Tuesday, 15 September 2015 13:38

Spark responds to spike in demand for broadband services

Jason Paris, Spark NZ Jason Paris, Spark NZ

New Zealand’s largest telco, Spark, has ramped up its customer service teams to deal with what it says is an “unprecedented demand” from customers for fibre broadband services over the ultra-fast broadband (UFB) network.

From Monday, Spark has published information online about its Customer Service Centre performance, which it says helps customers choose the best way and the best time to contact its service team.

Jason Paris, CEO of Spark Home, Mobile and Business, says over the past couple of months, Spark has steadily boosted the number of staff on the front line and it intends to recruit another 100 customer service agents over the next 12 weeks.

According to Paris, fibre is a “game changing” technology and New Zealanders’ desire for much faster broadband was growing fast with the launch of services like internet TV.

“The number of customers contacting Spark each month to sign up for a fast fibre broadband service has increased sharply since May and it is great to see the switch to fibre gaining momentum.”

Paris explains that the process for a standard fibre installation involves a number of different steps and, unlike copper broadband – where you can plug into an existing network –fibre connections require a local fibre company to first build the fibre infrastructure from the street to the customer’s house.

And, according to Paris, the fibre installation process is more complex than anything the industry has previously dealt with and “this presents challenges for all broadband providers, Spark included.”  

Paris says the fibre network in New Zealand is owned and operated by four fibre lines companies, who each control the network in different parts of the country, and in the vast majority of cases fibre will only have been laid as far as a customer’s street. “This means before Spark (or any broadband provider) can start providing fibre broadband services, the local fibre lines company must lay a cable to extend fibre from the street and install the necessary technology in the customer’s home.”

The average fibre installation process involves three visits by a technician to the customer’s home, and in many cases “this means a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between the broadband provider, the local fibre lines company, the contractor laying the fibre cable and that company’s subcontractors,” says Paris.

“This complexity means we’re seeing fibre customers call us between four and 14 times during the course of their fibre installation. This volume of calls has put pressure on our customer service centres across the board, and as a result customers calling with queries about other services have also been caught up in long phone queues. It’s a bit like if you have a four lane motorway and one lane becomes clogged up – it is going to slow down all the other lanes.”

According to Paris, in an average month Spark’s main call centres handle around 11,000 hours of work per week, and in August of this year that jumped 34% to 15,000 hours per week, with the increase primarily driven by calls about fibre installations.  

Paris says Spark is recruiting agents to work across all its customer service teams, while ensuring customers can access help and information over digital channels if that’s what they prefer.

He says in the past few weeks Spark has increased the size of its Live Chat team, which now operates 24/7, and has set up an online Fibre Hub, which provides a one-stop-shop for all the information customers need about their fibre installation.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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