Underground Conduit Infrastructure (Part 4): Underground Neglect

Posted by Mary Ashley Canevaro on September 19, 2017
aboveground workers
Alden’s Underground Conduit Infrastructure series has investigated the reality of underground facilities: what they are and what happens when no one is looking. Damage, violations, and trespass cause harm to these essential structures. This blog series began with exploring the root of underground problems, and now it’s time to see how those roots manifest in to branches--the branches of business.

Example: An Everyday Situation

Picture Mark, a customer service representative who works in the call center at a large broadband provider. Every day he takes back-to-back calls from customers with service issues that range from interrupted service to an unfixed outage, slow service, and so on. Some customers are understanding, but most are irritated, mad, or rude. Mark is trained to troubleshoot problems. When the need arises, he dispatches field technicians to investigate in-person. Mark and the technicians work together to solve the problems.

Sometimes, even the technician cannot diagnose the real cause. Now three parties (Mark, the technician, and the customer) are frustrated and without a solution, resulting in wasted money and time for everyone. Little do they know, the problem often lies under their feet. Perhaps another provider has hijacked the space causing service to be slower. Maybe a cable has been improperly installed and as a result suffered abnormal wear-and-tear over time.

Mark struggles with how to appease unhappy customers. Wanting to do a good job, he is bothered by the lack of resources to help him quickly identify service problems. Mark decides to take a different type of position at another company to relieve his distress. Similarly, angry customers grow weary and switch providers.

Like Mark, many customer service representatives and field technicians feel this frustration, regularly asking the unanswered question: where does the real problem lie?


Internal Disarray: Underground Problems Manifest in the Office

Underground harm results in a multitude of aboveground problems: lack of communication, inability to diagnose the real issue, and confusion. Puzzling systems leave employees and customers distressed.

For some (not all), it may seem trivial to lose one customer here or another employee there, but the numbers add up and prove an ongoing cycle. Our research illustrates how companies are losing money from underground infrastructure damage, violation, and trespass above the ground.

1. Employee Turnover Rates

Turnover rates are a good indicator of employee happiness. We reviewed several customer service employees’ exit interviews and found that 50% of job dissatisfaction complaints were due to lack of tools and resources to complete the job, and another 41% reported on poor internal processes.

If service providers have underground damage, violation, or trespass creating unhappy customers, and are unaware at the highest levels, many employees feel helpless to solve the issues at hand. Customer management can be stressful when emotions arise due to problematic service, but especially when reps have no solid solutions to provide their customers.

2. Employee Loss Contributes to Revenue Loss

An average of four-to-five customer service employees leave their job every month, and 30-45% of call center representatives leave their job annually.

It typically costs businesses about $6,000 to replace one employee at a $12 per hour rate, according to the Quality Assurance and Training Connection. This means that businesses spend roughly $360,000 each year to replace call center customer representatives.

These costs include factors such as:

  • Gaps in staffing and unclear roles
  • Human resource training spend
  • Placing ads to fill open positions
  • Operations staff on overdrive to fill the gaps
  • Administrative costs of new hires (such as background checks)
  • Poor customer service

With losses high in the call center department, it’s likely many feel overwhelmed to fill in the disparities.

3. Employee Loss Contributes to Customer Loss

Another factor in budget loss, aside from the dollars to replace call center employees, is customer forfeiture. Poor customer service, repeated outages, and other factors (like speed) cause customers to switch service readily and willingly. Customers in rural areas are waiting on new providers to come in to their area so they can quickly changeover. Customer well-being is affected when there are disruptions to communications with family, the ability to work remotely, access to news and entertainment, medical resources, grocery delivery, and the extensive list of ongoing needs that communications services provide.

Customer satisfaction and employee longevity play in to each other, all while asset owners struggle to find cold, hard facts about customer loss, ROI, and other unanswered budget questions.

At the end of the day, underground damage, violations, and trespass not only affect the real estate itself, but the entire business. Knowing where assets are and their condition can solve a multitude of problems from the ground up.


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