ISPs Must Go Pro

Serial Entrepreneur, CEO and Co-Founder of Veego Softwarea startup in the Israeli high-tech corridor, innovating smart-home support.

Reactive customer service is broken. Despite the variety of engagement channels that can resolve issues, the result is often the same: wasted time on hold, ineffective customer support representatives, and problems that persist until the level of frustration reaches the point of no return.

This is a well-known scenario. Internet service providers (ISPs) build and maintain huge, expensive customer service departments filled with advanced telephone equipment, recording facilities, storage servers and more to deal with the countless problems of their millions of subscribers. Despite the heavy, ongoing investment, subscribers are afraid to contact their ISP’s customer service. Why didn’t they?

Subscribers do not call to announce that everything is fine. They call when they encounter a problem that interrupts their online enjoyment. Try as they might, they can’t figure it out. By the time they give in and pick up the phone, they are upset and ready to strangle someone.

Then, after 10 minutes on hold, with awful muzak playing in the background (interrupted periodically by a recorded voice making irrelevant announcements), a man finally picks up the phone. The momentary relief quickly gives way to the realization that this “level 1 support person” is a glorified office worker who doesn’t know much about the Internet, home routers, Wi-Fi, or connected devices. There’s this ineffective script to follow, which involves turning the router off and on and watching the lights flash red, yellow, and green, followed by the innocuous question: Problem solved (even though the caller had already tried several times before making the call)? Then comes the inevitable transfer to the support chain, more time, more discussion and more frustration.

But it’s not really the fault of the customer support representatives.

Even the current state of technology doesn’t help much. The rise of artificial intelligence research over the past decade has led to a variety of conversational interfaces powered by machine learning and natural language processing. The idea behind these ‘chatbots’ is to relieve the pressure of the phone on the call center and somehow help the subscribers to resolve issues without having to go through the grim phone scenario. The technology is impressive, but the results are not.

“You end up fighting with a robot for 10 minutes before you talk to an agent,” a senior manager told ComputerWeekly. “Sometimes, bots are helpful, but many times they are frustrating.”

So, it’s not the CSRs. It is not the phone equipment. It’s not the chatbot.

It is the epitome of reactive care! Too late to save the day, a reactive support commitment is in the reversal zone before it even begins.

ISPs need to move to a new standard of preventive care to fix this broken tech support method.

What can preventive care do?

Proactive care means taking the initiative to do everything possible to ensure a smooth quality of experience in every connected home. When problems always arise, you automatically catch them as they happen and don’t wait in reaction mode for frustrated subscribers to scream bloody murder.

Preventative care makes subscribers much more satisfied with their Internet service. It drastically reduces the number of negative commitments that plague the call center. We know what this will do for retention and turnover.

Preventive care is an opportunity to inform subscribers of conditions before they become problems. The smartphone is the perfect medium for this.

Here’s a case where the ISP shared information with many subscribers via their smartphones about a problem beyond the home: Facebook suffers an extended outage, causing thousands of support calls to the ISP’s customer service center for a problem it can’t to face . Wouldn’t it be nice if, upon detecting this situation, the ISP could send quick alerts to all affected homes, letting them know what’s going on and stopping the flood of support calls?

Here’s another case of an in-home problem, one that the ISP can solve with a simple, helpful notification on the subscriber’s smartphone: “Did you know that your laptop will communicate faster if you connect it to the 5 GHz band ; Click here to make it happen.”

ISPs can also proactively share information about upsell opportunities that subscribers will be happy to hear about: “Your smart TV is too far from the router to receive a sufficient signal. Would you like a small extension that will fix the problem and be easy to install yourself? Click to order.”

The Preemptive Example is here

Thanks to breakthrough technologies that generate and analyze reams of data in real time and bring intelligence from the cloud to the smartphone, preventive care is coming to the Internet. It is the “killer app” that will relieve ISPs of much of the cost and burden of maintaining customer service centers. It will give subscribers the positive feeling that they are being looked after by their ISP.

Making the transition from reactive to proactive care

Underlying the shift to preventive care is a discipline called decision intelligence, defined by Gartner as “decision-making techniques [that bring] multiple…disciplines together to design, model, align, execute, monitor and coordinate decision models and processes”.

To adopt DI, ISPs must increase their investment in data-centric solutions, such as near-customer sensors that can generate massive amounts of real-time usage, performance and behavioral data for storage in the cloud. Data is readily available for advanced analytics that feed insights into business intelligence dashboards, enabling deep and broad visibility into how customers experience their internet service. From there, you need to rely on data scientists in customer success, marketing, product development, and engineering departments who can segment the data to gather insights into specific audience segments, such as new users, common problems, impact of network changes on customer experience and more.

Armed with these insights, ISPs don’t have to wait in reactive mode for support calls. Instead, they can proactively engage with relevant groups (eg subscribers suffering from a common type of problem) to offer relevant products, packages or support. Suddenly, subscribers will see their ISPs more as helpful partners than reactive adversaries.

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