How To's, Strategy

Addressing Demand 2: Responding Strategically

In last week’s post, we discussed some trends that are causing rapid increases in demand for bandwidth: streaming video, increasing numbers of devices in the home and “smart” home automation, as well as 4K TVs and Google cars. There are a number of ways to prepare your organization now to meet your customers’ growing demands, from expensive options –  laying more fiber and hiring more customer support staff – to less expensive – employing new technologies and strategies to deal with surges in bandwidth use. Here, we’ll cover the latter, including addressing your customers’ issues proactively, offering home management services, and marketing for maximum impact.

In May 2015, Telco blog posited that growing strains on bandwidth were due to largely the same causes that I identified last week: “growing popularity of mobile apps, which now impact our daily lives, abundance of social networks and expansion in how they are used, and Internet of Things [or, networked appliances or devices]”. Telco also gives an honorable mention to exploding on-demand video usage.

Of course, Telco wants to sell you its products (and if you’re interested, click here), but an Actiontec white paper offers a few general “opportunities” – or strategies – to address growing bandwidth demand. You’re probably already employing a few of these, but here are the highlights:

1. Proactively address your customers’ issues. In other words, provide advanced router and home networking options. You can get a lot of mileage out of renting high capacity routers to customers at reasonable prices. If you’re dubious, check out this January 2016 blog post instructing Comcast customers on how to get rid of their crappy rented routers. Also, be friendly to your customers, and dispatch personnel to help your customers set up their home networks and fix the networks when they’re down. (Customer service 101 – something you’re probably already doing.) If you can use Component Management Systems (CMS) protocols to fix home network problems remotely, so much the better for everyone involved.

2. Offer home management services. Help customers to network all their smart appliances in the easiest way possible. Look into ways your home routers and/or network could support standards for smart grids, Bluetooth for your customers’ wearable tech, and wireless standards for “smart” household appliances and systems. Basically, make yourself the go-to organization for all of your customers’ networking and internet needs.

A little up-front effort during home equipment set-up can really pay off on the back end: Don’t just help your customers set up their modems and connect their smart appliances – note down where in the home the physical equipment is installed. For example, during installation you record that the customer’s wireless router is located on the first floor.  Weeks later the customer calls back complaining that when they are on the second floor they get a weak signal.  Your operator asks where the router is located and the customers says it’s in the basement – that is, the customer moved the router farther away from the second floor.  If your installation staff noted that original installation had been on the first floor, and not in the basement, your customer support staff will be better equipped to interpret and resolve complaints about in-home network connectivity – and potentially increase customer satisfaction.

3. Change how you market your broadband services. At times, customer dissatisfaction is due to causes as simple as a lack of sufficient information or understanding about the technical requirements and challenges of providing bandwidth. With Netflix and YouTube and other streaming services, customers increasingly require more bandwidth to achieve satisfaction. Actiontec’s advice: “New marketing approaches that focus on end user experience and application performance can help compel subscribers to upgrade to the higher tiered plans. Consumers need to be educated on how raw broadband speeds equate to bandwidth consumed in their applications. For example, how many devices can stream Netflix videos at the same time? What’s the time difference to upload 50 photos across the service plans?” Make sure your marketing materials provide all this information in a simple, end user-friendly manner.

Finally, I’ll add some insights I’ve gained in my own research into broadband: First, following last month’s series on big data, get good data on your customers, and geo-reference that data, so you know who needs what, when, and where. Having that information easily accessible to your customer support staff will help them serve customers. This, then, will increase customer satisfaction, and help with customer retention. Second, track your assets. Know where you have linear assets, access points and hub facilities, and use this information to plan network upgrades or expansions that align with demand. Doing so will enable you to improve physical infrastructure more efficiently, and so cut costs – savings that you can pass on to your customers.

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