ADTRAN gets Real

Having a good product is one thing. Being able to effectively communicate you have a good product is another. Recognizing you have challenges with the latter and need to fix it is what ADTRAN is all about these days with its Real campaign.

ADTRAN flew a bunch of telecom media people - including yours truly -- down to its Huntsville, Ala., HQ this week to get a look at upcoming products, in-depth background on the company, and brainwashing, er, briefing on the company's messaging going forward. The hospitality was, in a word, Southern - generous, friendly, relaxed, unique. Or they just pushed all my happy-Geek buttons, and I'm still buzzing happy.

You'll hear more ADTRAN talk about Real People - their customers and staff - Real Networks, and Real Value in the weeks to come. Company executives have seen a window open up in the last six months where SMBs and enterprises are asking for alternatives to the dominant name brand (five letters, starts with a C, ends with an O), because the price tag is too high for what you get for that well-known name. With budgets tightening, it's about cash up front and TCO.

ADTRAN has over 1700 people on payroll. It's an engineering company at the core, which is both a blessing and a curse. Engineering people tend to be less colorful than the software guys, who are less colorful than the marketing and PR guys, but if you need someone to build and/or fix something and make sure it keeps working, who do you want?

Five-year warranties. Where do you find five-year warranties on most gear, be it routers, switches, or SMB all-in-one boxes? Companies who know engineering build stuff that lasts. Companies who have faith in their engineering processes offer five-year warranties.  

ADTRAN offers five-year warranties (depending on the hardware, mind you), but you have to hunt and dig and scrape around on their website to find it. Engineers don't like to brag, you see.

Free firmware upgrades for the lifetime of the box? ADTRAN.

Technical support is another beautiful story ADTRAN is starting to talk up.  When you call for pre or post-sales support, you get a person sitting in Huntsville, not an outsourced contractor reading off of a script.

Tech support is not rated by some tightwad metric on the number of calls taken per day or shortest average amount of time on the phone, but how many "Attaboys" come back from the customer once the problem is resolved. And, oh-by-the-way, shortly after you work out the problem on the phone, expect to see a follow-up email documenting the way the problem was resolved.

People who start off in technical support are among the brightest engineering graduates ADTRAN can recruit. Many engineers in the company now building and testing new ADTRAN products can trace their start in the company back to answering the phones and solving problems.

A discussion as to how ADTRAN builds products is a whole ‘nother conversation and slide show I hope to get up later today.

Needless to say, ADTRAN is a company intent on telling its story more stridently over the next months.

- Doug