Technology and service make choosing SBC a smart move

In a fiercely competitive market, knowing what your customers want and delivering it reliably is all that matters

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In a company considered the nation’s number two local phone outfit behind Verizon Wireless, it might seem easy to get lost in the shuffle. Not so for Maureen Weyel, executive director of the SmartMoves program at SBC Communications dedicated to serving multifamily properties, who moved into the leadership role following a career-long history of executive leadership in positions as executive director of SBC’s Global Services in both operations and project management and as regional vice president of customer care.

Weyel’s experience resonates with a strong background in marketing, operations, and customer care, all vital areas needed to succeed in the competitive multifamily telecommunications market. As Weyel talks about her company and its vision for growth, she exudes a quiet confidence coupled with a keen insight into the needs and demands of her customers.

“Our approach with SmartMoves is really a two-prong effort,” says Weyel. “We have a business-to-business arm that works with the major REITs and apartment owners, and we have another focus on the end-users or residents. We’re really serving two masters but with the same goal of providing the best quality in service and delivery.”

It’s no surprise to see Weyel heading up the SmartMoves program for SBC which has been cited for its commitment to providing opportunities for women and minorities numerous times. In 2002, SBC was named one of the nation’s top 25 companies for executive women by the National Association of Female Executives (NAFE)—the third consecutive year the company was singled out for recognition. In 2002, SBC was the only telecommunications company to make NAFE’s top 25 list among Fortune 1000 companies.

“Promoting opportunities for women has been fundamental to our success,” said Edward E. Whitacre, Jr., chairman and CEO, SBC Communications. “There’s no doubt that women will continue to play an important role in driving the future of this company. Diversity in our employees and management ranks makes us more responsive to our customers and employees.”

SBC’s workforce is 47 percent female; women comprise 30 percent of SBC’s corporate officers. In addition, women make up 29 percent of SBC’s board of directors. The most recent Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners shows that SBC’s female representation among its executive ranks is more than double that among the average Fortune 500 company.

The company’s track record as a leading employer of Hispanics is equally impressive. More than 21,000 Hispanics are employed at SBC. Nearly ten percent of the company’s board members and nine percent of corporate officers are Hispanic.

“SBC’s strong, active commitment to diversity helps us to respond better to our customers and employees,” said Patricia Diaz Dennis, senior vice president of SBC.

SmartMoves growing

SmartMoves, which wires new multifamily complexes and master-planned communities for telecommunications and high-speed DSL Internet access, is SBC’s strategic marketing initiative that includes large REITs, apartment ownership groups and apartment management groups to deliver such services as local and long distance voice, high-speed DSL Internet, satellite TV and wireless.

The quest for supremacy in the multifamily telecommunications market is one of the most intensely fought battles in the telecom arena, an industry known for its extreme “last man standing” style of competition.

“Demand for SmartMoves is growing,” says Weyel. “We’re on board with nearly all of the nation’s top REITs and we have 1.4 million MDU units under contract today and expect to have more than 1.8 million units under contract by the end of 2004. Over the past ten years, we’ve expanded to almost 2 million single family home and apartment residences.”

Like its chief rival, Verizon Avenue, SBC has moved quickly to fill the void left over by the telecommunications crash of 2000 when many private telcos serving the MDU market ran out of capital and folded. Both companies have taken the opportunity to secure strong market shares and put into place aggressive business units charged solely with serving the multifamily market.

“We realized that apartment owners were used to certain expectations of customized service and partnering with private providers that the larger telecommunications firms were perceived as missing,” says Weyel. “SmartMoves is countering that view. The advantage we offer over private providers is reliability—we’ve been around for 100 years—and a recognizable brand reputation for quality, service, and innovation. Far too many owners and managers were stranded by the demise of private providers and that negative experience still lingers there.”

SBC’s leadership in the multifamily market is unquestioned. SBC and Verizon accounted for the majority of all U.S. DSL subscribers at the end of 2003. Overall five providers accounted for 94 percent of the U.S. DSL market according to In-Stat/MDR, a supplier of informational resources and analytical assets on technology, telecommunications and information services.

As a market leader, SBC delivers services in 13 states with its biggest markets in California, Texas, and Illinois. SBC has a majority ownership in Cingular Wireless, which ranks second behind Verizon Wireless and has 24 million subscribers in 38 states. With the pending merger with AT&T Wireless, SBC would become the nation’s largest wireless carrier. It is the largest DSL provider and second largest Broadband provider with four million subscribers.

“DSL is the service most in demand by apartment properties and there is a higher DSL penetration rate for SmartMove customers,” says Weyel. “For today’s owners and managers not having DSL is like not having phones or water.”

Tangible benefits for apartments

SBC’s SmartMoves program provides a wide range of benefits for owners and residents, including convenient online ordering, value-priced service bundles, and a progressive ancillary income program for owners. Comprehensive support services and marketing materials are provided to sales and leasing professionals to simplify and expedite setup of new customers. Dedicated SBC account managers work closely with onsite staff to maintain a high level of support and satisfaction.

In addition to its wide range of services, SBC Labs is continually developing new services and enhancing existing ones. Work is under way on advances in fiber connectivity, VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol), Wi-Fi services, and multimedia entertainment services.

“We’ve already rolled out Wi-Fi services in SmartMoves properties in three regions and we’re putting it into lobbies and common areas such as the clubhouse and poolside,” says Weyel.

Recently, SBC announced its groundbreaking initiative to deploy more than 20,000 Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) hot spots in the next three years and create an integrated Wi-Fi and third generation (3G) wireless service with Cingular Wireless to deliver extensive coverage that enables customers to enjoy a consistent broadband experience at home, the office, and on the road. The new service, called FreedomLinkSM, will be available in more than 6,000 hotels, airports, restaurants, convention centers and other venues throughout SBC’s 13-state region by the end of 2006.

“The MDU market is a demanding one to serve,” says Weyel. “Residents expect the latest and greatest. Demand by residents for DSL transformed it from an amenity to a necessary commodity. We’re continuing to develop new products and services and ways to provide value to our multifamily customers. Our highest priority is customer service and delivering the most choices and the best value to residents and owners alike. Telecommunications is no longer just a service or utility. It’s an integral part of property management’s ongoing efforts to market apartments and retain residents.”