Placing advanced troubleshooting tools in the hands of customers.
By: Bruce Bahlmann - Contributing Author (your
is important to us!)
Created: April 3, 2000
In 1997, MediaOne began examining installation and service metrics for its High-Speed Data
(HSD) product. During this examination, it became clear that its HSD
business was seeing a larger installation failure rate then its core
business counterparts. One of the explanations for this was because HSD
deals with the additional unknown of the subscriber's personal computer.
More specifically, one main reason the HSD rate was so high was because we
were attempting to install our service on personal computers that did NOT
meet the minimum system requirements of the HSD service. In fact, this type
of failure represented between 3%-9% (depending on the region and the month)
of all HSD install attempts! Why is this number significant? Because it is
preventable. MediaOne believed if it could eliminate the wasted time and
effort on failed installs, and allow those trucks/personnel to focus only on
qualified systems, it could increase the number of successful HSD installs
by upwards of 5%.
Do the Math
Improvements, such as the one given above, are
difficult to realize or translate into a number that is meaningful for any
The following could be used by any MSO to come up with a reasonably accurate
assessment of their costs to install HSD on non-qualified personal
- Assuming you could increased your yearly customer adds by an average of 5%
Assuming the lost 5% customers were spread out over the year, (note only
five months are used to calculate the lost revenue as a majority of
customers are typically added late in the year).
Assuming each failed truck roll costs $125
Assuming you charge $39.95 for HSD service
- “potential” customers:
5% * projected customer adds for year
- LOST REVENUE: “potential” customers * 5 * $39.95
- EXPENSE: “potential” customers * $125
- TOTAL yearly IMPACT = LOST REVENUE + EXPENSE
As an example, I’ve plugged in MediaOne’s projected 1998 numbers to give you
an idea of what kind of impact as little as a 5% increase in installation
efficiency can have.
Negative customer satisfaction and press we receive when installations do
not go according to plan!
3. Lost revenue from additional customers gained year-to-year by having
implemented this program.
- Assume MediaOne planned to add 30,000 HSD Two-Way customers in 1998
- Assume the same 5% or 1500 additional subscribers will be impacted by
the PC minimum requirements issue.
- Assuming these lost 1500 customers were spread out over the year.
- LOST 1998 REVENUE: (1500 * 5 * $39.95) = $ 299,625
- 1998 EXPENSE: 1500 * $125 = $187,500
- TOTAL 1998 IMPACT:
*Note: The impact numbers DO NOT take the following into account:
- Today the sales rep must take time to manually determine if a customer's PC
meets the minimum specifications. This means longer talk times and thus less time available to close
additional sales calls.
If MediaOne’s numbers are similar to your own, the result of a 5% increase
in installation efficiency would amount to a savings of $16,237.50 per 1000
projected customer additions for the year. Put another way, each 1% increase
in installation efficiency would amount to a savings of $3.25 per projected
customer addition for the year.
A Possible Solution
A possible solution to this dilemma would be to allow a potential customer
to automatically pre-qualify his or her own PC. This proposed application
would examine the user's PC in a non-intrusive fashion, and then compare the
results against the known requirements of the various MediaOne HSD product
offerings for an applicable region. This application could eventually be
delivered to customers via the Internet, e-mail or through promotional
The idea would be that BEFORE we roll a truck for installation or service
call, the customer could run a simple, easy to use application. This
application (currently known as The System Qualifier) would clearly state if
the computer was capable of running the MediaOne HSD product the customer
desires (two way, one way, etc). The result of the analysis would be one of
1. The computer "passed" the test! Therefore an install can then proceed with confidence.
2. The computer "passed with a warning". In this case the system met the minimum requirements for a service BUT NOT the recommended requirements (like in the case of free hard disk space). In this case the install could proceed, but the user AND the MediaOne staff
(Sales, Support and Field Service teams) would know that a potential
situation exists. Knowing this for example, additional quota time could be allocated if required.
3. The computer "failed" the test! In this case, the application would state why (lack of memory, disk space,
etc) and make recommendations as to what the user could do to remedy the
problem and thus eventually have our product installed successfully.
Notes: In the case of the first two results ("passed" or "passed with a warning"),
a result code would be provided. This result code contains the serial number of the PC's hard drive and an
indicator of any potential problems that could be occurring.
- In the case of the third possible result ("failed"), MediaOne could give the
name and number of a local computer supplier to help the customer resolve
the problem. This was done to demonstrate that if desired, the eventual application could
potentially GENERATE revenue! This could be accomplished by selling this "advertising space" to suppliers
as we see fit.
The prototype developed by MediaOne divided up the problem of system
qualification into four phases. The first phase (Figure 1.0) mainly
explained to the customer what this application does and how to use it.
Figure 1.0 MediaOne System Qualifier Prototype Instructions
Here it was determined that customers would like to know what the system
qualifier does and what they should expect to see once it completes. This
directly led into the next phase where the customer’s residence and desired
service is also qualified. Since Broadband was (and still is) not available
everywhere instantly, it was necessary to determine where the customer
lived. Figure 1.1 was our first attempt at resolving this problem. Note
however that we found that you can’t base this off a customer’s state or zip
code – you actually need to ensure that HSD is available for the customer’s
dwelling or address.
Figure 1.1 MediaOne System Qualifier Prototype Residence and Service
Selection of the State and Service options enabled the
system qualifier to then begin a detailed system check. The results of this
system check are displayed in Figure 1.2. This phase determined if the
customer’s personal computer met minimum requirements needed schedule
installation of HSD service.
Figure 1.2 MediaOne System Qualifier Prototype Checks
Once these checks were complete, the last phase of this
process evaluated if the customer’s personal computer was capable of having
MediaOne HSD installed on it. If it was capable, the customer was
congratulated and given a code they could provide to MediaOne during signup
(see Figure 1.3). This code would speed MediaOne’s data entry during the
signup conversation. If it did not pass, the customer was allowed to view
the results in more detail – which indicated where discrepancies exist.
Figure 1.3 MediaOne System Qualifier Prototype Results
Although a single individual at MediaOne developed the
system qualifier prototype, the concept of an application that could make
MediaOne’s HSD installations more efficient was enthusiastically supported
by all. However, the system qualifier provides only a small piece of what
HSD customers need in terms of self-help applications. What is actually
needed is a suite of tools or a self-help toolkit.
The need to expand the customer base along with the
need to cut expenses and reduce the number of service calls require better
equipped customers. Self-help tools abound on the Internet. From
IP-switchers to speed checkers many Internet sites are providing a growing
number of FREE services. For example the following link:
Personal computers are also becoming more broadband
friendly. For example, new personal computers come with simple wizards to
configure Internet services along with the ability to save/restore multiple
configurations. As a result, the personal computer is better able to adapt
to the type of broadband access available in the customers’ area. Short of
full-fledged broadband ready personal computers that will completely set up
your network interface and IP address settings, these improvements represent
significant progress towards a more efficient and trouble-free Internet
Armed with a self-help
toolkit, customers can do things like test the speed of their Internet
connection, send/receive test emails, run system/diagnostic tests, and even
troubleshoot localized problems. MediaOne’s system qualifier prototype
demonstrated tremendous potential for selling advertising space within
self-help tools. The availability of this highly “customizable” advertising
space along with the growing number of self-help tools will enable these
tools to reach and increasing number of broadband customers. Currently there
seems to be a few different approaches to providing self-help tools:
· Standalone application based approach – Self-help products that consist of
standalone application(s) that can be executed on a customer’s personal
computer. This approach is capable of performing detailed diagnostics of the
computer however is limited by not being able to change with the times (new
operating systems, advertisers, requirements, etc.), is typically suited for
only one type of broadband access (ISDN, xDSL, or HSD via CATV), and must be
· Internet based approach – Self-help products that are accessible via a web
site. This approach is less capable of performing detailed diagnostics on
computers to the point where it may not be able to pre-qualify the computer,
however it is extremely flexible, able to work with all types of broadband
access, and is able to keep up with changes in software, hardware, and
· Combination – Self-help products that attempt to leverage advantages of
standalone and Internet based approaches. This approach can be extremely
effective in offering a wide variety of self-help tools to customers,
however it typically comes with a price tag and does not allow you to reap
the benefits of making deals with vendors wanting to advertise to your
While a number of companies
offer self-help tools for a fee, it is believed that because of the infinite
advertising possibilities, this service should be free. It has also been
suggested that any if these companies want their software loaded at the time
of install that they pay the MSO for this privilege not the other way
around. The good news is, a vast majority of these self-help tools can be
operated via an Internet connection thus we have only scratched the surface
of what is to come in this area.
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