The rapid uptake in Fibre services
Over the last two years, the increased demand for internet service providers (ISPs) has been driven by increased broadband usage and more connected devices. This demand has, at times, resulted in sub-par connectivity. These connectivity issues have resulted in blowback to ISPs and manufacturers of IoT devices.
The growing role of support services has become a key differentiator for ISPs, and smart home device suppliers, as they navigate a landscape that changed as rapidly as the Covid-19 pandemic struck the global economy.
Fibre has become the primary way that consumers experience internet connections and use devices inside their homes. When WiFi is slow or down, consumers often see it as an ISP or connected IoT device failure. Most of the time, this is not the case. Most customers are unaware that WiFi and internet are not the same thing.
The increase in usage of connected smart-home devices
While stats for South Africa are not readily available, a Parks & Associates research report shows the total average number of connected devices per broadband household in the U.S. has climbed from 8.4 in 2015 to 14 in 2021. Most of these devices fall into the computing, mobile, smart speaker and entertainment devices categories and connect to the internet using WiFi.
People have had to adjust their lifestyles and homes to meet needs for remote working and online schooling. As a result, more investment into home technology has become a necessity. Besides connecting more devices, increased bandwidth usage is due to heavy operations like video conferencing, webinar streaming, online gaming, and online entertainment. There has been a sharp upward curve in the average hourly consumption of the internet, and projections say it will not come down, even when covid dissipates.
This new activity has placed a heavy burden on bandwidth. Likewise, there has been a significant increase in consumers reporting technical problems. Complaints vary, but slow WiFi or slow internet makes up 30% of calls, ‘WiFi frequently stops working’ is around 20% of complaints received and issues like managing WiFi passwords make up approximately 10% of cases reported. Having ‘dead spots’ of internet connectivity within the home comes in at about 15% of issues.
From these stats, it’s clear that most issues reported by customers are WiFi related and not internet related issues.
What does this mean
For the ISP, this has meant an increase in truck rolls (technicians coming to your home) and an increase in call centre costs as new agents and infrastructure is implemented to deal with the volume of calls. For IoT device manufacturers, it could mean increased product returns, lower user engagement and a loss of repeat purchases.
The home network system of the modern consumer is quite fragmented, and the potential for problems is vast. These problems, mostly WiFi related, are being turned into the ISPs and IoT device manufacturers issues even though they don’t supply WiFi. The ISP provides internet, and the manufacturer of devices delivers smart IoT goods.
Also, certain WiFi routers advertise download speeds that attract customers to buy them. For example, it may read on the box that the speed of a router is 1000Mbs, but if a customer doesn’t have a 1000Mbs fibre internet connection, that router speed doesn’t matter. Internet speed is from the fibre internet provider, and performance in the home is mainly dependent on the WiFi set up.
Most customers opt for the ‘cost effective’ router or continue to use the seven-year-old router. These options may not handle the number of devices connected or the amount of streaming needed in the home.
Some consumers do attempt to resolve these types of technical problems themselves. They first try self-help options like website support pages, product manuals, support forums or self-help apps like the RocketNet probe. The appeal for online tools that help resolve technical issues has grown from 41% in 2019 to 66% in 2021.
Why can issues be so difficult to resolve
Customers want fast, reliable support where they don’t need to call into their ISP to chat to a service agent. Before a call, the average customer may not understand what WiFi is. Customers may not realise that the issue is probably the type or age of router, the age of a laptop, the distance devices are from a router or the number of people streaming simultaneously, not that the internet is down.
During a call with a service agent there is a lack of visibility into the home network of the customer. So, agents run through a checklist of questions hoping to solve the problem. But customers don’t always know the answers to those questions. Callers misdiagnose WiFi issues as internet service issues, and even when they do understand the problem, they don’t have the tools to fix it themselves. This process ends in a lot of miscommunication, misdiagnosis and customer frustration.
Secondly, most self-service tools are inadequate. Tools like FAQ pages and knowledge bases don’t offer insight into specific issues that can be unique from home to home. They are simply a checklist exercise, and most customers don’t know what half of the information means. They are time-consuming and not very helpful.
Solving the problem with modern-day self-service
At RocketNet we use a mobile phone app, the RocketNet Probe, to collect information on the customers home network. That information is shifted into the cloud and fed into a tool called RouteThis, which makes the information useful. This information is turned into an AI enriched resolution with actionable steps on what to do to fix the problem. The Probe app on the customers phone receives this information in tandem so customers can fix an issue themselves without being a technical genius. This process happens within a few minutes, and not one phone call has to be made.
Stats show that these tools have resulted in a 45% reduction in inbound calls to service agents, a 20% reduction in the average handling time of an issue and a 30-50% reduction in truck rolls and product returns.
Integrating self-help tools like RouteThis is helping us to help our customers with all sorts of issues, even those not created by us. We think this is a fantastic opportunity because we love providing excellent service that results in a great internet experience.
We are finding that customers are more willing to invest money into getting the best WiFi performance in their home once they understand the issues. ISPs and customers can avoid about 80% of their frustration with proper WiFi system installation in the home, driven by cutting edge self-service tools.
About RocketNet: RocketNet is a next generation internet service provider (ISP) servicing thousands of customers across South Africa. RocketNet exists to enhance people’s lives through fast, reliable internet access that supports and advances their progress, whatever that looks like.As the brainchild of South African tech entrepreneur, Simon Swanepoel, RocketNet is committed to people and planet before profits and prides itself on customer loyalty earned through service excellence. Partnering with customers for internet access that enables them to do what inspires them, RocketNet sparks joy through inspired service.
About RouteThis: RouteThis is a leading WiFi in-home connectivity platform provider that is transforming the way ISPs and smart home brands deploy, manage, and support the connected home. The company’s 100% software-based approach to solving in-home connectivity issues leverages the power of consumer smart devices to allow agents and consumers alike to quickly identify, resolve and prevent WiFi connectivity issues. In addition, the company’s Self-Help solution enables customers to solve connectivity issues themselves, without making a call to customer support. A trusted partner to hundreds of ISPs and smart home brands worldwide and is located in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada.