WebEx: Price Check
WebEx turned its early start in the Web conferencing arena into a lucrative $300 million business last year. Some customers say it offers the Cadillac of the industrybut others ding the online-meeting king for having had inflexible pricing policies.
Marriott International found WebEx unwilling to negotiate pricing when the hotel chain was evaluating providers in 2003, according to Tom Maguire, director of Marriott's remote events division. "They said, 'This is the price per seattake it or leave it,'" he says. Marriott picked Genesys Conferencing instead. WebEx says it has since revised its price plans and now offers a per-minute option. "Two years back, our pricing was not as flexible," says Praful Shah, vice president of strategic communications. "We learned that we need to provide different plans."
Still, pricing issues remain. American Built Containment Systems, a custom-packaging dealer in Cleveland, recently asked WebEx to cut its contract from 5,000 minutes per month to 2,500. But when David Marinac, the company's president, got his next bill, it hadn't changed. WebEx sorted out the problem only after Marinac spoke with a senior sales manager. "I had to go up the chain, which I thought was B.S.," he says. (WebEx's Shah says this sounds like an isolated case: "Sometimes, I'm sure we make billing errors.")
Others, though, have found WebEx quite accommodating. Insurance provider Securian Financial Group last year changed from per-minute pricing with WebEx to a 625-user license for unlimited meeting timecutting its monthly bill more than 66%. "We've had great success moving with them on pricing plans," says Michelle J. Brennan, professional development consultant at Securian.
Barbara Maaskant, CIO of Emory University's Goizueta Business School, also renegotiated her pricing with WebEx, but declined to detail the terms. While WebEx is "the Cadillac tool" in Web conferencing, she says, "I think WebEx is becoming cognizant that there are very viable competitors."
Still, you get what you pay for, says Dion Tsourides, director of North American technical support for Spectro Analytical Instruments, which sells testing equipment. He says WebEx has excellent infrastructure and customer support not just in the U.S., but also in Europe and Hong Konga key factor for Spectro, which has customers worldwide. And pricing? It's fair, Tsourides says: "A few hundred bucks here and there isn't going to make us switch to somebody else."
WEBEX OPERATING RESULTS*
Total assets $362.78M
Stockholders' equity $311.77M
Cash and equivalents $68.42M
Short-term investments $128.80M
Long-term debt None
Shares outstanding 47.80M
Market value, 2/22 $1.29B
**As of Dec. 31, 2005, except as noted