Frontier community focus to overtake AT&T
By the end of the year, some 1.5 million customers in Connecticut will see the letterhead on their Internet and phone bills change from AT&T Inc. to Frontier Communications Corp.
Frontier has called Stamford home since 1946. But never before has the Fortune 500 company served Connecticut customers.
Now as executives prepare to switch the Connecticut plug, they’re anticipating one obvious question from customers: Who is Frontier Communications?
The answer, officials hope customers find, is a company focused on community and customer service.
“We’re here to serve the customer, be responsive and go the extra mile,” said Cecilia K. McKenney, executive vice president of human resources and administrative services. “That’s everybody’s job here including mine.”
Nowhere in McKenney’s job description does it list customer support. But twice during an interview with the Business Journal, McKenney pointed to the cell number on her business card as a contact point for acquaintances as far away as Minnesota.
The largest communication services provider focused on rural and suburban America, Frontier served roughly 3.1 million customers in 2013 and generated an estimated $5 billion in annual revenue. By the second half of 2014, the company also plans to close on a deal with AT&T to acquire its Connecticut wire-line operations for $2 billion cash.
Pending federal approval, the acquisition would include 2,700 Connecticut AT&T employees as well as all AT&T small business and residential telephone lines, broadband connections and video subscribers.
Retaining just its 4G LTE cellphone network and large business contracts, AT&T executives say the deal is an opportunity to further the company’s transition into an all-IP, wireless and cloud network.
Frontier has kept a low profile in Connecticut, but the same isn’t true in the markets it serves. Commonly Frontier is a part of community parades, food banks and veteran programs, which it says is a winning strategy to increasing market share.
“Consumers want to buy from people,” McKenney said. “Not from some big company five states away or in another country. They want to buy from a trusted technologies company.”
“Bet my bottom dollar, you will see Frontier in the newspapers when we take over this Connecticut acquisition,” she added.
Analysts estimate the wire-line package will produce $1.25 billion in revenue in 2014. But beyond expected revenue from the acquisition, McKinney said the company believes its community engagement model will allow it expand on AT&T’s current market share in Connecticut.
After acquiring similar services in 14 states from Verizon Communications three years ago, the company’s model has successfully increased customer contracts in each market and reduced the number of those discontinuing service.
The new customer base also serves as an opportunity to sell value-added products like the company’s data security, computer protection and technical support services.
Expressing what seemed to be genuine excitement, Brigid Smith, assistant vice president of corporate communications, said she was already telling friends and family that the local engagement model was coming back to Connecticut phone service.
Years ago, Southern New England Telephone Co. (SNET), which eventually became AT&T, was a “beloved” company, Smith said, primarily for its emphasis on customer service. Customers personally knew the representatives who answered service requests, rather than interacting with a faceless voice reading a script.
“It’s a model extremely familiar to Frontier – the local engagement model,” Smith said. “People will be seeing SNET again, in a different name as Frontier.”
“It sounds pretty hokey,” she said. “But I’ve been here 35 years and it is a great company.”