How many appointments does the typical cable guy or gal close in a day? Five? Six? Eight? And how many of those visits end up being first-call resolutions?
Everyone from the C suite to the dispatchers grapple with ways to streamline truck rolls while making sure to send the right technician with the right tools to fix the problem to maintain good customer relationships.
“Workforce automation integration can help with the following two things: scheduling (if it breaks, fix it fast) and preventing the overbooking of appointments, which makes for a longer day,” said Andy Parrott, vice president/Technical Operations at Suddenlink Communications at an early-morning workforce panel at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo.
Parrott then listed several ways automation could make service-call scheduling easier:
>> Autorouting – Match the right job with the right tech. This also includes entering an estimated time to complete the job.
>> Notifications – Let the customer know what’s happening with the appointment by sending reminders, and then re-schedule quickly if needed.
>> Estimated arrival updates – Use pre-recorded calls, e-mail, texting and online updates to keep the customer in the loop. Also allow the customer to provide a change of phone number or location if he or she needs to leave the house prior to the appointment.
>> Installation quality assurance – Create rules to prevent a technician from completing a job ticket if the repair can’t be done correctly. This action works well when home certification or DOCSIS levels are involved.
>> Post-Appointment Surveys – A customer-service representative should call the customer just after the tech leaves to ask a series of “yes” and “no” questions that could include quality of the technician and service call. Customers also should be allowed to escalate the call to a manager or a dispatcher.
“Even though cable customer service is at a 10-year high in the ratings, there still is room for improvement,” Parrott added.
The word “ecosystem” has been bandied about frequently during the course of SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, and Tom Gorman, vice president/Field Operations at Charter Communications, came up with a new twist: the technician ecosystem.
“We rush through everything to get things done,” he admitted. “We’re trying to build an ecosystem for our guys that includes customer information, tools, CPE, electronics, nodes, etc. All these things create and sustain a tech’s life.”
As such, Gorman has come up with a “Four-Point Dispatch Vision:”
>> On Time: Meet minimum SLAs for the customer. Be there when promised (2 percent of Charter’s techs still aren’t on time). If you are late, three people suffer: the customer-service rep, because he or she lied, the technician and the customer.
>> With Enough Time: Placing the burden on the technician to manage the day will result in rushing the job. The work must be managed to help ensure that enough time is given to do the job correctly. Don’t assess more points to the tech who completes the most job tickets, and work with the tech who seems to be taking too long.
>> The Apps – Come up with mobile apps that can help with training (perhaps your own YouTube videos), that give access to documentation, that can capture signatures and that can e-mail receipts to the customer.
>> Customer Notification – Use e-mail, text, phone calls and the Web to provide the estimated time of arrival (don’t be too specific) and who is coming (maybe even a photo). Notify the customer that he or she is next in line, and that the technician is on the way. Notify them again when the tech is five minutes away.
Gorman also noted that it’s a good idea not to give the technician a new assignment until the current one has been closed out. In this way, the tech isn’t concentrating on the number of jobs that have to be completed on any given day. “Points still are important, but we don’t want them chasing points. We want them chasing the customer,” he said.
The Golden Screwdriver
Looking ahead, Gorman wants to deploy GPS tools that can plot devices, assign tasks, measure time of arrival and time spent on the job, and to direct technicians “to the widget” instead of to the home. His dream meter includes a browser that would allow the device to be integrated into:
>> A billing app,
>> A workforce-management app,
>> GPS and
>> The dispatch console.
Gorman also had a few words for the industry vendors that visit Charter. “Don’t come in with your stuff in a package with a bow on it and tell me this is all I need,” he warned. “This (the package) is just a piece of the ecosystem because technology is moving so fast. We need to ensure our techs are successful and that customers have a good experience. We don’t want to set the techs up for failure.”
In separate but related SCTE Cable-Tec news, Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) and the Society for Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) released the names of the mentees selected to participate in Women’s TechConnect, a new year-long, formal mentorship program that pairs “Women in Technology” honoree mentors, each of whom is a proved leader and innovator, alongside less-tenured though high-potential women in technology fields. This year’s group was selected through a competitive application process.
According to the partners, this new program “provides a crucial support system to better equip mentees to overcome workplace challenges, while helping them rise through the cable ranks until they themselves become the leaders and innovators.” WICT and SCTE will offer online resources and tools, and will underwrite event registrations and memberships.
The inaugural mentees include:
>> Misty Duckworth, program manager, Time Warner Cable
>> Shelly Farmer, account manager, Integrated Broadband Services
>> Laura Lopez, account manager, CTDI
>> Patricia Martin, director/Network Services, Cox Communications
>> Sarah McCune, director/Marketing, Integra Networks Inc.
>> Tina Morris, senior IP network engineer, Bright House Networks
>> Ann O’Flannigan, supervisor/Production Operations, ESPN Inc.
>> Srilakshmi Raman, manager/Application Development, ESPN Inc.
>> Melissa Rensch, digital video engineer I, Charter Communications
>> Brenda Wilson, commercial-construction and market-development Manager, Comcast
>> Elaine Yeo, staff operations engineer II, Bright House Networks
>> Pam Arment, president/owner, Pamela J. Arment Consulting
>> Nomi Bergman, president, Bright House Networks
>> Sabrina Calhoun, vice president/Engineering, Bright House Networks
>> Leslie Ellis, independent technology writer/analyst, Ellis Edits
>> Cyndee Everman, vice president/Business Support Systems, Time Warner Cable
>> Charlotte Field, senior vice president/Infrastructure and Operations, Comcast
>> Barbara Jaffe, executive vice president/Technology Operations, HBO
>> Yvette Kanouff, president, SeaChange International
>> Sally Kinsman, president, Kinsman Design Assoc. LLC
>> Christy Martin, principal, iBox Systems Inc.
>> Pam Nobles, director/Education & Certification, SCTE
– Debra Baker