Wireless Internet service providers (Wisps) have an opportunity to create more traction and more stickiness with their customers than the national fibre and cellular providers do with theirs. Poor customer experience is one of the biggest issues impacting the market in specific ways and there are some highly relevant reasons why the national providers are not, nor will they be, in a position to improve the situation. Here’s where PAUL COLMER, EXCO member at Wireless Access Provider’s Association (WAPA), thinks the opportunity lies for Wisps.
Many users have challenges related to their home network, what we call the last nine yards. But, what home users and many small businesses don’t understand is that, when they sign up for connectivity, sorting out their device- or home-network related issues isn’t actually part of the package. There’s an education element missing.
Another major challenge is that, when people phone the call centre, the agent is effectively operating blind. They can test if the router responds to a ping, that’s it. That’s also reliant on the user having a standard router.
I’ve seen people unplug the printer, the dog eats their laptop power cable, microwave ovens interfere with wireless signals, media boxes plugged into dodgy two-prong adapters, and a whole lot more. The only way to effectively fix those issues is to put faces in the user places.
But that’s expensive, particularly countrywide, which is why the big national service providers have call centres. Some of them are really top notch too. It can be almost impossible to compete with them at that level, requiring the kind of deep pockets the average Wisp doesn’t have.
And there’s a good reason these companies don’t have feet on the customer’s ground. It’s expensive. Many service providers are making less than R100 per customer per month, some as low as R70 per month. How can they run a profitable business if they have to send support personnel to customer homes at those prices?
Wisps, however, have an advantage.
Wisps predominantly operate in the community where they provide their services. They have their own faces in user places because they’re not reliant on third-party installation partners.
However, some caveats:
1. Customers are almost never right
Customer education is crucial, and they need to know what the connectivity installation includes as well as excludes. Sorting out an ancient laptop with a slowpoke network card isn’t necessarily part of the monthly package. But it could be, for a small additional fee. Managing user expectations is also essential. Gamers want low pings, photographers higher upload speeds, home workers better uptime, services for which many people are willing to pay.
2. The right stuff
Managing expectations is crucial. Users need to know the installation team isn’t there to hook up all their devices. Or they could be, for a small additional fee. Many people will be willing to pay for a convenient service, particularly if their granddaughter isn’t available. Some will want to know about load shedding inverter backups, which can also be supplied.
3. Shoot the breeze
Training customers is a huge challenge. Training call centre people to ask the right questions, however, is less so. Train them to ask the right questions and they can cut to the chase much quicker and be more effective.
When customers understand what services are typically involved in connecting their premises as well as their devices, they can begin to see the value of what they get for their money. That’s how Wisps can position themselves to charge a premium for a premium level of service. Lower levels could involve TeamViewer or AnyDesk support before escalating to more expensive feet on the ground services.
Customers also understand geographical support radiuses although they may need some contextualisation. Context is critical. People seem to be OK with fast foods only being delivered within a 5km radius but somehow expect a support techie to drive 20km to their house at no extra charge. It’s unreasonable but, given the right context, most people will understand.
Education, managing expectations, and training personnel are essential. Many customers are willing to pay more, if they can just get the service. And, when they do, they become the most loyal customers a business could hope to find.
WAPA offers training specifically on customer service excellence free of charge to members, which they can access via the online portal.
WAPA, established in 2006, is a non-profit trade association acting as a collective voice for the wireless industry. WAPA’s primary objective is to promote the growth of the wireless industry by facilitating self-regulation, promoting best practices, and educating both members and the market about new wireless technologies and business models. WAPA offers its members regulatory advice, technical training, a code of conduct, a forum for knowledge-sharing and business-enablement opportunities.
WAPA is positioned to be an interface between the government regulator (ICASA), network operators, service providers, and consumers. WAPA regularly makes submissions and presentations to the government on regulations affecting the wireless industry. WAPA is tirelessly lobbying for more progressive and efficient spectrum management in South Africa and is focusing on the possibilities of dynamic unlicensed spectrum for interference-free access.
Media enquiries: Lesley Colmer, WAPA
Contact details: 083-408-0151, [email protected]
Issued by: Michelle Oelschig, Scarlet Letter
Contact details: 083-636-1766, [email protected]