Takeaways for the customer from Tech Support

I have been in the ISP industry for close to thirty years now. One thing that has changed very little is the customer side of technical support. What I mean by this is, no matter if it is dial-up or fiber optic, customers will still have issues. They will still need to occasionally call their ISP for support in one fashion or another. This article is to hammer home how you the customer should always have something positive they walk away with, even if you can not solve their problem right away.

Duh! you say. This is common sense, you say. After seeing many posts from technicians, I have come to realize technical support folks fall into a rut. Let’s face, being on the front line of technical support operations is brutal. From the irate customers to the ones who can’t turn on their computer, it is stressful. It takes a unique mindset to be able to do technical support. When I managed a team of customer representatives back in the dial-up days, I had one very strict rule.

At the end of every interaction with the customer give them something positive to walk away with

You hope each time the positive is you fixed their issue(s). That is always the goal. If you can’t give them a clear resolution you should always give the customer a time for the next contact and something you are going to be doing for them in the meantime. Let’s go into some scenarios below.

You determine the customer had a bad CPE/NID, etc.
What you want to be able to do is give the customer a timeframe at the very least of when a technician can be at their place, or a new unit mailed to them.
“Let’s schedule a time we can get someone out there”
“Scheduling will be calling you in the next couple of hours to schedule a service call”
“I will get a new unit in the mail to you in Today’s/Tomorrow’s mail”

Each of the above gives the customer something concrete they can expect. It might not be the answer they want to hear, but it gives them something that is a step toward resolving their issues.

The customer has an issue on their end (bad computer, bad router that isn’t yours, etc)
Reinforce with the customer you are not abandoning them, just have exhausted your avenues of resolution.
“I think it might be your computer. I can give you the names of some computer repair shops in your area. Once they take a look we are here to make sure you get back online.
“I think your router may be bad. We bypassed it and things are working. I would suggest a new router. We have a guide or can help you once you have the new one.

In each of these cases, the key is to let the customer you are not pushing off the problem. It is something you can not fix and is impeding you from helping them.

One of the phrases I heard on a message board from an ISP was “Don’t call us again if you have this problem.” I know sometimes this can be said in jest, and to the right customer, you are okay. But normally, this is something you should never say to a customer. It gives them the impression you do not want to help them anymore. I often see this used in the content of a recurring problem, usually at the customer’s own doing.

What you want to say is. If this happens again here are the steps you need to do on your own. This will save you time as you won’t have to call us. If you still need to call us after you have done this feel free.

So remember, when talking to customer’s give them something they can either look forward to or something they can do if you can’t fix it in one interaction. Give them a positive takeaway with defined goals or time.


The importance of phone numbers in a WISP

One of the things I see startup wisps do wrong is their use of phone numbers.  This is one of those details that is often overlooked but is critical. It’s critical not only for tracking but also for the sanity of everyone involved.  Let’s identify where many WISPs go wrong.

The typical startup wisp is a type A go-getter. This is what Entrepreneurs are by default.  Once they have a plan they jump head over heels in. Many may start with a simple phone number, but when they call a customer if they are on their way to do an install or something they end up using their phone number.  The problem is customers keep this cell phone.  If the office is closed they start texting or calling any number they have.  Some customers will be respectful of boundaries, but many will not.  If they are getting packet loss at 3 am they are calling and texting.  This problem compounds as you grow and you have multiple installers involved. You want customer issues tracked in some sort of ticket/CRM system. You also don’t want your employees ahev to answer customer texts or calls after hours if they aren’t being paid.  It’s one of the quickest ways for employees to get burnt out or say the incorrect things.

So how do you solve this? The simple buzzword answer is unified communications.  One of the easiest and cheapest is Google Voice. With Google Voice and others, you have a primary number. This is the number you give out to clients. They call this and it rings another phone or phones.  This can be an extension on the VOIP system it is a part of, another number, and/or cell phones.  Depending on the level of sophistication it can ring all the programmed numbers at once, or ring one, and move on to the next one. If no one answers it drops the caller into voice mail. With Google voice, the programmed numbers are all rang at once.

The inbound ringing is pretty standard.  The “trick” for the WISP is the outgoing calling. You want to be able to call a customer and have it come up as the main number’s caller ID, not your cell phone. Most PBX systems can be set up to do this with the extensions attached to them.  Cell phone calls are a little more complicated.  The way Google Voice solves this is through the use of forwarding numbers, You bring up the app, enter a number and it actually calls a different number.  Behind the scenes, it is using this forwarding number to “spoof” your number to the person you are calling.   Your phone is not calling the other party directly. Your phone calls this forwarding number behind the scenes and works it all out on the backend.

Other vendors have Apps which do similar functions. Asterisk has their DISA function.  Once you have these functions setup it boils down to training and processes.  Your installers need to remember to use the app or the function when calling customers.  As the company grows, a way to help this situation is for employees to not use personal cell phones.  If a company provides a cell phone the employee can customize voicemail, or even forward no answers to the help desk should a customer get the cell phone.

Hope this helps one of the glaring issues a startup faces.