CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee – EPB, one of the early 1 Gbps FTTH pioneers, said that it continues to find ways to improve its installation process to serve its growing customer base that was not used to having their power company come into their home to configure service.
Coleman Keane, director of fiber technologies for EPB, told reporters during a gathering at its headquarters that despite its experience as an electricity provider, it faced a learning curve in wiring up homes to deliver broadband, phone and TV service.
“It was a big challenge for us because historically electric companies did not go inside somebody’s house so we spent a lot of time and effort figuring out what that customer experience is,” Keane said. “Your field service guy spends more time with your customers with anybody, so we made sure we bent over backwards to make sure we provided a good customer service experience.”
Given the unpredictable wiring environment that exists, particularly in older homes, EPB noted that it needs to ensure that the installation process goes well since many of them can take multiple hours to complete.
This is because EPB has to often rewire each of the homes where it is lighting up FTTH service with new indoor wiring.
“We have gotten better at the installation process, but some of those installations still take a long time when we go inside the house, because we are rewiring the houses,” Keane said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the customer experience is what it needs to be, whether that’s on the video side or the internet side.”
Initially using coax as the in-home wiring mechanism to distribute video service to the homes that signed up for FTTH service, EPB is increasingly using Cat 5 cable.
“It depends on what we’re doing,” Coleman said. “When we first started we did a lot of coax to get the video where it needed to be, but now we’ll run Cat 5 to get you to your wireless router and put in extra jacks if the customer wants us to do that kind of work.”
Prior to officially rolling out the FTTH service throughout the city, EPB tested it with 250 what it calls “pioneer” customers. During that period, EPB got feedback from installers and contractors about how to engage with customers in the home.
Katie Espeseth, VP of new products for EPB, said that regardless of the installation challenges it faces, the service provider needs to treat each customer like they are a family member.
“We were talking with an installer manager recently, and the way he said it was ‘every time you knock on a door it’s your mother on the other side of the door or it’s your grandmother,’” Espeseth said. “You need to think about that and how would she want you to act and here in the South that’s important so it did take us a while to figure out how to do it.”
Part of EPB’s personal installation experience was to have technicians ensure that they would not leave a mess following the installation if they had to drill through walls to install new cabling.
“We knew that we wanted to give exceptional customer service, so things that we did out of the gate was what we called our blue bootie experience, meaning anytime they went into a house they put the shoe covers on,” Coleman said. “That was not widely done at that point in time and carrying little handbags so the house would be cleaner than when we got there.”
EPB gigabit broadband pioneer DE Priest to retire
Circuit court nixes FCC’s effort to overturn North Carolina, Tennessee anti-municipal broadband laws
FCC ruling overturns state laws preventing municipal broadband expansion
Chattanooga's EPB Fiber defies tough telecom odds
Chattanooga's EPB reduces 1 Gaps service to $70 a month