Making broadband customers happy

What is the secret to making broadband customers happy?

Canadians love to bash our telecom companies. There is an organization, the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS), that deals with certain classes of problems. The semi-annual reports from the Commissioner provides statistics about the complaints received. The CRTC conducts “secret shopper” studies, looking for examples of “misleading or aggressive sales practices”.

It used to be that only the post office was a more despised institution, but who sends letters today? That leaves banks, airlines and the CBC as the competition for a title no one wants. Canadians love to hate our telecom service providers.

But, is anyone in Canada studying factors that contribute to actually making broadband customers happy?

There was a recent report, published by Roger Entner’s Recon Analytics, that looked at “The happiest and unhappiest broadband customers in the United States”.

One of the key questions around the happiest and unhappiest home internet counties is where they are and what the driver is behind the happiness and unhappiness. Every week, we ask our respondents a battery of questions around how satisfied they are with the service they receive. After surveying more than three hundred and thirty thousand respondents later, we have respondents from 2,368 counties out of 3,142 in the United States telling us are telling us where the happiest and unhappiest broadband customers in the United States and allows us to determine the root cause behind their experience.

Recon’s analysis of the data challenges some of the “commonly accepted truths”, such as whether technology influences happiness, or whether number of competitors is a factor. In four of the ten unhappiest counties examined, member-owned cooperatives were active.

What about making broadband customers happy? Recon Analytics found that nine out of the ten happiest counties were rural. In six of the ten happiest counties, coops are active, but not in the happiest broadband county. Is the mere presence of coops driving better service? The feedback from customers in such counties ranges from “terrific to terrible.”

The data found that Fiber or Cable coverage is also not playing a determining role.

At the end of the day, Recon found that the most important factor driving customer satisfaction was the individual performance of a provider in any given county.

Almost all the providers displayed uneven performance. The same provider that performed very well in some counties performed poorly in others. Cable providers like Comcast and Charter performed very well in some counties. Comcast’s exceptionally good performance made Mercer County, WV the happiest broadband county. Equally, its poor performance in Barnstable County, MA and Whatcom County, WA made them the second and third unhappiest broadband counties. Only AT&T Fiber performed consistently well in the ten happiest counties and was not present in the unhappiest.

Each of the providers was able to deliver service that made customers happy. And apparently, these same providers could make their customers unhappy.

Considering that the nationwide providers engage in nationwide standard pricing, the satisfaction score differences are not driven by low price, but by actual performance. Technology helps, but the key is local execution. Providers could improve their performance in markets by internally benchmarking their performance and extending best practices throughout the entire organization.

Over the past 5 years, we have had to deal with a number of hospitals in the Toronto area. There have been clear differences in our levels of “customer satisfaction”. Fortunately, living here in Canada, it has nothing to do with pricing. It has nothing to do with outcomes or the quality of healthcare provided. But, there are clear differences in the way staff interact with patients and their families. Let’s phrase it as the way the health services providers deal with their customers. In two of the hospitals, there has been palpable caring and empathy exhibited toward us from virtually every staff member. We feel it from the parking garage attendants selling long term passes, from the information desk clerks, in addition to what we experience from the medical care teams. In one of the other hospitals, patients and the public are made to feel like we are getting in the way. As though the staff are upset that patients interfere with what would otherwise be a great place to work.

How do executives instill a culture that encourages caring and empathy? Regardless of the business, whether running a hospital or a division of a phone company, how do your workers approach customer service? How do all of your employees (even those who aren’t in customer facing jobs) represent the company in a positive way within their communities? In a remote work environment, how do you establish such a corporate culture?

It seems it isn’t the technology that makes the difference in making broadband customers happy. I think it comes down to people and the culture engendered in the workplace.

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