Following a conversation thread that started on the CEDIA Community board regarding customer care programs, CEDIA set up a conference call with 35 member participants to explore the conversation further and share insights and experience. We’ve extrapolated some highlights here in part two (of three).
What are your process and solutions for managing service calls?
James Ratcliffe, Homeplay (Sunbury-on-Thames, England, UK)
We manage our In-house service through Zendesk. It took us a while to train our customers to email us, but we very rarely get calls now, because we're extremely fast at replying on email. What happens is, the client will email in and if we haven't got their email stored, they’ll get an auto response that says: You're not on a support plan, we'll be back in touch during support hours. If the customer is on a support plan, then they'll get a reply saying that we'll be in touch within 30 minutes. Through Zendesk, we know what plans our clients are on and how quickly we need to respond.
Robert May, Sounds Good Smart Homes (Oakville, Ontario, CAN)
We always try to make the preferred path the path of least resistance. So, is someone calls and leaves a message, we take 24 hours to get back, whereas emails, we'll be getting back to people hourly. This means that we very rarely have after-hour or weekend calls. Our internal system flags jobs that have been managed or is in the process of being managed. Alongside this, we’ve found that it’s been important to us to have consistency in the router and network that we're installing, so that we have VPN into the systems from anywhere in the world. At this point I'm willing to lose a job if the customer's not willing to buy our network, because I know what the sort of long-term effects of that would mean for us.
Mike Ranpura, Smart Life AV (London, UK)
I agree with that. I ensure that there's always an enterprise grade router in place and we install Ubiquiti cloud keys for the Wi-Fi points, which gives us instant information about the network and remote access. It also generates lovely reports on ISP speed test that we can forward onto our client. In terms of communication, we're quite flexible in how our clients contact us. The top method is WhatsApp, with the second being phone calls. Obviously if you're using a CMS system, then you'd probably funnel them down the email route to make it easier for you, but we look at it the other way around — we make it as easy as possible for the client.Nicolai Landschultz, IndigoZest (Watford, Herts, UK)
We use Domotz on every site so that we've got access. It's all about giving us that remote management capability of the hardware and the infrastructure itself — the more we can we do remotely, the better we can serve the clients.
If you're working with the clients and you're texting back and forth, then you're setting yourself up to lose.
We use Cisco Meraki. One login and we can see every device on every network. If a customer has a bad part, whether it's a router or a switch, we can Uber one over, the client can plug it in themselves, and it self-configures.
In our opinion, it doesn't matter what you're using, it's about whether your whole team has bought into the process. That's one of the big challenges when you start to scale the business — as the service element gets bigger, you're not just relying on three or four technical people, but a much broader team. It's far harder to support residential clients than it is commercial clients, who work Monday through Friday, eight to five. Residential clients have needs closer to 120 hours a week. We have to make ourselves easy to work with, which takes us back to process, process, process. Making sure that there is a way that if there is something on somebody's mind at Friday at 8 p.m., they have the means to reach out to us and know that someone’s going to contact them whatever their terms dictate.Mark Feinberg, Home Theatre Advisors (NY, NY)
It sounds like some people are giving out mobile phone numbers and texting with clients. No client has our mobile numbers — no communication has ever been transferred via text in our business. We call clients from our voice over IP app and everybody has the same caller ID. If they call that number back, anybody can answer it, or more importantly, it gets picked up by the office. If you're working with the clients and you're texting back and forth, then you're setting yourself up to lose.
I agree with that. No mobile phones, no text messaging. We have a support email and a landline, which is set up to transfer calls to our mobile phones. The customer doesn't need to have our direct mobile number.
In terms of implementing a service plan, it's about making it as simple as possible for the client. We tailor the price according to the project, so on the quote, we’ll say, “Based on your system, it's going to cost you $XX per month and that includes us coming out to resolve any issues, remotely resolving issues, collecting warranty equipment and replacing it, proactively updating firmware every month, and sending a report about the health of their system.” All of that is done for one monthly fee. The client forgets about the cost as it comes out of their bank automatically and it helps us cover our bills every month.