Back when Skycasters was started in 2001, we understood clearly the markets we wanted to serve, and the quality of the product that we wanted to deliver. We wanted to deliver true broadband quality – the quality of service that would allow businesses to operate in areas underserved by traditional terrestrial connections.
We have since expanded that basic idea to include portable solutions and backup services that can keep your business running in the event of a landline failure – but our commitment to delivering an exceptional user experience has not wavered.
As we looked for a way to get into this market, we considered our options. We talked to folks in the industry, looked at their offerings, and read the glossy brochures. We decided to become a reseller of Brand H.
The Brand H marketing department does a great job of describing the type of user experience that makes satellite a viable connectivity option. I see their commercials all the time, and they’re very well done. If you haven’t seen one yet, here’s a link. Take 60 seconds to watch it, then join me for “the rest of the story.”
If you are in the market for “broadband anywhere,” this commercial certainly is appealing. It makes a promise, a promise that broadband is better than residential service and has applicability across industries. It promises a certain user experience –quick access, high speeds, compatibility. Unfortunately, their product doesn’t live up to the promise. It’s all legal, of course – their attorneys wrote a nice “fine print” disclaimer that says, essentially, “we guarantee nothing.” But what about that brand promise? What about living up to the “Glossy Brochure?”
The fact is, their business model won’t let them live up to their brand promise. It can’t. (More about that later.)
When Skycasters was with Brand H, we were also unable to deliver their promise. So we made a commitment to our customers, and we intended to keep it – even if that meant building the entire infrastructure ourselves. So that’s exactly what we did. We left Brand H and constructed our own Earth stations and state of the art data center. We invested in satellite hubs and networking gear. And we hired the engineers and operations team to make it all work. Years of effort, millions of dollars invested – all so that we could deliver on our promise.
But just building our own infrastructure was not enough to let us deliver the promise. We had to make choices about that infrastructure and how to deploy it. We made a conscious decision to engineer a solution that would deliver the promise.
Delivering broadband via satellite really is rocket science. Much of our equipment looks like it came straight out of a science fiction novel. And the reality is, it costs a lot of money to do it well.
At Brand H, the marketing department chose the product that they sell. No disrespect intended — I’m a marketing guy myself — but understanding this is fundamental to understanding why their product can never live up to their brand promise. In designing their product, their marketing department did a lot of research into “what people wanted to pay.” Armed with this research, their staff built their product to meet this price point – cutting every corner necessary along the way. Technology, equipment, performance and customer service – all cut to the bone – to hell with whether or not they deliver on their brand promise – so long as they get to market for $59/month. That $59/month has to cover everything – infrastructure, space segment, engineers, management, support – everything. WHAT? It simply doesn’t add up – it can’t.
Let me give you an example – technical support. You see, we did some market research as well. We asked our customers what they wanted in terms of quality of service and support. You told us you wanted an all US-based support team, technically competent, available 24/7, and actually willing to listen and take the time required to resolve your problem. Even if that meant staying on the phone for an hour in the middle of the night – you wanted us to stay with you until the problem was resolved. So that’s what we did. At Skycasters, we spend an average of $58 per customer per month for technical support and customer care. That’s right, we spend almost as much on the support as they do on their whole product. For $59/month total, exactly how much do you think they allocate to support? Where is their support staff based? How much training do they have? How much support do you really get?
Let’s continue this for another moment and talk about equipment and installation. Competent, qualified technicians are not free. And specialty equipment, capable of receiving signals from outer space and beaming messages back into the heavens is pretty sophisticated stuff. Yet Brand H resellers want you to buy into some ridiculous “$99 installed” claim. Stop and think about that for a minute. It just doesn’t add up – it can’t – and you know better. The old adage still applies – If it sounds too good to be true…
The reality is, we look prospects in the eye every day and explain to them that in order to get the performance they want, it’s going to cost a grand for the equipment. It is what it is. If you want it to work right, sometimes you have to spend some money.
Not that we don’t appreciate value. We do. As technology improves, we are always testing new products and new suppliers to improve our overall value and see if we can lower costs while maintaining quality. In fact, we have lowered our standard equipment price from $4,000 to $1,000 in only three years. But we also understand that if we take out any more cost, we compromise quality – and that is something we simply won’t do.
Now I don’t want to leave you with the wrong impression. Brand H is not incompetent. Far from it. They employ some of the best and brightest, same as we do. And they have smart, capable leaders, too. Heck, in some ways, they’re even more capable than we are. They can even fly their own satellite, and it may be a few more years until we get there.
The fact is, Brand H could build a network as good as ours if they wanted to. But they have chosen to deliver a price point – not a promise.
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