Earlier this week, PlusNet (www.plus.net) confirmed Neil Laycock as its Chief Executive Officer. Mr Laycock had been acting CEO since Lee Strafford's departure back in March which seemed anything but amicable. He has been working for PlusNet since 2004 in various senior management posts within the company prior to taking over the top job soon following BT's takeover of PlusNet. He has previously also worked for BT for several years.
We spoke to Neil Laycock to find out how he thinks PlusNet can learn from the past and what he expects to see in the future, both for PlusNet and the consumer broadband market in general.
How do you feel PlusNet will change in the next year?
We'll place a lot of emphasis on our community site. We're two weeks in since full launch and more than 4,000 people are actively using the site. The PlusNet community has thrived through internal forums in the past, and now a new generation of broadband customers wants to make their voice heard and take part in a community.
We're sticking to our guns about "open and honest" broadband that offers sustainable value for money. None of our products are unprofitable, so customers don't need to cross-subsidise them with TV, mobile phones or land lines if they don't want to.
Community, quality and real value are not novelties. They're more important than ever, with new competitors flooding the market with discounts and a "pile 'em high" approach.
This year will also be the time when traffic prioritisation and quality of service hits the mainstream. We're planning a gaming product that will guarantee quality of service for people who depend on low pings and fast-as-possible speeds. More and more people will be asking for their ISP to take responsibility for delivering quality, for services like BBC's iPlayer will be used in front rooms up and down the country.
What has been your biggest challenge within PlusNet so far?
Rebuilding our reputation and shedding the reputation for being "gaff prone". It won't be fixed overnight but it will be fixed. Up-to the end of last year, there was underinvestment in bandwidth and customer service agents which significantly damaged our reputation. Since the takeover, BT have invested and supported PlusNet, resulting in a significantly improved service - evidenced by our winning of the Uswitch awards and back in the top 5 of Epitiro speed results.
Our internal "cornerstones" dictate that we listen to our customers, engage in debate and justify our business model. Under my leadership it is now our KEY focus. Many of our customers were involved in the design of the Broadband Your Way products back in March and together with the launch of our community site to engage with a larger audience, I feel we are being true to our values again. Slowly but surely we are rebuilding our reputation. In 2007/2008 we will be known as the best value ISP to sign up with or more crucially to migrate into.
What do you feel will be the most significant consumer broadband development in the next twelve months?
Reliability and quality of service will become critical. Web TV is made possible (see BBC's iPlayer); new Web 2.0 tools are shaping up to replace the desktop; people will depend on their broadband without realising how much. Poor quality of service will be a real wake up call and price won't be as much of a concern because it's more about value for money. You can't complain if you're given something for free!
Small businesses will start waking up the new online applications also. We've anticipated this and we've created a dedicated business support centre this year to deliver quality across the service – not just within the technology but in our people and our products too.Neil Laycock (CEO), PlusNet
In the meantime, former CEO Lee Strafford has written an e-mail reported on TheRegister about his treatment by BT following the PlusNet takeover, protesting his innocence to the accusations of planning a rival business. He points out his commitment to the company in the past and hints he may be looking at new projects based on "openness, honesty, transparency, and true collaboration"