EPB in Chattanooga offers a service to business clients that offers a good reminder that local service providers have to be able to offer a variety of business services because different businesses have vastly different wants and needs. In 2012, the publicly owned utility began offering telephone service with cloud characteristics.
The service saves money by limiting the need of small businesses to commit to capital investment and personnel costs while offering the capabilities that larger firms with larger IT staffs have. A TimesFreePress article on the service from 2012 reported:
"We looked at an average business that had nine sets and eight lines, and it comes to about $320 per month, instead of thousands of dollars in up-front costs," [Katie] Espeseth [EPB's head of product development] said.
When businesses install them on their own, the systems and devices require employees to maintain, at a time when many companies are looking to streamline their IT departments.
"It really takes the burden of installing and maintaining your telephone equipment off your own employees and puts it with our company," said Espeseth. "In Chattanooga, if a small business can take the capital they were going to spend on a new phone system and invest it in their business, it makes sense to spread that cost out over time."
EPB did their homework and now provides a service that small businesses need at affordable rates. Understanding the needs of local businesses and offering a range of options is key to the success of local providers.