For one of North America’s largest nonprofits, 2018 starts with solving opportunity and quality costs that consumer grade providers’ solutions couldn’t fix after months of trying. During WiFi interruption and downtime, disabled residents of the nonprofit’s community living program were left with no way to connect with the outside world.

This was shocking considering how many individuals, households and businesses the telecommunications provider in the US serves on a commercial, enterprise level every day. Their standards of wireless deployment and installation are clearly well-established and evolve quickly with industry changes. Occasionally, however, the customer requesting their help has unique needs and pain points. In this case, very specific budgetary and IT management needs come with being a national nonprofit focused on disabled Americans: from veterans to those suffering from economic hardship. Frustration with using the internet (access aside) is in the national spotlight with the watershed Americans with Disabilities Act legislation.

Luckily, they had been our partner for many years in large scale deployment, installation and management of network rollouts. With trust built over time and experience, they knew that our wireless solution specializes in this exact type of unique case. Other solutions just aren’t willing to invest the time to adapt or evolve. The nonprofit’s mission is to change the way the world defines and views disabilities by making profound differences in people’s everyday lives. They provide community-based resources and services to  help people with disabilities, caregivers, veterans and their families to do things like…

  • live
  • learn
  • work
  • play and
  • act

…. in their communities. They offer comprehensive programs in a network of more than 550 sites nationwide.

One such profound way of connecting disabled people to their communities is literally connecting them with reliable WiFi. From job searching to keeping up with news or paying bills online, a consistent and fast wireless infrastructure is essential to the nonprofit’s mission statement. Additionally, as a nonprofit with such large coverage, budget is critical to sustainability. Going to other large providers just wasn’t cutting it in either reliable coverage, or budget. So, when they came to our partner with a specific problem, this provider knew exactly who to turn to. When it came down to decision making, the provider made an introduction between the nonprofit and our custom solution. The channel sales lead, Brandon Grant, closed the deal with the nonprofit’s CIO by offering something no one else had: a tailored solution of custom offerings.

The nonprofit has 550 sites nationwide, an army of over two hundred employees and a large number of volunteers. As such, they have their own IT team of technicians under the CIO and are very open to new technology. The main thing that seemed to be a roadblock to every other provider was the budget constraints expected with a nationwide nonprofit organization with sites and an extant IT infrastructure.

Identifying Pain Points

For us, what used to be a roadblock quickly became part of the solution:

  1. They needed a low-cost solution to manage multiple networks over multiple distributed sites.
  2. They experienced 4-6 months of poor Wifi already, so they needed a full deployment quickly.

The constant lack of WiFi caused lack of quality and opportunity for their organization, and ultimately, their residents. When budgetary and IT management resources seem insurmountable, businesses turn from provider to provider for solutions in an endless pattern of disappointment.

Applying Our Resources

Our custom plan turned pain points into solutions.

The nonprofit came to us with the end result of poor WiFi: people that depended on them had no connectivity to the outside world. In Grant’s words, “people are in homes and places of business etc. with zero connectivity.”

Our solution plans for telecom providers is always scalable and repeatable. It is exactly in line with our business model as a choice of custom services for any partner. With the telecom provider, specifically, and the nonprofit’s IT personnel, we could offer training. The training employed the “teach a man to fish” strategy from the beginning. Instead of offering a blanket bid during negotiations, we offered a trainer type scenario where we utilize the nonprofit’s own IT employees in the 67-68 sites in southern California where they need to deploy technology. Not only does the training solution that would allow them to be scalable and repeatable, but also sustainable within the limited budget of a nonprofit. Essentially, we came up with a tailored plan to be able to train existing resources to deploy and manage networks successfully. Instead of us doing all 60 sites ourselves (we offer onsite field technicians nationwide as an option), we do five sites with techs in southern California, and then the nonprofit’s IT personnel can do five sites with the guidance of our engineers and help desk available 24/7. Then, they take it from there! When we offered this as an option, it was right in their budget and exactly what they needed. They were thrilled with a custom plan of 3 easy steps:

Step 1 – Hardware Acquisition

Our own engineers will deploy the wireless network infrastructure security during the first 5 sites. This is something that a rough, consumer grade blanket bid would not cover. The nonprofit’s own personnel (resources they already have) will shadow our personnel during the process, taking notes, and creating their own internal SOPs on how to deploy that network and switch access points to a facility.

Step 2 –  Deployment & Installation

For the second five sites, the nonprofit’s field techs deploy by themselves with the help of one of our expert Customer Service Representative members  or engineers over the phone. On these second 5, we do any type of troubleshooting remotely, keeping the budget down. For example, they can call in and ask how to connect the access point to the switch, or the access point to the security plans. At that point, our lead representative Steve Meister will walk them through the process.

Step 3 – Training & Support

Once the first 10 out of 60 sites are done with full support, they will deploy the rest of them on their own. Instead of charging them for each 60 sites, they have a set number of hours to be able to call in ask for help on sites, if and when necessary, included in the budget. At the same time, we create an SOP for them. This is the “repeatable” part: a solid SOP will allow their CIO and their IT management group to understand and manage their network moving forward.

And that’s the custom, scalable solution that we offer every one of our partners and their customers.

Even though they already had a system in place, it was neither solving their problem, nor sustainable financially. Consumer grade solutions with blanket bids were just not working at all for their nonprofit customer. They spent half a year looking around at large telecommunication providers that have partners equivalent (on the surface) to us that should be able to handle network distribution and management, but they provide the same price and solution to every business by just counting sites. It goes without saying that every business is different, however, especially nonprofits.

Their problem was costing them budget, time, opportunity and quality. Getting people back onto their feet and into the job force and into the community is impossible with no connectivity to that community. Enabling people with disabilities to do things like job searches and support themselves is impossible without connectivity. Isolation from the outside world is the ultimate cost of a failing solution for the nonprofit. Our partnership with the national service provider partnership solved this disconnect, resulting in a community of people with disabilities who depend on the nonprofit gaining the opportunity to see and to interact with the world like everyone else.

While nothing specifically triggered them to seek a different telecom provider for solutions (why would they if they didn’t know they had options?), they had settled for too long and residents were unhappy. It was this long suffering of their customers, more than anything, that triggered them to reach out.

When asked what set our solution apart for the end customer, the nonprofit, our sales lead says,

“To be honest, we are just treating the customer as people, and not just a sales opportunity or number by trying to understand their problem.”

When the nonprofit came to our telecom provider partner, they did not know how to solve their problem before communicating with us. They didn’t even know they had options. They knew they had a problem that no one else was solving, and we were the only ones that listened to the specifics from our partner. We came back with recommended solutions that they chose from, based on their needs and budget, allowing our partner to look great and focus on what they do best.

The strong partnership with the service provider gave the nonprofit the only viable solution to a complex, large scale deployment. We both wanted to solve their problem.

Instead of a blanket bid, we gave them a consultative service during the discovery phase. Giving them recommendations from the beginning made all the difference.While the service provider that the nonprofit approached did not have a solution for this without us, we would never have gotten to work with a nationwide nonprofit without the introduction.

Our business model revolves around the fact that the most critical part of a successful sale and resulting deployment is listening to the customer and their needs. If you’re not doing that, then you’re not doing your job as a complete solution. Our sales lead didn’t come back to them with any elevator pitch; they already understood who we are and what we do. Most importantly, they understood the value of who we are through our partnership with the service provider.

Where we are now

The nonprofit approached the service provider for a solution at their 60 southern California sites in July 2017. The contract was executed by November 2017, with installations beginning immediately in December. That’s a 4-6 month bid, negotiation, tailoring, training and installation turn around. On the first day alone in December 2017, we installed all 5 initial sites and all equipment configured at our depot in Louisville arrived. The complete site installation and training was finished mid January 2018, in time for the new year. Fully managed solutions are a step by step and ongoing process, so check back soon for details!