Port Networks is a local Internet service provider based in Baltimore, Maryland. They provide fast, reliable internet for homes, businesses, vacation rentals, resorts and marinas in their surrounding community. They differentiate from their competition by delivering remarkable customer service at great prices without the contracts, fees, and high price increases that are commonplace among large-scale scale ISPs. Port Networks’ customer support is also delivered by a team of technicians who live and work in the area (not outsourced to a call center halfway around the world). Their guiding mission is to provide customers with an Internet connection they’ll love.
Like most ISP’s, the bulk of their sales, marketing and customer service communications are centered on phone conversations. Customers call in to respond to marketing promotions, inquire about upgrades to their service or to report any issues or problems. About a year ago, Hugh Bethell, founder of Port Networks, noticed many of the younger employees at the company preferred to communicate and seek information using Twitter, Facebook and SMS – not via email or phone.
That’s when I realized that a significant portion of our customers would prefer to communicate with us via SMS. And I realized it was easier, cheaper and much faster than using phone or email.Hugh Bethell, Port Networks
The initial idea was to use SMS as a communication channel for customer service responses, but their list of use cases has expanded as they realized the power of communicating with customers via text messaging.
Port Networks uses NetSuite for most of their business operations including their CRM, quotes, order processing, billing, customer support, payment status, service details, and so much more.
We live and breathe within NetSuite – it is the center of all our customer communications.Hugh Bethell, Port Networks
In order to bring a text messaging into the fold, Hugh wanted a solution that was easily integrated into their NetSuite set of tools. That way, they would always have context and details on each customer whenever they wanted to send or receive SMS communications.
They initially tried to use the SMS capabilities from an integrated messaging company that already provided their VOIP service. After playing around with this, it quickly became clear this was not an optimal solution. Hugh was concerned about the cost and complexity of building, testing and maintaining a custom, home-grown API-based integration between this service and NetSuite. He also wanted to be able to natively see all of their customer communications – email, phone, SMS – from within the NetSuite platform. He needed a solution that could provide a direct SMS integration and display the conversation details – all within NetSuite.
After researching on the web and NetSuite’s SuiteApp.com web portal, Hugh discovered MessageMedia. He quickly realized this was precisely the type of solution he had envisioned. Hugh reached out via phone to MessageMedia, and after a few conversations and a demo made the decision to implement MessageMedia’s SMS-integration solution. Installation of the MessageMedia NetSuite bundle was “as easy as putting a kid’s bike together, just follow the instructions” said Hugh.
After installation, MessageMedia scheduled a short onboarding phone call to ensure the solution was working within NetSuite as expected. After walking through the details of the initial use case -improving response time and shortening resolution of customer support cases – Port Networks was ready to begin providing customer support via SMS.
- Support queues and resolution times cut by 50%
- Proactive SMS support saves customer reps 2 – 10 hours of time during each incident
The results were just as impressive as Hugh and the team had hoped. Customer support cases are now resolved far faster than when they were communicating via phone or email. And, since many of these cases (‘my Internet is not working’) were difficult – if not impossible – to resolve via email, SMS communication is the customer’s preferred support option.
In addition, a back and forth tech support conversation (“Can you power down your router and let me know when it comes back on? Can you try rebooting your computer?”) can be tedious and time consuming with long pauses over the phone, but is more concise, immediate and satisfying when handled as a 2-way text conversation.
Customers love it – and the customer service reps love it. And, most importantly, SMS communications save time and money for Port Networks, with support queues and resolution times cut dramatically when compared to phone or email interactions.
New use case: Proactive support notifications
Port Networks also discovered a new use case – proactive support notifications. Usually, if a network segment were to go off-line, customers on that segment immediately begin calling Port Networks to notify them that they are experiencing issues.
Instead of spending their time answering those calls, Port Networks can run a query in NetSuite, which contains configuration details defining which customers are on each network segment. They can then proactively notify customers within that segment via SMS that they are aware their Internet connection is experiencing issues and are working on it and will notify them via text when the issue is resolved.
This proactive support saves each customer service rep many hours of support time per incident by eliminating the need to reactively speak with dozens or hundreds of customers about the outage.
Before we added SMS support to our NetSuite account, a network outage meant 5 to 10 minutes of support tech time for every affected customer. Using MessageMedia Text Messaging for NetSuite, I can send a batch SMS alert, heading off those calls and reassuring our customers that the situation is under control. Instead of complaints, I get thank yous!Hugh Bethell, Port Networks
The team also use the same proactive SMS notification process when there is scheduled downtime or maintenance for a network segment, letting customers know when the maintenance starts – and when it is over. These proactive support use cases increase customer satisfaction and save Port Networks countless labor hours of phone time per incident.
In addition, SMS is the standard communication channel for scheduling field technician appointments and allows more tech visits per day and a dramatically lower cost-per-visit.
Weather, traffic, unexpected equipment issues – we used to waste hours a day rescheduling our field techs using voice calls and emails. Now, with text messaging from NetSuite as our default communication channel, we get near-instant responses from customers. That translates into more tech visits per day and a 30% lower cost-per-visit.Hugh Bethell, Port Networks
Future use cases
Hugh is pursuing additional use cases, many of which were not on his original shopping list but were triggered by reviewing MessageMedia’s marketing materials. They have already added SMS-based billing reminders, and have several additional use cases they are planning to add in the near future:
- Automated notification of specific billing problems (when a credit card billing fails)
- SMS-based customer feedbacks and survey after installation (on a scale of 1 to 10, how did we do?)
- Notify customers of upgrade opportunities based on their equipment or service levels
The MessageMedia solution has streamlined our support process and how we schedule/reschedule our field service visits and if that was it did it would be great, but it has become clear to us that it can do so much more.Hugh Bethell, Port Networks
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