The best utility company is one that you do not notice. They just work.
Cuckoo customer, research study, October 2020
We’re making broadband simple, for good. We’re simple because we have only one deal, one price, one speed and a one-month rolling contract. We’re good because you don’t need to barter to get a fair price and via the Cuckoo Compass we give 1% of monthly bills to get people in need onto the internet.
87% of our reviews are five stars, as of today. How have we managed this given we’ve only launched this year? Keep it simple. You choose your switch date, pick your own Wi-Fi details, receive your router, connect, then never have to speak to us. No annual contract bartering, no price hikes and no issues. For a small percentage of people, they do need our help. So this blog is about how we help.
I’m Oliver, Cuckoo’s Head of Service. I used to work for Uber and Amazon so know a thing or two about delivering on time. Prior to joining Cuckoo, I drove my car to Venice and back, kayaking around lakes, rivers and beaches. I stumbled upon Cuckoo when preparing for my annual contract barter with BT! I joined the team hoping to fix the many problems of the broadband industry.
What do broadband problems look like?
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken, 1916
Why have I started with a poem? Well, more than 95% of our customers follow the same, happy, well-trodden path. They connect on time and browse their internet with no issues. We’ve worked (and continue to work) hard on making this a great experience. But when a small percentage of our customers fall off of this happy path, it can become troublesome.
Delays to going live
Openreach provisioning delays pushing switch dates out by several weeks to carry out unplanned maintenance; orders getting stuck, requesting Openreach to clear the system issue, or Openreach merely adding one day to a wait. One of the big risks we face as a business is that we have to take (and own) responsibility for anything that can happen in the network layers below us. Royal Mail may even leave your router in a barbecue…
Once you’ve gone live, what can go wrong then? Again a small percentage of customers can have network issues. This can be due to many things:
- Loose cables or water damage causing electrical currents to surge on the line, knocking your download speeds from 80Mbps to 1Mbps instantaneously.
- Unplanned exchange point outages impacting thousands of properties for several hours.
- A car crash in Brixton that destroys the green PCP cabinet, along with the cables of 388 homes serviced by this box.
These are all genuine issues that we have encountered. Out of the small percentage of customers that need assistance, a larger part of Cuckoo’s customer contacts relate to provisioning or faults that require third party engineers to resolve, this is something we need to get right. Our Trustpilot review has so far, only primarily been lowered by those customers who have had one of these experiences. We also cannot necessarily challenge their low rating, as any loss of internet or fault is annoying, no matter how quickly we can resolve this. We’ll get onto how this informs our principles later.
Our data on customer service
60% contacts solved on first response 🥇
vs 37% industry average
3% of contacts via the phone for cuckoo 🏎
vs 85% for the rest of the industry
59 Net Promoter Score (measure of happiness)
vs an industry average of 12
So what are the learnings from these stats? Well, making sure the 40% of contacts we can’t solve the first time, actually get solved super fast and clearly. For example, we share detailed internet outage or diagnostic results; update our website within minutes of feedback (e.g. when a customer questions what something means in the signup flow); add tech features based on needs, such as scheduled switches, static IP addresses or new line installs. For those we cannot help upon first contact, these are predominantly resolved within 24 hours of initial contact. Given our small and agile team, our product innovation rate is blisteringly fast. Take for example scheduled switches, we got the idea on a Wednesday, designed it on a Thursday and coded it on a Friday. Lovely jubbly.
The whole team is also trained on customer service. Customers are ultimately the voice through which we can innovate on our product. So the closer to the ground we all are, the better. It helps us to collectively make decisions based on real life examples we have encountered as well as issues we think may arise based on existing contacts.
What does the process flow for a normal customer contacting us look like? It usually takes us <10 minutes to pinpoint the issue (we want to make this process much faster). We then run three different tests on their line. This is on the broadband part, the landline part and then a joint test. We can then escalate issues to Openreach engineers to fix. In an ideal situation, we would be able to see a fault (or engineering works on the line) and raise an issue to Openreach proactively, letting our customers know before they even need to contact us.
If we are unable to see the fault, we then have to troubleshoot with the customer, asking a series of questions, some of which are quite technical. This adds on average 3–4 customer responses, requiring time out of their day and ours.
In order to keep our performance up and train the next wave of Cuckoo’s customer service team, we need a plan.
Our service principles
- Transparency. We will share engineer notes with the customer and translate the jargon into a sentence that even someone with no knowledge of the internet would understand. If it is our fault, we will apologise and if it is not, we will identify what the problem is, how and when we plan to fix it.
- Persistence. If you are saying there is an issue, we are going to chase this. If we haven’t received a response from Openreach, we will chase before the customer needs to. We will act as concierge throughout any issue or request.
- Speed. If the customer contacts us, we want every piece of information available instantly to see the issue so that we can respond as soon as possible. We want to raise faults to Openreach as soon as possible and update our website, tools and tech based as soon as possible. In future, we should be able to let the customer know of the issue before they need to contact us.
Our innovations for the future
We want to expand our lead over the incumbents. The only way we’ll do that is by innovating further and faster. These are all going into our product roadmap for the future.
- Diagnostic Automation — We are designing a support hub for customers to run their own tests. If any of the tests fail, this will raise a request for Openreach to investigate this. This will be accessible on both mobile data and our broadband connection — if the internet has gone off, you can run tests from your phone. We will also want to develop an app soon.
- Router Automation — Through remote management, we will show users helpful router settings and details on their Cuckoo accounts. We cannot expect customers to log in to the GUI and run traceroute tests or update settings (for all you broadband nerds).
- Fault Automation — We’ll identify when the customer's router drops below a set speed threshold or goes offline for longer than 10 minutes, then complete diagnostic tests automatically. This could notify us and the customer so we can book an engineer at the soonest convenience. Let's get the problem fixed before the customer even thinks to contact us for help.
- Awesome service tools — Should the customer want our help, our customer service team will have all details and actions on one page. No “please hold” or “let me transfer you to the right team”. We will have tools that show diagnostics, account details, connection details, router details and all of the customer payments and correspondence in one place. Every customer service associate will be able to handle every contact type as the tool will provide all information to the relevant question.
- Publish our results — We’ll let everyone know how fast we respond to certain issues, our performance and show customer satisfaction throughout our site.
- Known Unknowns — Continuous improvement will see new contacts or new issues escalated by customer services; they will raise it with the relevant team, who shall design, develop and deploy code to automate or fix the issue.
Using our already strong (and ever-expanding) team, we will be able to build the tool of all tools — internally developed tools that will be tailored to our industry. Our customer service team will be a strong, multi-disciplinary team who will be able to handle every contact type. We do not want to have to pass customers around to countless teams who are “specialised” within certain domains. The team will remain honest, stating where the problem lies, who is at fault and what happens from there.
This is our plan to be the best-rated and most loved broadband provider in the country. The challenge now will be to improve as we scale!
What are you waiting for? Switch broadband, for good. And if you enjoyed this article, please show us some love by sharing or clapping 👏