Earlier this year, Qwest Communications International Inc. asked small-business owners what they thought about the IT and communication services they use and it heard the same answer again and again: “It’s complicated.”
Qwest is tackling the issue with something called the Core Connect bundle, tailored for small businesses, that lives up to its name. The bundle offers core connectivity needs, including high-speed Internet, phone, business e-mail and a business Web site, out of the box.
“We went beyond surveys or focus groups – we followed small-business owners through their work days and were struck by the time wasted on figuring out technology,” said Stephanie Copeland, vice president of Qwest Small Business, in a statement. “This made it clear that a simple solution like Core Connect is needed. Now small-business owners can focus on running their businesses – not untangling network options.”
To inform the development of Qwest Core Connect, Qwest captured ethnographic observations and interviews with small- and medium-sized businesses in Qwest markets, which indicated that for most small businesses, the perceived complexity of even the most basic IT services is a source of deep confusion and frustration.
Small businesses – from a one-person shop to a business with several locations – can subscribe to Qwest Core Connect for the promotional rate of $69.99 per month for six months, with a new two- or three-year commitment. The regular rate after the sixth month will vary by commitment terms and high-speed Internet speed tier selected. Services and terms vary by state, and this promotion is not available in Montana and New Mexico.
The Qwest Core Connect Solution includes:
• Phone service with up to 15 calling features
• Unlimited local and nationwide long-distance calls
• Several choices of high-speed Internet connection speeds, up to 20mbps (12mbps and 20 mbps speed tiers are available only in select areas)
• 5GB of Web hosting storage
• Access to Web design templates
• Up to a 10-page Web site, including search engine optimization (SEO)
• Custom e-mail that employees can access from anywhere they have Internet access
• Domain name and registration with Microsoft Exchange e-mail activation
• 24/7 technical support
Qwest also redesigned its small-business Web site with a simplified interface, and now features a convenient way to talk to Qwest: The “click-to-call” feature enables Qwest’s current small-business customers to enter their phone number and request a call back from a Qwest customer service representative or salesperson.
Qwest isn’t the only large company to turn its attention to the specific needs of small businesses, which tend to be underserved and bewildered by a communications sales process that is often tailored to enterprises with IT departments. Sprint-Nextel Corp. recently launched a specific small-business division to focus its own efforts on the segment in a concentrated way.