By Tom Paquin
Companies that have traditionally maintained transactional relationships with their customer have spent the last decade or so espousing the importance of customer centricity. There have been a variety of permutations of this through different sectors, but it’s been particularly interesting to see the way that telecommunications providers have sought to position themselves in the eyes of their customers. On the product side, you can boil it down to three points of change: improving the actual product offering (whether it’s broadband, cable, telephone, cellular, or some combination), maximizing uptime, and, of course, massive consolidations.
Whether or not these strategies are winning in the eyes of telecommunications customers is up for debate, but all of these strategies center more or less on the product. The product is king, certainly, but for many of these firms, service is what keeps customers endeared to your business and evangelists for your products.
Why service? Well—let’s take the first two of the three points above. Quality of the product itself, and uptime of that product, requires high-quality equipment in the end-users’ hand, on their schedule, and it requires that any exceptions and outages, whether they be at a customer site or at a company tower, be fully managed in a timely fashion. This is almost always delivered through a service visit—a service visit that, for the consumer, at least, is often the only time that a customer puts a face to your business. For that very reason, getting scheduling, routing, and service delivery right is paramount to success for your business in the long run. Here are some thing to keep in mind:
Get your two worlds working on one system. Climbing a radio tower is not the same thing as threading a coaxial cable through a hole in the floor (though both can be very harrowing). These are two different types of technicians, working with two different sets of parts, for two very different stakeholders. They work with two different warehouses, are beholden to two different sets of regulations, and probably wear two different color shirts. The consumer and the corporate service systems do, however, form a symbiotic relationship, one that is now even more complicated if other companies are leasing your radio tower to power their own networks. For that reason, they need to be run in the same language. This is fundamental to providing a holistic, accurate view of operations at your company. Same field service management system, same routing, same parts management, and same resource planning. By combining those systems, you’ll be able to identify and eliminate redundancies and have a much more accurate picture of the health of your systems holistically.
Don’t fear the contingent worker. Maybe you don’t, but how are you managing them? This is a favorite topic of mine, and it’s one that Sarah just revisited this week. Here’s the important thing to remember: Any contingent labor that you bring in should be beholden to the same systems as any other employee for the exact same reason as above—consistency, accuracy, and proper representation of service. Contingent employees are a key benefit, especially during high volume times of year, but you have to remember that since they’re representing your brand, they need to be managed like any other brand asset.
Get your service systems thinking on their feet. Telcos in particular see some of the highest rates of appointment cancellation across all of service. That means to get service right, you need a system that doesn’t just optimize its scheduling, but optimizes in real time. The best systems not only can manage those on-the-fly changes, but can also predict how many of a technician’s appointments will cancel, and allocate the appropriate amount of flexibility.
These are a few of today’s advancements that are helping telecommunications companies bring their service business to the forefront, and it’s certainly far from an exhaustive list. Nevertheless, it’s healthy and smart to start thinking about telecommunications delivery not just as the deliverer of an important product, but also the management of an imperative system of service. With that in mind, even as telco expectations change, you'll be set up with a strong safety net of service.