With their sleek new College Station home as inspiration, Viasat’s Global Business Solutions (GBS) and Wi-Fi Services teams are strengthening the foundations for two of the company’s fastest-growing segments.
“What we’re doing now will be critical to our success,” said Cody Catalena, vice president of Viasat Global Business Solutions and the lead at the company’s College Station site.
Until recently, the area’s 150 Viasat employees were spread among four offices in College Station and neighboring Bryan.
Today, the crew is united physically as well as philosophically.
In April, Viasat opened the doors to its new College Station campus. The three-story building, each level distinguished by a separate, bold color scheme and linked in the center with an open wood-and-metal staircase, marks a new era for the public Wi-Fi business Catalena and his father founded as NetNearU in the mid-90s. Viasat acquired NetNearU in 2015.
“I’m really proud of all the people that put in the work to bring this to fruition over the last 20 years,” Catalena said. “This isn’t just another building; it’s really an icon. It should be easy to recruit out of this facility.”
And based on recent growth here, that’s important. When Viasat acquired NetNearU, it had about 65 employees. It’s more than doubled in the three years since, keeping pace with the expansion of the services it manages – a pattern that’s expected to continue. College Station is built with that in mind. The new building has room for a total of 300 employees, and Viasat has an option on a neighboring piece of land.
Employees here specialize in Viasat’s business internet, software development, wireless programs and customer service. That includes providing and supporting Wi-Fi and voice services to U.S. Navy bases and military facilities around the world, and supporting the company’s managed Wi-Fi business.
Among those is our new Community Wi-Fi product in Mexico and Latin America – an already successful model Viasat will likely duplicate in other countries when ViaSat-3 service begins. A College Station team of six is fine-tuning Community Wi-Fi, a service Viasat built from the ground up to bring the internet to people in villages that typically have never had it.
Call Center staff changing customer perceptions
About a-third of the College Station staff work in the Call Center, a custom-designed space that covers about half of the ground floor. These are the voices that support business internet customers, the care of passengers who use our in-flight internet service, and subscribers to the Wi-Fi service Viasat provides to the U.S. Navy.
Within the center, a smaller, uniquely trained group of agents monitor the 40,000-plus devices that bring Wi-Fi service to Navy and Marine bases and other customers throughout the world. When problems are detected, this group is on the front line for repairs. And if the issue can’t be fixed remotely, they dispatch service techs.
Vice president of Global Business’ Customer Services Frank Gilstrap oversees the Call Center. For him, that’s about much more than supervision. Gilstrap wants to change the low expectations most people have of customer service. Agents who are knowledgeable and happy with their jobs and workplace are key to making that shift.
“When we’ve got somebody that’s upset on the phone, I want their interaction to be the opposite; I want them to be surprised when they get a poor experience,” he said.
Given their training, Gilstrap knows his staff provides that.
“Our agents are very technically oriented. They’re able to drill down to a lot of the issues our customers are having.”
Global Business gearing up
College Station’s GBS team is focused on systems to best meet the specific needs of businesses – a customer base and service unique from residential.
“Businesses want to be treated differently than residential,” Gilstrap said. “Our deliverables, our care requirements, the products we deliver – all have to be of a different variety.”
Businesses typically need more bandwidth than homes. They want unchanging IP addresses. And those with multiple sites don’t want individual bills for each location, but a single account.
The prospect of what lies ahead for the business segment threads a sense of excitement through the new building. While wireless services is built into the site’s NetNearU history, business operations is a relatively new niche for Viasat – and College Station is charged with building it into a world-class product.
“Although it’s certainly not the first time Viasat has thought about the B2B (business-to-business) market … this is a very intentional group that’s been given the task of not only solving B2B in the U.S., but everywhere,” said Director of Operations Jordan Shipp.
Developing a solid platform today ensures a smooth transition to the world stage when ViaSat-3 brings business internet to the international market. With those processes in place, growing demands for service won’t require a parallel increase in work or staff, Shipp said.
Well-developed business systems and plans also pave the way for growing the residential market.
“Business can be an entry point into a community,” Shipp said. “This is something that will be critical to the company for many years to come.”