Article first published in todofibraoptica.com in May 2022.
In a world highly dependent on telecommunications systems connectivity and in a hyper-complex global economic environment, telecommunications companies seek to capture competitive advantages to retain customers, expand the number of subscribers, and increase profitability. This is added to a unprecedented increase in demand for broadband services to connect more customers and overcome service challenges amplified during the recent pandemic.
Although the business case for modernizing networks and adopting fiber optic systems has already been widely accepted, accelerated growth has not come without challenges that technical infrastructure and technology alone could solve or be enough to develop efficiencies and competitive advantages according to the expectations of operators and customers.
According to recent studies, in addition to implementing projects to bring connectivity to disadvantaged communities or rural and remote areas, the key to competitive growth for telecommunications operators is customer service. Results from studies from Bain & Company, published in the Harvard Business Review indicate that the cost of acquiring new customers for most companies could be up to twenty-five times higher than retaining existing customers, and that increases of just 5% in retention could offer up to more than 90% in increased profits for companies. Improving relationships and positively influencing customer satisfaction levels could, as a consequence, promote progress towards the objectives mentioned here.
The purpose of this article is to present strategies for improving service and enhancing the delivered customer experience by focusing on training and leadership development for fiber optic technicians. These strategies offer the key to gaining competitive advantages and reaping better benefits despite complex industry dynamics, including labor shortages and supply chain constraints. This article also presents opinions that encourage a reevaluation and rethinking of traditional concepts about models and techniques used for improving service and enhancing the customer experience.
Change of Focus
Naturally, when we talk about service and customer satisfaction, the first thing that comes to mind is the consumer; but what would happen if for a moment, instead of having the customer as the center, we changed the focus towards the technician as the ultimate goal?
In terms of service and customer satisfaction, in addition to the quality of technical service and economic factors, perhaps the most important thing is the experience that these technicians have when interacting with the operator. The two main ways for customers to interact with service providers are through automated digital media and the people with whom they interact, which are mostly in customer service or technical roles. These are the channels between companies and customers with the greatest power to influence the quality and performance in customer experience, so clearly are determining factors for customer satisfaction and competitive position of telecommunication services companies.
If this is true, then I would dare to contradict the billionaires of the world like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos, and propose that instead of an obsession with customers, companies should be obsessed with their employees; because in the end, they are the ones who adopt and develop organizational cultures, carry out the missions of companies, determine the quality of service, and as a result, are the factor with the greatest influence on customer satisfaction and performance results.
A Technician-Centered Approach
A large part of recent articles in leadership development psychology focus on topics related to emotional intelligence. Perhaps you are a leader in the industry already quite familiar with this topic, but before you discard this article, I would like to ask you... Are there intentional and dedicated programs in your companies to work with technicians in this area? If you are a leader, manager, or perhaps an executive of a prominent company in the industry, you have likely received higher-education or at least structured training and education in business topics, but this article is not about educating people who are already educated and experienced, but rather about the new generation of technicians, who are just entering the industry or being trained as future leaders.
It is these technicians who are largely responsible for delivering the level of service quality that results in satisfying experiences for the customer, and as a result, support the achievement of organizational objectives of operating companies. So, let's start by understanding that many technicians, who are also not usually paid very well and might not have access to adequate training programs, may have lacked opportunities to learn about the famous emotional intelligence, and it is up to companies to offer these opportunities and train their employees in this area to promote the development of their human talent, a better work environment, and as a result, experiences that result in higher levels of customer satisfaction.
Why Emotional Intelligence?
As the great martial arts master and philosopher Bruce Lee said, "true knowledge is self-knowledge." According to his philosophy, the degree of perfection in one's art and any other area of life is an expression of what the artist carries within, which can only be expressed by knowing oneself well. In the area of leadership, viewed as a science of social behavior, it is said that many personality traits stay with us for much of our lives. While the degree of intensity of these traits is not necessarily constant, as we mature and learn, it is possible to develop desired behaviors. Most empirical literature in this area affirms the general consensus that emotional intelligence can be learned and significantly shaped through training.
Both personal traits and emotional intelligence, along with Bruce Lee, agree that the principle of all of these is self-awareness because without it, we don't understand how our behaviors are perceived by others or how they affect our social relationships. Especially with members of younger generations who have grown up highly influenced by technology and perhaps lacking in spaces where human relationships and values are fostered as they were in the past, it is imperative for telecommunications service operators or fiber optic companies to understand how important it is to offer training in this area for technicians who interact with customers. For example, when visiting homes and workplaces to carry out service installations. If technicians do not have a good understanding and self-awareness of how their behaviors affect relationships with customers, they may have problems when interacting with people from other generations or with different values. That is why it is necessary to consider increasing emphasis on leadership development, including emotional intelligence, to prepare technicians to face unpredictable situations with customers.
In addition to self-awareness, emotional intelligence deals with issues of self-control, motivation, empathy, and social relationships, but this article is not about giving a class on emotional intelligence but about presenting strategies to improve customer service and generate competitive advantages for operators and fiber optic companies that result in greater customer satisfaction. For this, I suggest discussing and evaluating practical concepts to influence customer satisfaction, such as active listening, self-control, and conflict resolution. The problem is that all of these are still related to emotional intelligence, so we cannot easily escape the topic. To use myself as an example, and without going into too many personal things, I spent much of my childhood and youth in military environments. By fifth grade, I was attending military school, and at 17 years old, I had graduated from the United States Army Infantry School. Just to add context, a soldier's performance is measured by the ability to unleash violence on the enemy to dominate, overcome, and accomplish the mission. Can you imagine my level of emotional intelligence during my 20s? What a disaster! Been working on it though! After many efforts, studies, and almost reaching my 50s, perhaps I have improved a bit in this area, but imagine all the stories that each technician brings with them when they enter organizations, and the opportunities for development and growth for them, as well as the impact on the telecommunications customer experience.
It's easy to use beautiful and sophisticated words like inspiration, compassion, and empathy, but how can we demand empathy from employees if employers don't set the example? I confess, while I have had successes and failures in my career, one of the most disastrous chapters had to do with a home service installation project, during which almost every day customers would call to complain about one of our techs, whether the technician was late, made someone uncomfortable with how they carried themselves, stepped on some flowers, broke a vase, came in with dirty boots to the house, sometimes it was the truth, other times it was made up by the customer to get some benefit. That's why sometimes it's even more important to offer technicians soft-skills and leadership development opportunities to improve interpersonal relationships and customer care than to train them to death on testing cables, cleaning connectors, or connecting fiber cables to electronic devices. I am not saying that training in these aspects is not important; it certainly is. However, I wonder how well a company is performing if they only focus on technical aspects and neglect the human aspects and soft skills development of their workforce.
To achieve organizational performance increases and competitive gains in delivered value, customer experience, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty, as well as organizational development that could lead to organizational and financial growth, it is imperative to offer comprehensive training and development programs that incorporate self-awareness, situational awareness to avoid and manage unwanted situations, active listening to customers to better understand their interests and concerns, demonstrating empathy and compassion, effective conflict management, fostering a culture of humility and willingness to ask for support, promoting collaboration and teamwork, giving and receiving effective feedback, adopting servant leadership behaviors, and providing clear guidance and approved protocols for the protection of self, the customer, and the organization.
Mission and Philosophy of the FiberWizards
FiberWizards by Knowledge on Demand LLC., based in North Carolina, USA, serves telecom customers and companies worldwide.
Our mission is to deliver best-in-class telecom and fiber optics-oriented consulting, training, and workforce development solutions to support customers globally.
Knowledge on Demand LLC. provides expert consulting, knowledge, and learning solutions to help our customers solve problems, foster innovation, and remain competitive in the areas of Business, Project Management, Technology, and Organizational Leadership. We also offer modern eLearning and workforce development solutions.
Our Senior Subject Matter Experts bring decades of experience supporting telecommunication, business, and education stakeholders globally, and our solutions are based on knowledge carefully curated by our seasoned staff.
Our philosophy emphasizes holistic approaches to foster comprehensive organizational and individual development. According to the consensus of the literature on knowledge development and application, knowledge is most effective when contextualized and personalized. For this reason, we specialize in creating customized solutions for each company to deliver transformational experiences that are relevant to their specific needs.
It's very simple: the main reason for building fiber optic networks is to connect people and improve their quality of life. However, it's worth emphasizing that the end goal is "people" not the fiber!
Unfortunately, some technicians are treated as inventory and not given proper development opportunities in all areas, which hinders their ability to perform and support improvements in customer experience.
We hope to provoke thought and encourage others to challenge their approach and prioritize workforce development.
Customer satisfaction is obviously achieved by offering excellent service, and the key to this is having employees and organizational members who feel fulfilled, valued, motivated, and empowered. This will enable them to deliver experiences that promote the creation of loyal customers, as well as strong branding and organizational reputation based on how company leaders lead both inside and outside the company.
Take care of our technicians, and you will see the positive impact on your business.
Contact us for workforce development solutions and best-in-class fiber optic training!
Let's go FiberWizards 🚀
About the author:
Jerry Morla, Founder of FiberWizards and Knowledge on Demand LLC, has over 25 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. He is also a Director and Master Instructor for the Fiber Optic Association (FOA). Jerry has worked with top global fiber optic industry leaders and has led network deployment, workforce, and training projects in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Additionally, he is an expert in leadership development, educational technology, learning experience design, and is a PMI certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with advanced degrees and post-graduate education in Business, Leadership, Online Education, and EdTech.