Broadband consumption is soaring. Usage limits are being waived. And subscribers are using Wi-Fi connected devices for a host of business, educational and entertainment purposes.

If ever there was a perfect storm for new thinking around customer care needs, this is it.  With entire populations self-quarantined because of COVID-19, broadband has emerged as a lifeline for housebound consumers, who are straining operators’ systems and subscribers’ own in-home networks as never before. Nielsen projects a 61% increase in TV viewing; our own OpenVault data shows actual usage up across the board, and by more than 40% during 9-to-5 business hours.

The challenge for operators is this: The more subscribers demand from their broadband services – and the more subscribers who do the demanding – the greater the possibility that network congestion will lead to customer support calls and on-site technical support. Costly in the best of times, truck rolls meant to resolve issues now may put technical personnel at risk, while social distancing protocols may prevent them from accessing customers’ homes.

While operators have had an economic incentive in the past to prioritize remote customer support, the reality of the coronavirus pandemic is amplifying the need for such an approach. Using distance diagnostic and remote care tools that provide enhanced visibility into network conditions, customer care teams can take a greater role in resolving challenges remotely, instead of issuing trouble tickets that result in dispatch orders. For example:

  • Areas impacted by node congestion can be identified so that customer support can communicate the issue to subscribers and initiate corrective action.
  • Excessive usage by a single subscriber can be addressed promptly to reduce the impact on service availability to other consumers.
  • Overburdening or poor configuration of consumers’ own in-home Wi-Fi networks can be pinpointed, enabling customer support to work directly with the subscriber on remedies.

What are the long-term implications for the industry? First, it is entirely probable that the usage patterns formed today will accelerate increases in broadband growth.  And second, distance diagnostics and remote care will continue to enable support teams to improve customer experiences in less time – and at far less cost – than truck rolls and on-site visits.  

In recent months, these blogs have talked about how the trend toward “Broadband First” strategies is prompting changes in engineering needs, business models and more for service providers. In that environment, it’s entirely probable that remote customer care strategies that can safeguard field personnel and subscribers today will continue to deliver value for the broadband industry and consumers even after the crisis has receded.