Update on Customer Support Improvement Plan

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Posted on: Monday 3 July 2006, 13:27

This is a follow-up to the previous items relating to our plan for customer support available at http://portal.plus.net/central/forums/viewtopic.php?t=44063. There is also information about a temporary change to our MaxDSL Upgrade policy.

During the last week we have made good progress with the Customer Support Improvement plan. We are now well and truly embarked on the journey of overhauling our Customer Support Centre. In this post there are updates on progress with all of the items we identified as top priorities, as well as some new additions to this plan. We remain under a lot of pressure in the CSC and recognise that response times for calls and questions are still at a level that is resulting in delays when contacting us.

We would like to again state that implementing all of the changes we intend will take some time. During that time, improvements won't occur overnight and we would like to thank customers for bearing with us at this very busy time for everyone at PlusNet.

- Temporary suspension of MaxDSL upgrades
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The roll-out of MaxDSL upgrades to our customers has resulted in an unprecedented amount of fault reports within our Customer Support Centre, as well as significant inconvenience for many upgraded customers. Reported faults following the upgrade have ranged between varying speeds and regular disconnections, through to no connection whatsoever. Of the ~60,000 upgrades processed so far, around 1 in every 10 has resulted in a connectivity issue where the affected customer has needed to contact our support team directly. In most of these cases, we have then had to log faults with BT. The backlog of work this has created is a significant part of the reason why our support centre is currently so busy.

We met with BT late last week regarding the high fault rates we have experienced, and have now reached the conclusion that currently the BT Max products, and specifically the process of DLM (Dynamic Line Management) is unstable and presents risks which make it inappropriate for us to continue upgrading customers to Max. Following the talks with BT, we have decided to temporarily place our upgrade programme on hold. This is a temporary measure which will only be in place until we are satisfied that BT have resolved the causes of the most serious issues our customers are reporting.

More details will be available about this shortly, and we will be providing information directly to all customers who have requested an upgrade to Max via the tool at http://max.plus.net. We would still encourage people to register for an upgrade there, and we will process all orders requested via this page as soon as we are comfortable that the upgrade process is robust enough for us to do so. We do appreciate that many customers understand the risks of an upgrade and have requested one on this basis, and we will endeavour to ensure these upgrades are performed as soon as possible. We do envisage that this may take 4 - 6 weeks, although the timing will depend on the outcome of further discussions and testing we are conducting with BT.

- CSC Re-organisation
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The re-organisation of the CSC is under way. Because we are still in the process of implementing these changes, we hope customers will appreciate that we can't go into detail about aspects of the plan that might still impact our employees. The process we are embarking on will take the next month or so to complete. At the heart of this is a focus on raising the standard of our work and ensuring that we are providing the quality of support our customers expect.

In the short term, we are conscious that backlogs remain high, and some types of questions are still taking us a number of days to address. In the next update we will provide some key statistics that will provide a clear measure of our progress here, and in the meantime we will continue to work through outstanding tickets as quickly as we can.

- Support call-backs
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Testing and design of the call back functionality is in progress, and we expect to start using this system later this week, ahead of our original schedule. Om Tuesday morning a new call routing facility will be implemented to enable this. This voicemail and call-back facility will allow us to prioritise support for customers with serious connection faults and is designed to assist us in reducing call waiting times.

We will provide more details later this week about how the call back system will function.


- SMS Text Messaging Updates for ADSL Faults
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We are pleased to report that the new SMS texting system is now in use.

The PlusNet Usergroup have published more details on their website here:
http://usergroup.plus.net/news_060628_smsupdates.php

Initial feedback has been positive, and we are now looking at more ways we can utilise SMS messaging to update our customers. We are also working on two-way text messaging, which will allow people to reply directly to messages we send. There are as yet no time scales on this second item currently, but we expect to know more next week.

- Internal question (formerly ticket) management system
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A number of fixes to our internal ticket management system have now been deployed, improving our own experience of using the system. Next week we will be launching code to improve the prioritisation of tickets, with the aim of ensuring, for example, that we deal with serious connection problems quickly at all times.

Following a customer phone call, we now also have the ability to provide follow-ups directly to customers via our website. This means that rather than spending a long time on a call explaining complicated details, such as a long URL or set of instructions, they can be sent to a customer as a 'question' response. This will save time for both customers and our support team, especially where customers don't have an email account setup for us to send this type of information.

Many more improvements are still in development and will be launched during the next six weeks.

- House movers tool
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This week we rolled out some changes to our tool for handling house moves, adding more intelligent data validation to the tool. This will ensure more errors are detected before they cause a problem. Major work is still under way on the core features of this tool, but we are on target to complete this within the next six weeks.

- ADSL Fault reporting system - http://faults.plus.net
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We've already made a lot of progress on the faults tool, fixing some longer-term issues that have occurred intermittently and adding more intelligence to the code. We have also improved the wording of some of the questions this system asks, to minimise any potential confusion.

There will be further improvements in the coming five weeks, the most significant for us being the introduction of better automation of fault reports to BT. Currently, fault submissions can take over 10 minutes each, and because of the significant increase in the BT fault rate that has been experienced this task is taking up an untenable amount of CSC time.

- Telephone System (IVR) and Support Remit Updates
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We are developing our support telephone system and will be launching a new menu structure (and new voice prompts) this Tuesday. As well as allowing customers to leave messages and request call-backs, through the use of skill-based routing, the new structure is designed to ensure that callers are routed to a correct resource, based on the options individually selected by each customer. The new call-handling structure is also needed to ensure we explain our telephone support remit clearly. Where appropriate, this means the system will direct people to a relevant automated or on-line system We are aware that some customers will find having to select from a range of options to be an inconvenience; however with the information provided when someone calls us and identifies the nature of their query, our call volumes can be handled much more effectively and we can ensure a more tailored service for our customers.

Next week we will also be clarifying our telephone support policy, and the following text will be displayed prominently on our website. We hope this will clearly set the expectation about what help we can and can't offer through our various contact mechanisms:

"PlusNet's Support Policy:

We believe in providing all the help you need via our website. This allows us to maintain our low cost approach to providing our products, giving you the best value quality Broadband service possible. We constantly update our website to answer common and not so common queries, and you should be able to locate any information you need from our Support pages. Our website should be the first point of contact for all support enquiries.

- If you can't connect or access our website, we provide an 0845 technical support line. We prioritise connection faults via this line. You can also call us to report a critical fault with any of our services, for example if your email is unavailable.

- If you need help in setting up any services we offer, or have a problem that isn't covered on our help pages, you can use our on-line Help Assistant. If you prefer, you can call the premium rate support line. We can also help with many configuration questions on this line."

This text will also link to an updated page explaining in more detail the best way to get the type of support you need: http://www.plus.net/features/news/best_support.shtml

- Other developments
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With so much of our resource focussed on developing the CSC tools and infrastructure, there are plenty of other items which have been progressed this week that haven't been mentioned here. We have literally hundreds of small planned changes that will be made in the coming weeks, all with a view to improving the experience for customers and streamlining our internal procedures. An example of a small change that could make a big difference is the ability customers now have to rate and provide feedback on all of our support pages. This will allow us to prioritise changes and update any information that our customers tell us is incomplete.

As we complete some of our first priority items, we can move on to additional areas that we know are also in need of improvement. We'll provide more details next week of what we will be doing to improve View My Broadband Usage, Customer Billing processes and our automated upgrade and downgrade processes. We've also now scheduled upcoming work on improving validation in our domain management system and on developing a number of network tools for our website, which will enable customers to manage more aspects of their accounts on-line.

The next progress update on all of the above items is scheduled for next Monday, and copies of each of these updates will be available via the Latest News section of our portal in due course. If you would like to discuss any of the specifics mentioned here further, or have any questions about what we are doing, the PlusNet Usergroup have created a dedicated forum at http://usergroup.plus.net/forum/index.php/board,38.0.html


With Regards,

Ian Wild
PlusNet Customer Communications Manager

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