Virgin Media is using pattern-based predictive analytics to get the right engineer to the right problem more quickly. The broadband, home telephone and pay-TV provider believes its use of TOA Technologies' cloud-based ETAdirect field workforce management system gives it a competitive advantage.
And it is looking to extend the technology beyond its faults fixing service.
Maurice Daw (pictured), executive director, Access, Virgin Media, says the technology deployment – which won a special mention at the Computer Weekly European User Awards for Enterprise Software last month – means that a fault that cannot be fixed online or on the phone, can be fixed by a field technician by the next working day.
With competitors such as BT, Sky and Talk Talk you would be waiting a lot longer, he says, “and it is free".
“ETAdirect is a building block in our providing a high degree of customer service in these days of wireless technology doing so much in our homes. I was on the road the other day in Bradford. And in a typical terraced house there were three flat screen televisions as well as tablets and other computers – 11 devices attached to the router. And the latest wireless technology moves so quickly.
“Our field technicians are the only people the most of our customers really see. They are the face of VirginMedia. They need to be efficient, polite and friendly. They need to get to the customer quickly and fix the fault the first time”.
The provider has 1,600 field technicians serving five million customers. It recognised, confirms Daw, that the role of the field technician is changing, to be an educator, salesman and customer care representative.
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The ETAdirect technology learns performance patterns, overlaying skill set, job history and customer proximity to predict the amount of time each engineer will take to complete an appointment. Its predictive statistical engine personalises each field engineer’s schedule.
“Every engineer is different”, says Daw.
It measures every activity that happens in the field and builds a performance pattern profile for each mobile worker. It then processes this information through a patented algorithm to predict when appointments will happen and how long they will take.
Daw says that when NTL and Telewest became Virgin Media in 2007, the company's reputation for customer service was not so good. They also did the scheduling and routing manually, with a ratio of one dispatcher to 10 engineers.
Now it is one dispatcher to 30 engineers. The dispatchers intervene “when a job is in jeopardy”, he explains.
Normally, the system works automatically. It allocates the most appropriate engineer to each job and uses Google Maps to calculate the most efficient route. The customer gets a text, and a call when the engineer is close. And the engineers are coached to respect the customer's home, he says.
“The predictive ability of the software is very important”, he says, “improving our capacity to forecast and plan, and so reduce costs. It's not about making our technicians work harder and faster, getting them to rush and squeeze in another job. We have very engaged workers, working efficiently because of how they are scheduled."
Virgin has achieved a 15% decrease in travel time per job; a 15% increase in the number of appointments completed each day; an 18% increase in customer satisfaction ratings; and on-time delivery results of 97%
Back in 2009 they looked at Click Software as an alternative. TOA Technologies was chosen because the system was cloud-based, its call and text functionality stood out, and the deal, then installation could be done quickly, within six months.
The company is extending the system to the network maintenance side of the business, which comprises 900 engineers, to deploy later this year.