NBN Co will test a new online booking tool that allows end users to reschedule inconveniently-timed technician appointments.
The tool is designed to automate - and therefore bypass - a bottleneck in the process that emerged due to COVID-19, namely the lack of contact centre agents, particularly on the RSP side, that can reschedule appointments.
“Due to the impact of COVID-19, there is reduced contact centre capacity across NBN Co and RSPs, and NBN Co has observed an increase in the number of appointments being rescheduled,” NBN Co said in documentation [pdf] released late Thursday last week.
“NBN Co is currently developing a new automated process through which contracted end users will be able to reschedule appointments via an online booking tool.
“It is anticipated that this new process will assist in easing current capacity constraints when rescheduling appointments.”
iTnews understands that three RSPs have signed up to a trial of the online booking tool so far.
The trial is expected to run through to the middle of July, which - if successful - could allow the tool to be put into production relatively quickly, and therefore available to most end users.
The tool can be used for technician appointments made to connect to the NBN and for “trouble tickets” (where additional work needs to be performed before a connection can be made).
End users will be sent a link to the online booking tool via an SMS, and will have two calendar days to respond to it.
“The contracted end user will be able to provide information regarding preferences for the rescheduling of the eligible appointment,” NBN Co said.
“NBN Co will reschedule the appointment using the information provided.”
Pre COVID-19, it is unclear if this kind of system would have been palatable to industry, given it involves the wholesaler communicating directly with end users about appointment times.
However, a number of RSPs have had contact centre capacity issues in the COVID period, forcing them to digitise processes and pursue automated workarounds in order to continue to respond to customers.
NBN Co’s online rescheduling tool is intended to complete a manual step that would normally be facilitated by the RSP, via their contact centres.
In addition to facilitating changes for customers that can’t be home for an initial appointment, it is also understood the tool can be used by a customer to preference times for an appointment that needs to be rescheduled because it was missed by the NBN contractor assigned to it.
Update, 2.50pm: An NBN Co spokesman said that, contrary to the test documentation, "NBN Co has not seen an increase in rescheduled appointments during COVID."