Over the Air Support

Jason Lackey

One of the big advantages that Over the Air (OTA) support brings to your wireless call center is empowerment. From the subscriber side, we all know how frustrating it is to wait in a queue only to find that the first person you talk to is not going to be able to help you and in fact is going to transfer you to another queue where you get to wait some more for someone who actually knows what they are doing. This is also frustrating for the customer service representative (CSR), who naturally would like to help customers, rather than pass them on to (more expensive) Tier 2 and Tier 3 support. With the power and ease of use modern OTA support systems provide, your front line support staff is now in a position to do far more than just answer billing questions, they are now able to fix problems and take care of subscribers.

OTA support, a relatively new technology, brings many of the advances that we have seen in corporate IT support to the world of wireless. These advances will go a long way to eliminate the cost, inefficiency and inconvenience of having a subscriber drive down to a brick and mortar store or perform time consuming, manual "read me this, do that" support over the phone. These changes will decrease average hold time (aht) as well as increase first call resolution (FCR) and will in the end reduce mobile network operator ongoing support costs. They will deliver a better experience for the subscriber while empowering front line customer service representatives to do more than just answer billing questions or escalate calls to someone who can actually help you.

How does it work?

While the under the hood technical details can get complex in a hurry, with Short Message Service Centers (SMSCs) sending binary messages and clients and servers exchanging XML over HTTP, in short OTA care gives the CSR a direct connection, an over the air link to the device. Remember the game of telegraph where a group of friends got in a circle and passed along a message one to the other until the message that comes back around to the first person is totally warped and different from the way it started? This is very human, very natural and when people are involved, almost impossible to avoid. I think of this as the human abstraction layer and it sure makes it hard to accurately diagnose problems, say nothing of actually fixing them.

OTA care removes the human abstraction layer. No more "was that a ‘c’ as in cat or a ‘z’ as in zebra?" or problems explaining to a subscriber how to navigate to a particular menu. Studies have shown that getting even something as simple as a 16 digit serial number directly off a phone or other device could shave a minute or more off each call. Multiply that across millions of calls a year and even a small thing like that can result in substantial savings. Not only that, but it frees up your CSRs from boring work like transcribing numbers and allows them to focus on more interesting tasks, like focusing on the relationship with the subscriber.

De-escalating Escalations

Many, if not most people, have experienced the frustration of calling for support only to have the call immediately passed on to someone else. Mobile phones are complex and are becoming increasingly so. Each phone is different it seems, with even devices sharing the same platform, like Android or Windows Mobile, having buttons in different locations, different features and capabilities and in many cases different user interfaces. This means that in order to effectively provide support, a CSR would require extensive training and knowledge of a wide variety of different devices. Expensive, time consuming and difficult, particularly considering the fact that by the time a CSR gets up to speed, that person may be moving on to a different position.

Some OTA care systems provide a simplified interface for the CSR. Instead of having to learn the ins and outs of phones on a number of different platforms from a number of different manufacturers, all the CSR needs to do is learn a single interface, the OTA care system. That one interface allows diagnostic checks as well as operations like checking and correcting email, network and MMS settings, often with a single mouse click. Not only easier, but also considerably faster than manually performing these step and certainly a lot faster than walking a subscriber through first reading off a list of 20 parameters and then walking the subscriber through the correct for things like what port the Gmail IMAP4 server uses or whether or not it wants SSL turned on.

With tools doing the heavy lifting, your CSR is empowered to escalate less and do more. Not only does this delight the customer, who is probably expecting to be passed on at least once, if not more, but it also makes the people on the front line feel better as they are doing more and providing real solutions to subscribers who are often very frustrated. This also allows your CSRs to spend more time interacting with the subscriber, putting them in a better position to upsell services or recommend calling plans that may better meet the needs of that subscriber.

While both the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and the CRM system have become expected systems in the call center, for many to the point where their absence would be seen as strange, OTA care systems are just starting to be integrated with CRM systems.

A Call

Joe Sub has a smartphone with an expensive data plan but his email is not working. He calls to cancel his data plan. As he is waiting in queue on the IVR, the CSR get his phone number and uses that to look up his subscriber records on the CRM system. The OTA care system reaches out to his phone and does a diagnostic check, getting accurate, up to date information on the make, model and serial number of the phone along with battery level, signal strength and other useful information. Once the subscriber makes it thru the queue to the CSR, the CSR can start the call with not only billing information but a complete and up to date profile of the subscriber device.

In this case the subscriber tells the CSR that he wants to drop his data plan because his email doesn’t work. The CSR then clicks on the Check Email button and pulls the email profile from his phone, finds some broken settings and pushes a fix, all over the air and all done in a matter of just a few seconds. The CSR then sends a test message to the subscriber, who then verifies the fix. The subscriber, who was ready for tech support hell, is shocked to find that his problem is already fixed. The CSR, having fixed the subscriber’s email problem, has little trouble convincing him to keep the data package.

In the bad old days, this could have been a 40 minute call involving considerable frustration. With OTA care, however, the call is over in 10 minutes and both the CSR and the subscriber have an easier, more rewarding time.

First published on Call Center IQ