Exploring the in-home experience with Mike Power of Sure International

Written by Erin Penney

Today, the customer experience for ISP subscribers relies increasingly heavily on the in-home experience. Customers consider WiFi and internet to be the same thing, and expect it to be part of an ISP’s support operation.

Recently, we sat down with Mike Power, Broadband and Home Product Manager of Sure International, to talk all things WiFi. You might remember him from our event back in July 2021, where we talked in depth about in-home experiences for subscribers and why they’re critical for the modern ISP.

For this conversation, we wanted to explore the journey Sure—a Batelco Group ISP specializing in telco services for small territories and islands worldwide—took to WiFi support in more detail. Keep reading to discover why they decided to support WiFi, how they introduced it, and how it transformed their customer experience.

So let’s get started.

 

First up, tell us a bit about Sure International.

We’re a small and nimble telco, and we’re able to switch processes and strategies quite quickly to reflect changes in our markets and customers—which has been a really interesting and enjoyable part of my role in the business.

The group is also very open to ideas and suggestions on how to improve customer service, choice of products, and customer experience, which means we get to try out quite a few ideas and stick with the ones that work best for our customer base.

 

What’s the biggest challenge Sure faces as an ISP?

We face the same issues as most ISPs out there—providing the best possible customer experience for customers as we deliver a service that’s now vital in people’s everyday lives, broadband and WiFi.

Telcos have historically seen broadband and WiFi as entirely separate, and have focused on delivering service to the door. But customers tend to bundle broadband and WiFi as the same thing, and I’ve spent the past three years helping Sure to start to think beyond the door and accept that this is how customers see broadband and WiFi.

 

How has that changed things at Sure?

It’s helped change the mindset within the group; we’re less involved in the granular detail of broadband speed, as this has largely been solved as a consistently delivered service. We’re more conscious now of what the experience is within each property for all our clients.

It’s been quite a change for the organization to shift and recognize this experience as a key deliverable and KPI.

 

Let’s talk about the issue at hand: WiFi support. In our recent session with Wi-Fi NOW, you mentioned that WiFi is the key to getting customer experience right. What pushed you to include WiFi in your experience?

WiFi wasn’t always our primary concern, and has shifted recently with more IoT devices appearing in homes. The COVID-19 pandemic has also had an accelerating effect, with working from home becoming the norm and our customers’ heightened awareness of the value of a good WiFi connection. It’s become as essential as water and electricity in people’s lives.

My background is in retail, marketing, and customer service, and my brain has been hard-wired to understand a customer’s perspective. I became interested in what issues customers faced and why, and learned lots about the makeup of houses—their construction types, delivery capabilities of WiFi within the home, mesh systems.

I also spent a lot of time looking at how other industries had exceeded people’s expectations. I noticed some providers in the U.K. who helped install things like washing machines, fridges, and audio-visual systems in people’s homes to make them work in the best way possible. That gave me the idea to think about how we could take this great customer experience into a traditional telco broadband environment.

 

How did you implement that new experience into your support team?

My research coincided with increasingly large numbers of calls into Sure’s customer service team about WiFi issues, which were blocking up the call lines with relatively minor enquiries. There simply had to be a way to halt these calls, or weed out the minor issues from more serious ones.

This was the basis of a new home tech service, which we call Tech Team. This service would visit customers’ homes, provide a free assessment of what’s needed within the home; for example, if they need to upgrade the router, place the router in a better location, install a mesh system. This has proven to be a great success for us.

 

How have things been different—for better or worse—since moving to include WiFi in your experience?

I definitely think things have become better for our customers since our change of focus. We have fewer minor technical calls into our customer service team, and now we tend to deal with only the most serious cases. Our truck roll costs have fallen, and our FCR numbers have increased significantly.

Our NPS scores have also risen in the past three years since I joined Sure, and as a company, we now actively look at remedies for customers within their home.

 

Let’s go back to another point you made in our Wi-Fi NOW session: Consumers don’t call hydro companies when their toasters stop working, but they call ISPs when their laptop can’t connect to WiFi. What makes ISPs different in this sense? How does consumer understanding contribute to this extra pressure on support teams?

If an electrical or water-related device fails in a home, customers won’t blame the big utility companies—they will more often than not defer to an electrician or plumber. An Apple device might be 10 years old and not working optimally, but that doesn’t stop the customer from attributing poor performance to the WiFi not working.

In the customer’s mind, the two are intrinsically linked, and they only start to understand the difference when they call a telco’s customer service team and receive advice on maximizing WiFi performance in the home.

As broadband becomes more essential, telcos will have to work beyond the door to help solve problems within the home. We’re all going to need to work harder to keep customers happy—way beyond what was expected of us less than a decade ago.

 

What advice or lessons learned would you share with another ISP looking to include the in-home experience?

Think like a customer. If it were you or a member of your family, how would you react if the in-home experience was poor?

On top of that, I think since we’ve all been locked down for so long, we’ve begun to realize the real value of good WiFi. In a recent poll undertaken for BBC Radio, respondents rated mobile and WiFi as the top two essential parts of their monthly expenditure, even going so far as to say they would forgo spending on food and rent to pay for their mobile usage and WiFi. How life has changed!

 

And of course, we have to ask. How did RouteThis help you with the in-home experience?

RouteThis is an essential part of our triage process. If our first line of support can’t resolve an issue quickly, we recommend that customers download the RouteThis app to their phone—and using the proxy service, video and photo features, and other tools, they can instantly relate to the issues faced by the customer remotely.

This has been ideal in lockdown, and with new elements of functionality, will help us to provide that next level of service.

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