnews.com.

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