If there was an archive of business tips ever given, I’m sure ‘effective customer support’ or the likes would definitely vie for the oldest spot. Since time immemorial, every entrepreneur or young business graduate is told about the importance of customer service yet somehow it almost always counts as 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 cloud technology and software-as-a-service model. There are thousands of apps, online tools, and platforms which all businesses can leverage to deliver efficient and effective customer support while counting the return on investment with data insights. This leaves, small businesses like Wireless internet service providers in an interesting spot. The traditional argument that customer support division invariably turns into a cost center doesn’t hold anymore and it’s a fact that, it’s a critical survival factor for WISP operations. In fact, almost every edition of WISP America or WISPAPALOOZA has dedicated sessions talking about customer support and how to ace it in a sustainable fashion. This blog is just another attempt to help WISPs, especially newer ones to get on the right track from the start. If there is still someone out there who cannot appreciate the importance customer service holds for a business enterprise, here’s a collection of 75 Customer Service Facts, Quotes, and Statistics (some of these are shocking!)

The attempt here is to formulate a list of 3 broad areas which can act as a guiding theme for all your tactical decisions when it comes to customer support. Imagine this list as a kind of strategic overview document for your management team. So, here’s a list of 3 strategic pointers all WISPs should care about when it comes to customer support success:

– Help the customer help himself

Invest in technology

– Hire great people

Help the customer help himself

Now there was a time when most people preferred to walk into a bank branch or store and get answers to their most basic questions. Or call up customer support lines and wait in queues to be heard. While there’s still a sizeable population that prefers those means of reaching out, customer support is increasingly moving to digital/automated platforms with negligible human interactions. A research recently suggested that 52% customers prefer to only use text or digital platforms to interact with companies. That explains the trend where companies like Twitter, Facebook, Quora, Fiverr have completely abandoned the traditional telephone line and now list all support information online.

It’s not to say that as a WISP, you shouldn’t offer a phone line or number to reach your technical support staff. You should never do that (at least for now) but if you actually consider the cost of answering the phone every time your customer has a standard question, you’ll actually 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, and online tools help you do that today, is to offer maximum information about standard customer questions (or FAQs, as they’re known) and resources on your website. There are many plugins (and most have a FREE plan) you can use to offer interactive and beautiful looking sections on your website to answer basic to technical questions on your website. In fact, for our product Nightshift, most customers said that online youtube videos worked perfectly for them as it allowed them to learn at their own pace and convenience. Here’s a list of most popular tools you can use to help your customers help themselves:

Free WordPress FAQ plugins

10+ Knowledge Base, Wiki, FAQ plugins and tools

Grasshopper Virtual Phone System (record answers to common questions; plans start $12/month)

Host Customer Support videos on Youtube and Vimeo

 

Invest in technology

When it comes to technology, there are 2 critical aspects a WISP business should focus on with their own set of tools and recommended practices.

Customer Interaction: Tools and platforms that can help you improve the ease, effectiveness, and pleasure of a digital or in-store proximity your 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 with while using your WISP network.

Customer interaction in today’s hyper-connected world happens in a hundred different ways. Everything from your online website, social media presence and company blogs to phone lines and office visits need to be actively managed and optimized. Gone are the days when you would go to your office and be welcomed by a heap of customer complaints and letters. If you’re still using only emails for your customers to reach out with requests, you need to hit refresh on your customer strategy.  The advantage is that not only your customer support process would become better in terms of response times, accountability and record-keeping but you can actually use some of these tools to upsell to your customers and increase profitability. Online tools and platforms can help you to upgrade your customer interaction process in a very affordable and scalable manner:

Website/Web presence – Free Google Sites to DIY developers like WordPress, WIX, Weebly  (With plans as low as $10/month)

Online customer support ticket management tools like Zendesk, HelpScout, Zoho (with plans as low as $15/month)

Customer help and sales tool Intercom (Free plan for basic platform, more tools at $50/month)

 

The second consideration when it comes to technology for customer support success is to do with the actual customer experience while using your service. Now, most tools can help you interact and work with the client to fix the problem but what if there was a platform to proactively inform you about the QoE your subscriber has within your WISP network? Prevention is always known to be better than cure.

Traditional ICMP and SNMP-based tools only monitor network elements and identify if the network is up or down at a subscriber’s end. This in no way highlights the actual quality of experience your subscriber receives on a device-level (and that’s how a customer rates your service). Due to innovations in network telemetry, QoE and optimization platform Preseem can identify throughput, latency and packet drop at a per-subscriber level. This becomes critical in case you have business customers using your network for important presentations and VOIP calls where latency and packet drops can cause major dissatisfaction and churn.

Preseem Customer Support Tool

With the Preseem support tool, you can get a simple access to per subscriber traffic metrics that can be employed by your L1 support team members quickly without spending hours on the phone trying to determine if it’s a network or user-level problem. With quick name search and ability to look at historical QoE data, 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.

 

Hire Great People

Research claims that US companies lose about $ 41 billion every year due to poor customer service. As a WISP provider to a small region/town/ city, every customer matters to your business success and longevity. While we can blame all the 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 definitely amongst 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 average customer. Not every tech geek likes to spend 40 minutes on the phone helping a customer setup his WiFi password (refer to point 1 above) and despite required investments in DIY tools and software, having friendly customer support staff is a core aspect of your success.

The good news is that you don’t have to hire amazing customer service staff on a limb or gut feel. While traditional interview rounds, reference check, and tests matter, you can employ a variety of Free personality assessment tests and online psychometric evaluations to determine if the candidate is a good fit for the role. If the lengthy tests are too much to handle, you can always use some pop quizzes on customer support and ‘live’ on-the-job test with a couple of real calls to evaluate the response of your candidates.

I hope that these tips and tools help you in some way to be a winning customer business and would love to learn how you manage customer support in your WISP business. Please comment below with some helpful tips and tricks so that other operators can also use your learnings in their business.

For more information on Preseem or to get a free trial for your WISP network, please click here.

 

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