Internode has recorded reduced times for support calls with customers over the past 12 months courtesy of an unorthodox implementation of an Oracle caching tool.
Prior to February 2010, the ISP’s call centre staff had to access three in-house systems to troubleshoot connection problems at a customer’s premises.
On the vast majority of occasions, connection problems were caused not by network faults but by configuration issues with CPE (customer premise equipment, such as modems).
Internode chief information officer Frank Falco said that at times, customers would need to be asked to power cycle (turn off for 30 seconds) their modem in order for support staff to be able to view log data of the customer’s connection and troubleshoot the problem.
This process took between 60 and 90 seconds, which was 60 to 90 seconds too long for Falco’s liking.
“Ninety seconds is a long time - that’s not a great customer experience,” he told iTnews. “We are very passionate about great customer experience.”
Without access to the data, customer service operators had to “fault-find from scratch,” he said.
Falco applied some lateral thinking to the problem. Internode had already invested in Oracle’s Coherance software, which provides caching among other data management smarts, for several internal systems.
Whilst the tool wasn’t designed for the purpose Falco had in mind, he thought it was worth a shot to see whether it could be used to cache the immediate connection history of all Internode customers, pulling data from three separate activation and authentication systems, to be accessed and filtered by customer support staff on an ad hoc basis (i.e. when problems arose).
“We realised we could use it to cache a couple of hours of all customer connections,” Falco said. “Support staff could go back and look over connection history – usually that’s a large enough timeframe to work out what the problem was.”
Falco acknowledged that many modem brands include such logging data for the customer, but he “couldn’t imagine” Internode’s staff calling a customer, asking them to type in the IP address of the modem, asking them to type in usernames and passwords for the admin of that device, and then asking them what is written in the log data.
“Most customers don’t know this stuff,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to know, all they want is their connection to work.”
Falco said Internode’s support staff – and more importantly their customers – have saved an average of 60 seconds per support call over the past 12 months, for around 80 percent of calls. (The other 20 percent of calls tended to be when there was a genuine network problem and connection history becomes irrelevant, he said.)
Oracle – which had never seen its tool used for such a purpose – has now added Internode’s story to its arsenal of case studies in the hope other service providers might consider such an implementation.
Telcos, in particular, have often struggled with the integration of multiple customer systems in order to provide better quality support services.
Falco said that Internode was “constantly looking at every system” in its data centre to improve customer experiences.
“It’s always a challenge to make things work together when you are adding products and services at the rate we’ve done in the last few years,” he said.
“Our mission in life is to be invisible to the customer,” he said.