MSOs Use New Workforce Tools To Cut Customer Service Hassles

Yuval Brisker, CEO, TOA Technologies

Yuval Brisker, CEO, TOA Technologies

June 3, 2010 – A new customer-centric approach to work-force management has taken hold among several major cable operators, suggesting that perhaps the long-standing image that gave resonance to The Cable Guy may finally be on the wane.

Yuval Brisker, CEO and co-founder of workforce management system supplier TOA Technologies, declines an opportunity to take credit for the fact there’s been no sequel to the 1996 black comedy, but he’s not shy about touting the difference his company appears to be making in MSOs’ customer service performance. “We’ve found a way to reduce a major pain point for cable operators,” Brisker says. “It’s producing results, and so we’re seeing more operators deploying the solution.”

Suddenlink Communications is the latest addition to TOA’s growing list of MSO customers in the U.S. and abroad. The company recently announced it is deploying the TOA cloud-based mobile workforce management and customer communication system to unify management of its field technicians across all its cable systems.

“We have a dedicated and talented group of technicians who work hard every day to provide our customers with great service,” says Suddenlink COO Tom McMillin. “TOA complements their skills and makes it easier for them to consistently achieve their customer-service goals.”

TOA’s system provides Suddenlink’s field technicians with schedules and routes in real-time to help ensure on-time arrivals, McMillin notes. Later this year, he says, Suddenlink will test other features of the system, including automated proactive customer communications regarding appointments.

Since its inception in 2003 Cleveland-based TOA has had a single product focus on overcoming workforce management inefficiencies that often leave customers wondering when an installer is going to show up. “We started out with the assumptions that a workforce management system that could solve this problem would be a big step forward for the industry,” Brisker says.

As a cloud-based solution the TOA platform provides a device- and platform-agnostic system to unify disparate systems into one holistic view, Brisker notes. “Our integration tools, combined with on-demand Web architecture, create a powerful yet easy management environment,” he says.

MSOs using the TOA platform on a company-wide basis now include Cox Communications, Virgin Media and Videotron as well as Suddenlink, says Susan McLaughlin, strategic sales executive for TOA. Others with significant deployments, including some in the midst of company-wide rollouts, include Cablevision, Bright House Networks, UPC and Cable Deutschland, she adds.

The innovation TOA has brought to the market entails use of patented performance pattern recognition and analytical tools to optimize work force appointment schedules based on the individual performance capabilities of each worker, McLaughlin says. “The reason we’re so different is that we track the performance of each individual technician and base our scheduling of each technician’s time on those performance metrics,” she explains. “The system is self learning so that scheduling becomes more accurate as we get more information on each technician’s performance patterns.

“This is a departure from the norm in work-force management, where every installation is assigned the same amount of time,” she adds. “Over the course of a day that can result in big disparities where some people are way ahead of schedule and others are behind.”

Accuracy in scheduling allows operators to notify customers an hour in advance of an appointment to confirm that the technician will be on time or, if not, to let the customer know what the actual arrival time will be, McLaughlin notes. The TOA system allows subscribers to choose how they want to be notified – by phone, email or mobile text message.

Along with providing analytic tools to support better scheduling the cloud-based TOA system provides all participants in the workforce management operation access to the information they need at any time, says Irad Carmi, TOA’s CTO and other co-founder. “Supervisors and dispatchers have a graphic view of what’s going on in the field so that, if there’s any departure from expectations, they can make adjustments to keep things on track,” he says. “They can move a job that’s in jeopardy to another technician or, if a dispatcher sees an essential tech is being moved out of his zone, he can override the order.

“Every person with a stake in a transaction has two-way access to the information they need at any given moment,” Carmi continues. “If you’re a supervisor, you have a very comprehensive view. Technicians have mobile access to the information they need and can communicate with dispatchers by text as well as voice. Customers can go online and check on the status of their appointments or change the schedule.”

The setup eliminates a lot of voice communications, including costly calls from customers wondering why the installer hasn’t arrived as well as field calls between dispatchers and techs, who can access what they need to know graphically without having to talk to each other, Carmi notes.

The efficiencies also extend to reducing the number of dispatchers and supervisors required to provide effective service, McLaughlin adds. “We’re seeing on average a 30 percent improvement in tech-to-dispatcher ratios among our customers,” she says.

One of the benefits of being a hosted service is that TOA can offer MSOs a pay-as-you-go value proposition, she adds. “You pay for what you use,” she says.

While the system is automated, TOA puts people in the field with each MSO to help them tailor the system to their needs and then assist with ongoing operations, McLaughlin says. “We’re hosting a mission critical system that requires dedicated personnel,” she notes.

Depending on the size of the account, the team can include one or more business analysts as well as a solutions architect and a project manager. “The whole team is responsible for monitoring performance to provide quality assurance, maintaining business continuity and handling disaster recovery,” she says.