Telecommunications with a Personal Touch
Regulated telecommunications company Kaptel offers landline, wireless, and digital telephone service, as well as broadband internet, fiber to the home, cable television, and security services. The company operates primarily in Louisiana.
The company, originally known as the Kaplan Telephone Company, was purchased in March of 1952 by Lytle C. Turnley. At the time, the company provided service to 407 telephones in the small city of Kaplan in Vermillion Parish, Louisiana. Over the years, it has adapted to the rapidly evolving trends in the telecommunications market. It began as a landline telephone service provider, but as the technology advanced, Kaptel expanded its capabilities to match, bringing the newest in communications equipment to this rural Louisiana community.
From the first mobile car phones in 1959 to large scale fiber optic networks in 2001, Kaptel has always been at the forefront of providing technological advancements. When cellular telephone technology was introduced, it was a challenging prospect for providers in rural areas. Kaptel was an early adopter, demonstrating to customers and competing companies that it was viable, and that, even for a small company, it could be profitable. In Louisiana, a significant portion of the company’s service area is in swampy areas which can be very difficult to reach. Kaptel has been providing those customers with fiber to the home since 2001.
“We’ve got a lot of customers in the swamp, so, we’ve always had to be at the forefront of technology. We’ve always been able to recognize trends and provide those services to customers,” says Carl Turnley, president of Kaptel.
Today, Kaptel employs roughly 150 people throughout Louisiana. The company’s primary focus is on growth, and it is currently in the process of aggressively expanding outside of its regular service territory, and taking its services to those new areas. It is working to bring security and alarm monitoring, business telecom, managed Wi-Fi, and more into these new markets.
“In an era where there are a lot of mergers and acquisitions, Kaptel is a smaller company, and we’ve been able to differentiate ourselves through a more personal approach,” says Turnley, “but we’ve also been able to provide advanced products and services that rival the larger companies.” The company is on pace to break all previous records in terms of customers added per year.
Innovation is a great deal more expensive than emulation, which means that smaller providers like Kaptel are always a step behind the larger national providers. The company has learned to embrace this and use it to its advantage by focusing all of its research and development expertise on implementation. As the transition to the fifth generation (5G) cellular network is happening, Kaptel is ready to offer the new technology. The company has developed an approach that enables it to maintain a spot at the leading edge, without having to take on the risks.
The implementation of 5G is going to be a significant challenge for smaller providers. Kaptel has positioned itself ideally to adapt by having already diversified its infrastructure with fiber optics. “5G will either be a game changer or a death knell for small telecom companies that have not diversified into fiber and other ancillary services,” says Turnley. “With the increase in wireless traffic, the major carriers will have to return to having their towers serviced by fiber instead of point-to-point wireless links. My father taught me long ago that the only constant in the telecom industry is change.”
Recently, the company went through a complete rebranding. Previously, it had been operating under two separate entities KTC PACE and KTC Telecom. This division created unnecessary confusion among customers, so the company’s leadership decided to consolidate both company’s under the name Kaptel. This new name honors the company’s roots, as a shortened version of its original name Kaplan Telephone Company, while looking toward a new era of the telecom business with unlimited potential for growth and innovation.
Growth is one of the chief reasons for Kaptel’s focus on expansion; diversification is another. “Over the years, we’ve added services to our portfolio not only to gain more customers but to diversify,” says Turnley. “The small telephone companies that don’t diversify are having a very hard time right now. Our key to growth has been diversifying our services and products.” Having such a diverse assemblage of services has also resulted in the development of an expert workforce with a widely varied skill-set.
Beyond expertise, Kaptel employees are loyal, hardworking, accountable, and dedicated to the goals of the company. There are long-tenured team members who have been employed there for nearly fifty years. They respect the company’s vision and are invested in its success, and this helps the company in enhancing productivity and customer experience, as well as in attracting a steady flow of new talent. While many companies in other industries struggle with workforce shortages, Kaptel has been able to draw good skilled workers.
Despite the extensive growth the company has experienced, it has remained committed to providing customers with a personal touch. “If you call here, a person answers the phone,” says Turnley. “With our demographic – what we call Cajun country – that means a lot to people. The culture here is friendly, and people want to talk to people.” The company ensures that when a customer has a question or a concern, they can make one call and speak with a person who can solve that problem immediately.
When customers use the online chat service on the company’s website, the person on the other end is from the area, using local color and language, so the customer feels like they are communicating with someone who can solve their problem. Kaptel has made a dedicated effort to hold onto the values and principles on which it was founded as a small-town family business.
It offers a guarantee to resolve service issues on the same day on which they were received and credits customer bills when it cannot because the company believes that customers should get the service for which they have paid. Kaptel believes in providing quality service at a fair price and treating customers with respect and integrity.
These values are central to the company’s internal culture as well. While some of the national providers are large enough that leadership is out of touch with the employees, Turnley stays engaged at all levels, with the entire team and their families. By making an effort to engage employees on a personal level he has been able to develop a team of people who know how to work together, and who care about doing a good job for customers. This has enabled Kaptel to provide small-town family-owned business experience while still being able to offer the full suite of telecommunications services to an ever-growing number of customers.
Kaptel has been in business for over sixty-six years, making it one of the oldest businesses in Louisiana. In that time, the company has built a firm reputation for being a reliable provider to residential customers and businesses. Kaptel owns all of its infrastructure and uses all of its own equipment, installed and served by its own employees. Within the last six months, it has opened three new offices, increased its business telecom service well beyond forecasts, and has continued to expand its fiber optic network throughout Louisiana. In 2017 the company acquired Advanced Telephone Concepts, and more acquisitions are planned for 2018.
Since 1952, Kaptel has found success at the intersection of three main elements: constant adaptation to the rapidly evolving technological landscape, an expert workforce that is dedicated to continual improvement and loyal to the company, and a personal touch that customers appreciate.