Essential ISP Management Tools and Tips to Help You Grow

ISP Management Tools and Tips header image

by | January 13, 2023 | WISP Tips

One of the keys to efficient ISP management is ensuring you have the right tools for the job. You wouldn’t send a tower climber out without a protection harness or helmet. Similarly, you can’t expect to operate a successful ISP without some essential items on hand. Here are a few best practices to consider when it comes to stocking your operational toolbox.

CRM

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. This typically refers to a software system where you can store all your customer information, along with any details and interactions with prospects and leads.

Using a CRM can benefit many areas of your organization, from sales and marketing to operations, accounting, and customer success. For owners and/or managers, CRMs provide a transparent view of the sales pipeline, marketing campaign results, and support ticket volume.

Not only that, but they can also positively affect your bottom line. Though CRMs don’t come free, they’re well worth the investment. A study by Nucleus Research, for example, found that CRMs showed an average ROI of $8.71 for every dollar spent.

How can CRMs generate money, you might ask? As one example, a pre-pandemic survey by Statista found that 58% of respondents said their company had seen a significant increase in customer retention after implementing a CRM. This is crucial, as retaining customers means recurring revenue, upsell opportunities, and warm referrals.

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ISP Billing Software

In the ISP world, many billing software platforms also function as customer management solutions. To make things as easy as possible, you might want to look for an ISP management solution that combines CRM and billing functionality all in one. And if they integrate with Preseem, all the better 🙂

In fact, for growing local and regional ISPs this kind of all-in-one system is really the ideal. A good billing platform/CRM can reduce manual work, save time, and reduce stress while making your organization more efficient overall. Here are a few things to look for when searching for a platform to suit your needs:

  • Automation: Wherever you can, automate, automate, automate! Reducing or removing manual tasks can really help you grow. This might mean automating ticket routing based on request category or automatic invoicing and late fee generation, for example. This can save your team a ton of work and help your operation grow faster.
  • Ease of Use: When evaluating any technology, it’s important to get input from your team and make sure the system is easy to use. An intuitive system means you’ll see speedier uptake and happier staff members who don’t have to constantly check the manual or do workarounds to complete simple tasks.
  • Scalability: You’ll also want to make sure the system can scale as you grow. Is it flexible, is it easy to add new seats and switch on new features/modules as you need them? Does it have the reporting capabilities you need now and in the future? Pulling manual reports can be time-consuming and will only get worse as you grow.

It could be that you’re currently using a custom system that was built in-house. If you’re a small operation, that may work for now. However, if you’re looking to grow, this is not a best practice for several reasons.

For one, you have to consider the lifetime cost of maintaining and supporting a custom system as you grow. Not to mention the peace of mind that a ready-made solution can provide. There’s also the cost and time of keeping support materials up to date, fixing bugs, creating new modules, etc. This is time and money that can be better spent elsewhere when there are perfectly capable systems out there already.

Business Intelligence Reporting

When used properly, CRMs can also be a primary source of business intelligence (BI) reporting. Generally speaking, business intelligence means adopting a data-based approach to making decisions and running your organization. We say “when used properly” because reporting is only as good as the data you put into your system. If the data’s not clean or accurate, your reports won’t be either.

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Having strong BI in place allows you to read and react to trends that are affecting your business. For example, your reporting might show a steady uptick in sales or leads from a particular geographic area or demographic. As a result, maybe you adjust your social media ads to focus on that particular audience and drive more business.

On the other hand, maybe you’re seeing a dip in satisfaction scores for support tickets. This could be your cue to chat with your L1 support team to see if they need a training upgrade. Or maybe your overall support processes need a tweak to get those scores trending up again. Whether the results you’re seeing are good or bad, at least your head’s not stuck in the sand and you can take action to double down on what’s working and fix what isn’t.

QoE Monitoring and Optimization

OK, you had to know we had to include this one in here 🙂

QoE monitoring and optimization is what we do. Because of this, we can’t stress enough how important it is to manage the experience you provide to your subscribers.

Proactively monitoring QoE and managing the subscriber experience helps you achieve higher customer satisfaction while lowering operational costs. With that comes many tangible benefits to help your organization grow, including:

  • Reduce churn: By separating interactive traffic (e.g. gaming) from bulk transfers (e.g. downloads) and reducing latency, the internet will feel fast for your customers even at peak times. Keep your subscribers happy and they’ll have no reason to leave. They’ll also recommend you to their friends.
  • Lower support costs: Improved traffic delivery and the tools to proactively fix QoE issues means far fewer “my internet is slow” calls. Real-time views of throughput, latency, and other metrics means your support staff will be able to identify and solve issues faster. That means less escalations and a reduction in costly truck rolls.
  • Level up team expertise: Easy-to-understand scores and colors help less technical staff members understand QoE and RF conditions, while making life easier for your tech experts. Less ‘staring and comparing’ at multiple systems and fiddling with geek knobs means more time for your technical team and a more empowered support crew.
  • Make your services more competitive: QoE optimized shaping makes even low rate plans ‘feel fast’ for your subscribers. Also, QoE metrics can be used to drive network upgrades and sector splits to enable high-throughput plans. Active Queue Management techniques seamlessly enforce bandwidth limits and manage high-bandwidth apps.
  • Optimize network ROI: Getting insight into the RF conditions and user load for each AP and CPE Radio, you’ll be able to get the most out of your network and get full value from the equipment you already have. This means you can scale your ISP without necessarily having to add new staff or hardware.
Woman working on laptop

Transition from Outdated Technology

Here’s another benefit to installing a good QoE monitoring and optimization platform—you can finally move on from outdated, time-consuming technologies like DPI and TCP proxies (acceleration).

As covered in our recent blog on the subject, the dominant transport layer protocol for the internet is changing from TCP to QUIC. Major applications like YouTube and Facebook are already using QUIC and this will accelerate further with the move to HTTP3, which is QUIC-based. This means the need to use TCP proxies (‘acceleration’) to manage traffic is rapidly becoming obsolete.

Moreover, continuing to use this method negatively affects traffic using other protocols, which will become increasingly problematic as more applications switch over to QUIC. If you continue to use TCP proxies, get ready for an increase in slow-internet calls from angry customers.

As for DPI or application-aware traffic management tools, why stick with overly complicated and time-consuming tools that require specialized knowledge to operate and maintain when there are easier and more effective alternatives (e.g. AQM) available? We say just set it and forget it, and don’t worry about keeping up with changing applications and complex rules—it’ll give you more time to concentrate on growing your business!

Man pointing at wifi symbol on chalkboard

Prioritize the Proactive

One of the things that the tools and tips mentioned above have in common is the importance of adopting a proactive approach to ISP management. By becoming better organized, automating common tasks, and embracing the power of data, you can get ahead of the game, start recognizing trends, and begin solving problems before they start affecting your customers.

As a result, you can expect fewer support calls, less customer churn, and a happier and more efficient support staff and tech team. That means you’ll also save time and money, and can concentrate on polishing your network and expanding your business.

Looking for more insights on ISP management tools or growing your operation? Check out some of our previous WISP Tips articles here!

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