Cable Ops to Customers: Let’s Chat

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Adelphia Communications Corp. and other MSOs have found a way to get their customer-service representatives to help up to four customers at the same time.

No, they’re not kicking cable subscribers into conference calls for group help sessions — the cable companies instead are using online chat sessions to rap with subscribers that have questions about high-speed data service.

Since December, when Adelphia rolled out a LiveAssist application from SupportSoft Inc., Adelphia CSRs using the chat feature have talked to an average of 2.5 subscribers simultaneously throughout the day. The cable company, with 5.2 million customers, handles an average of TK chat sessions daily.

Most customers using the chat feature, which is available through links on the company’s Web site, ask questions on such topics as how to add additional e-mail accounts or problems with the speed of their Power Link cable modem service, Adelphia vice president of customer care operations Rob Clippel said.

TYPICAL QUERIES

“Obviously it’s not connectivity problems, because they wouldn’t be able to get in,” Clippel added.

The biggest advantage of equipping CSRs with online chat tools is that the sessions are more efficient than phone calls with subscribers, Clippel said.

“One of the primary benefits internally with chat is that while customers on the other end might be typing in their questions or their response to something that we might have sent to them, they [CSRs] can jump back to another customer,” Clippel said. “So although the overall transaction time for a chat session might be a little longer than a voice call, because they can handle multiple [calls] simultaneously, it allows us to be more efficient internally.”

In addition to the LiveAssist application, SupportSoft supplies Adelphia, cable MSOs and telephone companies with packages of customer-relationship management tools, including systems that are used by both CSRs and subscribers.

DSL AID, TOO

SupportSoft’s cable customers include Comcast Corp., Charter Communications Inc., Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications Inc. Its largest telephone customers are BellSouth Corp. and SBC Communications Inc., which use its applications to support DSL services.

SupportSoft director of product marketing Mark Itzkowitz said the company’s cable and telco customers use its LiveAssist feature at both internal call centers and outsourced call center operations.

“One of the advantages of a chat-based solution is it may be more usable in an overseas, outsourced situation,” Itzkowitz said.

“Quite frankly, we’ve heard from some customers that some end users, they have issues with hearing a different accent. … In a chat environment, of course, you don’t have that issue,” he said.

SupportSoft also supplies its customers with an application that allows CSRs to take over the personal computer of a high-speed data user — with the customer’s permission — to fix problems.

About 30% of LiveAssist chats result in a remote control session, Itzkowitz said.

One of SupportSoft’s MSO customers handles an average of 6,000 chats with subscribers each day, said Itzkowitz, who declined to name the customer.

He said the optimal number of concurrent chats that CSRs should handle ranges between 1.9 and 2.7, while most of the company’s customers average 2.5 simultaneous chats per CSR.

Not all MSOs give high-speed Internet customers access to online chat services for customer-service questions.

While Mediacom Communications Corp. doesn’t offer chat functions, it will soon launch a product from CSG Systems Inc. that allows customers to view their bills online and make electronic payments.

Mediacom senior vice president of customer operations Charlie Bartolotta said the MSO will roll out CSG’s Care Express product within the next two months.

“The customer is able to do it on their time, online, without affecting a CSR,” Bartolotta said.

By the end of the year, Mediacom will also allow subscribers to change their level of service through the MSO’s Web site. Customers will also be able to schedule service appointments, Bartolotta added.

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