Customers in South Africa are often mistreated by large companies as they are focused on their profits and volume rather than the individual client. This motivated Lionel, the CEO of bitCONNECT, to prioritize fairness towards customers. bitCONNECT aimed to show that there is a service provider that cares about its customers and goes the extra mile.
In the time we operated as a reseller, I heard so many people complain about the large telcos. Complaints like impossible cancellation processes, lack of support, long installation lead times and just general difficulty in dealing with these large corporates. I think much of our success can be ascribed to the fact that I have really spent a lot of time getting our user experience right. But from the start, I always knew that the perfect UX requires a system that pre-empts what the user wants while providing everything we and the user needs.
bitCONNECT started as a small company operated mainly by Lionel with marketing help from his wife. They didn’t want to spend time on manual tasks when there was a possibility of automating them since it would have been way more expensive than running an automated network. And the customer comes first. The company used different systems before Splynx but Lionel still had to manually handle much of the billing, particularly the VoIP billing, himself.
Although they were getting the customers, Lionel eventually realized that operating as a run-of-the-mill ISP was not long-term feasible as the margins were terribly low. They needed to streamline workflows while improving profitability.
Lionel was reluctant about Splynx at first. Having tried an older version of the product previously his dated perception of the product was that it won’t work for his business. Not to mention that he’d previously been told that Splynx was an expensive product.
After spending hours yet-again doing VoIP billing manually, having tried numerous routes and exploring possibilities of integrating his current system at the time with their VoIP system, Lionel decided to give Splynx another try.
I distinctly recall saying to my newly recruited technician at that time that Splynx is not going to work for us. Then I opened the Splynx features and I think within 30 minutes my mind was made. The Splynx sales team contacted me thinking they’d probably still have to make the sale but I already bought. I just wanted to know where to pay. I probably spent a couple of hours or so just making sure that I would be able to transfer all of my customer data from the old system to Splynx but I think that wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker anyway. I just really wanted a system that could do my subscription invoicing and automate VoIP billing. Boy, I got that and so much more.
Lionel was able to configure the whole system by himself during the setup of Splynx. While our support team assisted with the installation of Splynx, Lionel easily figured out how to set up the billing process and successfully transferred customers from the previous system on his own.
I think the whole system migration probably took me around 3 or 4 days. Now you must remember that previously we were using one system to manage our customers and their internet services and little bit of support desking. Our invoicing was done externally in another system and a 3rd system took care of our debit orders. So I didn’t just migrate one system to Splynx, I also completely re-designed our entire billing procedure. We started the process around the 12th July and by the 20th I sent out my first invoices from Splynx. I think we probably had at most 2 people with a billing issue.There’s always been a solution to my problem and reaching Splynx support has never been an issue. It’s really very simple. If you don’t have access to your email you can always log the ticket via your own Splynx portal.
Currently bitCONNECT has internal support capabilities. Lionel handles some of the more complex issues while another team member deals with basic customer concerns such as slow Wi-Fi or connection issues. The third member of the team works as the sales manager.
I actually think because of all the automation that Splynx does for us we’d probably be able to double our amount of customers and still kind of operate like we’re operating now.
Making cybersecurity their competitive advantage
The bitCONNECT team strives to offer as many value-added services as possible within their limited resources but Lionel has made it clear that any such services have to conform to very specific criteria, namely:
- Must be directly relatable to their core business (i.e. connectivity and VoIP)
- Have very little to no management and/or support overhead
- Have a high value to the customer, and low cost to the company
- Must be able to generate revenue
- Must be a low perceived cost to the customer
- Must be an easy upsell
They believe this is the best way for a small provider to differentiate themselves from large competitors and provide maximum value to their customers. Additionally, due to the financial challenges faced by bitCONNECT last year, it was crucial for them to generate additional streams of revenue to grow their network. This is why Lionel saw the potential for an upsell opportunity when he discovered the Splynx and Whalebone integration.
I was looking for a creative solution through which I could increase GP per customer. You can increase the price for all services but if it is 10 Rand per service it doesn’t really make sense. I wanted to increase my ARPU in a creative way that is also valuable to the customer. So, when I heard of the whalebone integration I was intrigued and I immediately saw potential for a very nice cybersecurity upsell for my customers.
bitCONNECT’s success is largely due to its understanding of their customers’ needs and wants. The team developed tailored plans for specific target segments, including optimized products for privacy-conscious individuals, parents, and businesses looking for affordable ways to enhance their online security and privacy.
Currently, all of their customers receive basic filtering for malware and phishing but no additional content filtering. Lionel saw a positive impact on his network immediately, as some customers had thousands of DNS requests for a single malicious URL and it was easy to deal with this issue thanks to Whalebone.
I myself have had this experience since I use it for my own internet connection at home. I only have the basic level of filtering but it’s happened to me that you get these spam or phishing SMSs that really look legitimate. I actually ordered a Ukrainian dictionary and before it came I got an SMS that looked like the United States Postal Service. I tried to check it out but as soon as you wanted to go further it was blocked by my DNS resolver. I know if this happens to me and it blocks that content, it’s definitely going to benefit my customers as well.
bitCONNECT offers different options for concerned parents to help keep their children’s online activity safe. The main objective is to block the access to adult, drug-related, and other inappropriate content as well as provisioning of additional privacy and peer-to-peer traffic filtering. These plans worked out great. Since bitCONNECT added security packages to their sign up form, customers started applying for the security service during the application process without bitCONNECT doing any marketing.
Our filtering products which are geared to the concerned parents are also well received by schools. We recently signed up a school who, again without any marketing effort, opted in for our highest option. Immediately this not only increases the revenue but our profit margin on that client.
For businesses, bitCONNECT provides preset packages similar to their home offerings but tailored towards office needs. They also have a fully customizable option allowing customers to set their own filtering preferences and choose what they want to see and block, with customized landing and blocking pages for each company. If you were to go and buy antivirus software you’re looking at 500, 600 or even 800 Rand per device or per user on your network. Also, antivirus needs to be installed on each device which is quite time-consuming and expensive. Firewall appliances can range upward of R10 000 plus yearly license fees, hosting space, electricity, insurance and they require knowledgeable administrators to maintain them.
So their service became really popular even without promoting it. It offers cost-effective security protection that does not require any additional installation on companies’ devices and most importantly – there is no need to hire someone to maintain everything.
The Whalebone Peacemaker initiative is already more than 300% profitable in a short period of time for bitCONNECT. They have a customer with a group of companies with nine offices that are paying a monthly fee per office. The revenue generated from this client alone covers triple their entire Whalebone subscription, allowing him to have a substantial amount of recurring revenue just from one business customer. Lionel has already seen the growth and higher profitability which is great for small ISPs like bitCONNECT and his clients insist on these products.
- Almost 200% growth of customer base since they started with Splynx.
- Reduced debtor days from 20 to 10: shortened the number of days it takes for clients to pay by 10 days.
- Increased ARPU with value-added services: 1000$ of recurring revenue just from one business customer that has 9 offices. One office covers the whole Whalebone license so all other 8 offices, other business and residential customers that they have go as a net profit for the company.
- Automated workflows: with only 3 people on their team, they utilize all of Splynx’s functionality to its full extent as much as possible.