Customer Support Tips for WISPs
If there was an archive of all business tips ever given, it’s likely that ‘effective customer support’ would be near the top. Every business owner knows about the importance of customer service. However, it’s often one of the most under-resourced and poorly-managed business functions.
The biggest transformation the support industry has seen in the last two decades is the advent of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. There are now many apps, online tools, and platforms that businesses can use to deliver efficient and effective customer support.
This leaves businesses like wireless internet service providers (WISPs) in an interesting spot. The traditional argument that a customer support division invariably turns into a cost center no longer holds true. In fact, it’s a critical survival tool for WISP operations.
For example, almost every edition of WISPAmerica or WISPAPALOOZA dedicates sessions to the importance of customer support. This blog aims to help WISPs, especially newer ones, get on the right track from the start. For any remaining skeptics, here’s a collection of 75 Customer Service Facts, Quotes, and Statistics (some of these are shocking!).
We’ve put together three broad areas that serve as a guiding theme for all customer support decisions. Imagine this list as a kind of strategic overview document for your management team. So, here’s a list of three strategic pointers all WISPs should care about when it comes to customer support success:
- Help the Customer Help Themselves
- Invest in Technology
- Hire Great People
1. Help the Customer Help Themselves
There was a time when people had to call customer support lines or wait in queues to be heard. These days, customer support is increasingly moving to digital or automated platforms with less human interactions. A research study recently suggested that 52% of consumers prefer to only use text or digital platforms to interact with companies. That explains the trend where companies like Twitter, Facebook, and others now list all support information online.
This is not to suggest that WISPs should get rid of phone support. However, if you consider the cost of answering the phone every time your customer has a standard question, you’ll be left with a lot fewer resources to invest time in other critical operations like network management, sales, and business planning.
The trick to managing this is to offer answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs) on your website. There are many free plug-ins you can use to offer interactive sections on your website to answer customer questions. YouTube videos also work well, as they allow customers to learn at their own pace. Here’s a list of the most popular tools you can use to help your customers help themselves:
- Free WordPress FAQ plug-ins
- 10+ Knowledge Base, Wiki, FAQ plug-ins and tools
- Grasshopper Virtual Phone System (record answers to common questions; plans start at $12/month)
- Host Customer Support videos on YouTube and Vimeo
2. Invest in Technology
When it comes to technology, there are two critical aspects a WISP business should focus on.
Customer Interaction: Tools and platforms that help you improve the ease and effectiveness of an interaction a customer has with your business
Customer Experience: Networking software that can help you understand and optimize the true Quality of Experience (QoE) your customer has while using your network.
In today’s connected world, customer interaction happens in many different ways. Everything from your website, social media presence, and company blogs, to phone lines and office visits need to be actively managed and optimized. If you’re still only using email for your customers to make contact, you need to hit refresh on your support strategy.
With the use of online tools, you can improve response times, accountability, and record-keeping. You can also use some of these tools to upsell to your customers and increase profitability. Online tools and platforms can help you upgrade your customer interaction process in an affordable and scalable manner. These include:
- Website/Web presence: From free Google listings to simple website builders like WordPress, WIX, and Weebly (with plans as low as $10/month)
- Online customer support ticket management tools like Zendesk, HelpScout, and Zoho (with plans as low as $15/month)
- Customer help and sales tools such as Intercom (free plan for basic platform, more tools at $50/month)
Improve the Customer Experience
The second consideration technology-wise for customer support success is the actual customer experience while using your service. Most tools can help you interact and work with the client to fix a given problem. But what if there was a platform to proactively inform you about the QoE your subscriber has within your WISP network? Prevention is better than the cure, as they say.
Traditional ICMP and SNMP-based tools only monitor network elements and identify if the network is up or down. However, this doesn’t measure the actual QoE your subscriber receives (and that’s how a customer rates your service). Due to innovations in network telemetry, Preseem can identify throughput, latency, and packet drop at a per-subscriber level. This becomes critical for business customers using your network, where latency and packet drops can cause major dissatisfaction and churn.
With Preseem, you get simple access to per-subscriber traffic metrics that can be employed by your L1 support team members quickly. This can save hours on the phone trying to determine if it’s a network or user-level problem. You can monitor QoE effectively and benchmark your service against SLA standards, if any. You can also set custom alerts for important customers to be able to find and fix QoE issues proactively.
3. Hire Great People
Research claims that US companies lose about $41 billion every year due to poor customer service. As a WISP provider, every customer matters to your business’s success and longevity. While we can blame backhaul network issues or user devices for a large part of customer issues, the people factor remains pertinent.
With all due respect to training and onboarding, hiring the right people for customer support is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your WISP business. Providing technical support can be a tough job, especially when there’s a difference in the technical aptitude between the service provider and the average customer. Not everyone likes to spend 40 minutes on the phone helping a customer set up their Wi-Fi password (refer to point 1 above). However, having friendly customer support staff is a core aspect of your success.
The good news is that you don’t have to hire customer service staff blindly. Alongside traditional interview rounds, reference checks, and tests, you can also use some pop quizzes on customer support and ‘live’ on-the-job tests with a couple of real calls to evaluate the response of your candidates.
Hopefully these tips and tools help you improve your customer support.
For more information on Preseem or to get a free trial for your WISP network, book a demo with us today!