PEAK Internet aims to stay customer focused with controlled growth
In 1986, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Whitney Houston was on the radio airwaves, and a little project called Public Electronic Access to Knowledge was created in the Computer Science Department at Oregon State University.
Politicians and pop singers have come and gone in the 26 years since then, but that little project — originally OSU’s in-house email network — still is around.
Now known as PEAK Internet, the company has moved across the street into an office on Western Boulevard that originally housed CH2M Hill. It’s now an independent Internet service provider, and also provides business and technical support to a number of clients. It’s undergone a series of mergers and acquisitions, and is a subsidiary of three local telephone and power cooperatives: Stayton Cooperative Telephone Co., Consumers Power and Pioneer Telephone Cooperative.
Even after those 26 years of growth, PEAK still prides itself on its homegrown attitude. And despite recently winning the large business of the year award at the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce’s annual Distinguished Service Award event, Petersen said the company, which has fewer than 50 employees, has a small-business feel. It doesn’t try to be the biggest or the cheapest Internet service provider in town.
Instead, according to Rick Petersen, the company’s president and CEO, it aims to be a customer-focused, locally grown alternative to the big guys in the Internet game.
“We treat people as human beings,” said Petersen. “People tell us that this is why they stay with PEAK.”
Peak’s service area now covers most of Oregon, providing access to more than 10,000 customers on its own PEAK accounts, and serving an equal number of customers on bandwidth that it wholesales to other providers.
They’re not interested in getting any bigger, Petersen said.
“We are not looking at geographic growth,” he said. “We have no interest in other states.”
Instead, he plans to grow by selling additional services to existing customers, and by expanding the technical support and professional services PEAK offers to businesses.
“We want to provide added value for the customers we already have,” he said. That could mean upgrading internet speed. It could also mean expanding the company’s video offerings — streaming video over the internet is an area they’re looking at for future growth, Petersen said — or even expanding into smart home technology, such as having a notification sent to your smartphone when the UPS guy leaves a package at your door.
The other part of PEAK’s business involves being not just an Internet service provider, but a provider of all things tech-related for businesses. One recent venture is “cloud-based” services, a partnership with Intel in which companies can lease software and store files over the Internet, without ever having to purchase a physical copy of a program.
“This is a huge benefit if you’re traveling and you need to access something,” Petersen said. “I don’t have to get it off one particular hard drive. The file is just there.”
PEAK rents server space in its temperature-controlled, generator-backed facility for companies that don’t want to or can’t afford to house their own servers.
It also functions as a de facto IT staff for small businesses who would otherwise be relying on a tech-oriented friend or relative whenever their computer has a problem. These businesses, in particular, Petersen said, are a niche market that can benefit from having someone they can call for IT service.
“We help businesses who can’t afford to have that full-time IT staff,” he said.
Even larger businesses who may have their own technical staff but just can’t afford to keep their help lines staffed around the clock use PEAK for their 24/7 call center. Petersen said they function as the call center for a number of companies, whose names he did not disclose.
“This lets your staff sleep at night,” he said. “Our people eat and breathe this.”
Five Keys to Success
Here are some keys to success for PEAK Internet, courtesy of Rick Petersen, the company’s president and CEO:
1. Personal service. “We are a company with a face,” Petersen said. PEAK has offices in Corvallis and Lebanon, and representatives also make house calls. “You can have a conversation. You can come in and talk to a tech. Our people live and work right here.”
2. Service in rural and remote areas. “We offer broadband in places others can’t,” Petersen said. With wireless transmitters on seven different mountaintops around the state and also satellite Internet access, PEAK is available in areas not covered by some of its larger competitors.
3. Getting and retaining quality staff. Petersen said by offering flexibility and work/life balance, PEAK is able to hang onto its good employees and recruit new ones. Some employees work flexible hours or telecommute. All employees are encouraged to take a certain percentage of their on-the-clock hours and spend them volunteering for the charity of their choice.
4. Prioritizing customer service. Call center employees are not measured solely on how fast they can get through a call and get on to the next customer — the important thing is resolving the problem to the customer’s satisfaction. “We do have metrics. We don’t want to keep callers waiting on the phone for 10 minutes,” Petersen said. “But at the same time we encourage reps to spend time with the customer.”