April 16, 2020 by Greg Owens

Service Providers are Stepping Up to Face the Challenges Posed by COVID-19


The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone, as the realities associated with social distancing and ‘shelter-in-place’ guidelines become apparent and we all settle into our new routines. Communications service providers (CSPs), delivering essential services, are leaping into action; adjusting different aspects of their operations, products, and marketing.

Wouldn’t it be great to know more about what other CSPs are doing in the face of these challenges?

On March 31, the Broadband Multimedia Marketing Association (BMMA)—an industry group focused on the marketing of broadband and smart home services—hosted a timely webinar to address some of these challenges. To help its members with the decisions and plans that they need to make in the coming weeks and months, the BMMA conducted a survey among their 13 CSP members. The results of this survey were shared in the webinar, which was led by the BMMA’s Co-Chairs—Jonathan Babbitt, VP of Product Management and Marketing at MTA (Alaska) and Roger Lewis, Product Manager at GVTC (Texas). Jonathan and Roger provided some insights into how different CSPs are dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in a number of key areas. You can watch the full replay and you can find a summary below.

How are other CSPs adapting their installation and repair (I&R) processes?

  • Many CSPs have stopped indoor installations and are relying on newly-documented self-install procedures.
  • Creative solutions are being discovered—including feeding cables and equipment through windows—to avoid the need for field techs to enter subscribers’ residences.
  • Some CSPs are pre-provisioning equipment, then leaving it on the porch with self-install instructions, then completing installations over the phone.
  • For those who have not stopped indoor installations, field techs are being provided with ‘protective items’, including shoe/boot covers, rubber gloves, and sanitizing wipes.
  • When in-home appointments are made, subscribers are asked health-related screening questions; another call is made on the morning of the appointment to ensure that nothing has changed.

What about customer service personnel?

  • Many CSPs have their CSRs working from home. (Some tests need to be conducted, in advance, to ensure that the agents can connect to the appropriate systems remotely.)
  • The CSRs that are still in the call centers are doing so because their home setup is not conducive to working from home.

How are other CSPs handling product returns?

  • Some CSPs have drop-off areas in front of their retail stores and offices, where subscribers can return their equipment.
  • Some CSPs have technicians visiting the subscriber homes and doing ‘front porch pick-ups'.

What are other CSPs doing with their retail stores?

  • Most CSPs have closed their retail stores and are implementing work from home policies for employees.
  • This is posing a challenge for some CSPs, as many of their subscribers (as high as 80 percent) insist on paying their bills by visiting retail stores. (Despite the fact that half-a-dozen other payment options are available.)
  • Some CSPs are offering ‘by appointment only’ options for retail visits and some are opening drive-thru options, so that customers don’t have to leave their cars.

What are some other suggested best practices?

  • Abundant (and transparent) communication, with subscribers and employees, is essential.
  • Work-from-home policies can be extended to nearly every type of job; just make sure that you provide employees with the tools and equipment that they need to be successful.

Are there any ‘silver linings’ in all this chaos?

  • Some CSPs are seeing widespread cooperation—with other coops and telcos, even competitors—when it comes to sharing best practices.
  • The current situation has allowed many CSPs to emphasize their role as leaders in their communities, thanks to initiatives to upgrade subscribers to higher tiers (especially if a truck roll is not required), signing the ‘Keep America Connected’ pledge, introducing special offers for students, etc. 
    • As one CSP said: “Brands are going to be judged by how they behave during this crisis.”
  • Consumers are understanding the vital importance that broadband plays in their daily lives.
  • Subscribers are showing a willingness to embrace other payment methods, besides visiting the retail locations (as mentioned above).
  • Most CSPs are keeping most of their staff on board, helping to maintain financial stability in the communities that they serve.

Today’s new reality: 3 things service providers can do for their subscribers

On April 22, Calix is hosting a webinar that will build upon the recent BMMA session. Titled ‘Today’s new reality: 3 things service providers can do for their subscribers’, the special Calix webinar will discuss:

  • modified service installations and tips to improve this experience
  • network security features needed in the subscriber home
  • enhanced parental controls to help families live harmoniously while online

After you register, start thinking about the questions that you might have and the ideas that you want to share. We’ll set aside time during the webinar to open up the discussion and invite you to add your thoughts and questions.