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Customer Inspired: C Spire President...

Customer Inspired: C Spire President finds purpose in helping others fulfill theirs

By: Phil Hardwick - April 19, 2024

  • In part one of a two-part series, Magnolia Tribune Business Columnist Phil Hardwick visits with C Spire President Suzy Hays to learn more about her and the company she helps lead.

C Spire, one of the nation’s largest providers of broadband connectivity, managed and cloud services, and wireless recently promoted Suzy Hays to President of the company. 

In her new role, Hays will provide direct collaborative guidance and lead revenue and profit generation efforts of C Spire’s three operating units – Wireless, Home, and Business as well as providing strategic oversight for Marketing. Hays has been with the company for more than 30 years and has served in several management and executive roles. She has led the three individual units at one time or another and most recently served as executive vice president, responsible for Home and Business. For many years she served as chief marketing officer and led the transition from Cellular South to the C Spire brand in 2011 when the company began its diversification into non-wireless services. 

She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a marketing concentration from Mississippi College and a master’s degree in business administration (M.B.A.) from the University of Mississippi. 

In this wide-ranging two-part interview, she discusses a bit of company history, marketing strategy, personal preferences, and growth plans. 

Q: In 2013, C Spire initiated the Fiber to the Home Initiative and currently the Fiberhood Initiative. These strategies, where a designated percentage of residents committed to signing up for C Spire, were a departure from cable companies’ marketing efforts and proved to be very successful. What was the thinking and the history behind that marketing strategy? 

At C Spire, our mission statement calls for us to deliver technology in such a way that it advances the businesses, lives, and communities of the people we serve.  In the early days of wireless, that meant enabling our customers to fully utilize their cell phones because they were free to do so with unlimited calling, texting and data (10 years ahead of the rest of the industry).  When smart phones were just coming out, we made them accessible and useful, not just for businesspeople, but for the entire family through family pricing and, believe it or not, Discover Centers where we taught our customers how to choose and use apps.  Our customers adopted and used smart phones much faster than the rest of the nation.  

In 2013, when fiber to the home was only available in a handful of cities nationwide, we knew it was up to us to be sure that our part of the world was ahead of the technology curve once again.  We already had fiber to our cell towers, which was important in providing the highest quality cellular service, so we were well positioned to take that fiber to homes and businesses.  However, the economics of taking fiber all the way to the home back then, especially in rural areas were a real challenge.  A certain percentage of people in each neighborhood would need to sign up in advance to make it work. 

We knew then that in addition to providing gigabit speeds and enabling future use cases like streaming video, gaming and work from home, fiber infrastructure would be one of the most critical technology advancements for both customers and cities in our lifetime.  Fiber networks were likened to infrastructure builds of the past, such as highways.  The towns that were close to highways, were the ones that grew.  

So, we invited our mayors and city officials to our Ridgeland headquarters and brought in experts that shared the positive impact of fiber on cities, and the risks of being on the wrong side of the digital divide.  We expected to launch fiber to the home in three cities.  Our cities campaigned so hard to be first with fiber that we launched in nine. At the beginning of this process, there were only four cities in the U.S. with gig fiber internet. This really put Mississippi on the map from a technology standpoint. We have now built fiber in most of the initial cities who applied and many others.

Q: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2022 median employee tenure at all companies was 4.1 years. What is the median employee tenure at C Spire? Why is it higher (or lower) than the national average? 

C Spire’s employee tenure is better than industry average, especially when you consider our high number of retail and customer care team members which have a lower tenure in most companies.  We also have a high number of team members who have been with the company for many years.  

This is significantly due to our culture which at its core begins with ensuring we are caring for our customers current and future needs.  C Spire stands for Customer Inspired and our team takes our role as a tech company in the era of technology very seriously.  We are unapologetically passionate about that and ensuring that our team has the skills, the mindset and strong sense of urgency to deliver it every day.  It tends to be a pretty intense environment and it’s definitely not for everyone.  For the right people though, which we are purposeful about recruiting and retaining, it’s an opportunity to make a real difference.  

It also helps that we have competitive compensation and benefits and that we believe in promoting and developing talented, ambitious team members – and have a long track record of doing just that.  

I’m very blessed that I recognized early that C Spire is a special company.  We are truly committed to ensuring our customers and our part of the world has the best in what technology has to offer.  Can you think of anything that has literally changed the world, and is continuing to do, as much as telecommunications and technology in our lifetime?  I can’t.  

Over time, I’ve come to believe that in addition to this being C Spire’s purpose, that my role in helping C Spire fulfill it is what I’m supposed to be doing – my own personal purpose. 

Not everyone gets that opportunity, especially in your day job.  When you do and you get to do it with a great group of people that you genuinely enjoy being around, it’s a clear and easy choice.   

Q: What do you do on your days off? Hobbies and/or interests? 

I absolutely love to travel and do a good bit of it with friends, my two daughters and my son-in-law.  I started playing tennis when my youngest went to college and really enjoy it, although I do struggle with not being good at it (yet).  I’m also in a fun book club and am reading books that I wouldn’t have necessarily read but am enjoying.  My days require a lot of thinking so I tend toward lighter reads and a healthy dose of reality tv during my off time (I blame my daughters).  

About the Author(s)
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Phil Hardwick

Phil Hardwick is an award-winning business columnist and semi-retired economic developer. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at the Millsaps College Else School of Management for many years. He has taught over 1,000 students, written over 800 columns, written 11 books and assisted over 100 communities and organizations with strategic planning. In February 2016 he was inducted as a Lifetime Member of the Mississippi Economic Development Council.