To aid cable-modem subscribers in resolving any technical problems they may face, Adelphia Communications Corp. and AT&T Broadband are rolling out advanced versions of Motive Communications Inc.'s help-desk software.
MSOs have found that Web-based "help" screens aren't always helpful enough to the technology neophytes who've replaced early high-speed adopters as the main target for cable-modem service. The "fix my issue" button — a key attribute of Motive's new software — is designed to alter that equation.
Once a consumer clicks on the button, Motive's software can run an intuitive diagnostic test on the subscriber's computer, modem and cable-network interface to determine where the problem is, said Ben Geller, market segment manager for Motive's cable division.
If a network card setting needs repair, the diagnostic can determine that — and then tell the consumer how to fix the problem, Geller said.
"It may say, 'Your DNS settings are wrong and we'll fix them,' " Geller said. "We always strive to bring a user to a complete path to resolution."
Adelphia hopes the new 4.0 version of Motive's software will cut down on service calls, reduce the amount of time subscribers spend on fixing problems and improve customers' opinion of the operator's support system, said MSO director of support technology Chris Hanlon.
"People want speed and stability," Hanlon said. "When it's not working, they are outraged."
Older versions of the Motive software required subscribers to have some level of knowledge in order to use it, Hanlon said. Too often, average consumers would try to use the Web-based "help" system, only to give up and call a CSR anyway, he said.
What's worse, customers would become frustrated with their inability to successfully navigate the so-called "help" screen. The new software "empowers" customers, since they are better able to fix high-speed data problems themselves, Hanlon said.
"It becomes a lot friendlier of a process," he said.
If Motive finds a problem in the modem or within the network, the software provides the user with a toll-free number to call the MSO, plus a script to read that describes the problem to customer-service representatives.
If there's a problem with electronic mail, for instance, the CSR can take information from the script, "pinpoint what the problem is and send a fix back down to the user," Geller said.
It can also help an MSO to sell new services. For instance, if a firewall problem is detected during a help session, the operator can offer to sell the customer virus-protection software, said Geller.
Adelphia looks at several metrics to determine Motive's usefulness, according to Hanlon. A typical trouble call to a CSR for high-speed data lasts between 10 and 15 minutes. But a chat session with a Motive-based rep lasts an average of six to eight minutes, he said.
The new version of Motive's software will let Adelphia track the number of customers who visit specific parts of the site to resolve an issue. That will help the MSO root out recurring problems in specific areas.
Hanlon said it's important for Adelphia to show customers it can help fix their problems. "Unless we evolve to a state-of-the-art support platform, we're never going to evolve to the next level," Hanlon said.
As a provider of bundled services, Adelphia risks subscriber erosion on other fronts if it lets up in just one area, he added.
Motive also offers operators a suite of Web- and kiosk-based provisioning tools for selling and deployong high-speed data products, as well as technical-support services, Geller said.
The subscription-acquisition software guides consumers through the sales process, answering detailed questions about cable-modem service.
As many as 90 percent of subscribers who visit a Web site or retail outlet opt out of the ordering process because they don't get the help they need, said Geller. With Motive's software, potential customers who can't get their questions answered from the self-help site are directly linked to an MSO CSR who can address their concerns, Geller said.
"We have technology from within the ordering experience that allows users to determine if their PC meets standards and, if not, we can tell them what components didn't meet minimum standards and what they can do about it," he said.
If a consumer signs up for service, Motive's provisioning software can get the home up and running. If there is a problem, Motive's resolution engine — which Adelphia and AT&T Broadband are using — kicks in.