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While poor Internet coverage has crippled some countries, nbn has played a key role in keeping Australian businesses running through COVID-19. In this exclusive interview with Matchboard, nbn’s Laura Mazin provides insight into nbn’s approach to business CX (Customer Experience) and the COVID-19 relief package.

How does nbn approach its business CX strategy, given that businesses do not have a direct relationship with nbn?

There are very few examples, if any, in Australia where the wholesaler (in this case nbn) has a strong brand presence, has significant history and visibility in the community. This has understandably resulted in high customer expectations, and to meet those expectations, nbn has to know what customers really care about and value.

nbn plays a significant role in three significant customer journeys – connect, use, and fix. And, we utilise direct customer feedback, as well as feedback from internet providers, to make sure we’re focussed on what matters most to customers at every stage. This has in turn informed and shaped our business CX insights, strategy and priorities.

What tools and techniques does the business nbn™ team use to collect customer insights?

We have a range of tools and techniques at our disposal to collect customer insights, and it’s the combination of these that creates the CX magic. Firstly we conduct a quick survey following the installation of a business nbn™ service, which gives us a sense of how the nbn™ technician visit was experienced. This opens the door for us to subsequently survey customers, if customers opt-in for further contact. At a later stage in the customer journey, we commission a ‘use’ survey, which is a more detailed survey capturing feedback about how the customer has experienced the nbn network, since connection. It also enquires about their actual connection experience, as well as any recent issues, and how they experienced those issues being fixed.

But the correlation of the survey output with our operational data is where we really gain value. One example of this correlation is to examine customer feedback about unresolved issues where our systems might say the fault was resolved. By actively looking into the discrepancy we can take actions to address it and improve the overall process. Another example might be a customer telling us their service has experienced down time, yet our systems show no planned or unplanned outages. In this case, the discrepancy might help us locate the issue to within the customer’s business premises or with their wi-fi or modem. This correlation of survey data and operational data allows us greater visibility of what’s really occurred, and where we should focus our improvement efforts.

What are some of the most interesting customer insights you’ve gained since starting the role, and how has nbn addressed these?

Business customers understandably have high expectations of their nbn™ service to support business continuity. Knowing more about the relationship between broadband reliability and business satisfaction has helped us prioritise business specific improvement initiatives, and given us the basis for establishing the business nbn™ Operations Centre, a team of onshore dedicated specialists who offer 24/7 support to internet providers to support business customers.

Similarly, businesses are less tolerant of any ‘blame game’ about who is responsible for issues throughout their connect, use, or fix journeys.  They have high expectations that nbn as the wholesaler works hand-in-glove with its internet providers and vice versa, to help ensure seamless service and support.

Another great insight is that business customers are not always aware of the product and service attributes they need, and may purchase a residential-grade service which they then tell us doesn’t meet their needs. There are online tools available (eg. the business nbnSolution Finder, and Business Readiness Tool) on the nbn™ website that help businesses identify their needs and which business products might best suit those needs. The right broadband plan, matched for business needs, really does impact CX, and businesses are encouraged to take the time to understand whether they are on the right plan.

Do business customers get a “business class” experience compared to consumers?

Yes. We are dedicated to the success of Australian businesses and have deliberately created a set of flexible products and services specifically for their varied needs.

There are three key features of business nbn™ products that differentiate business-grade nbn™ services from residential nbn™ services:

  • Priority data on the nbn™ network for high speeds even when internet traffic is heavy
  • Symmetrical speeds so that businesses can upload as fast as they download, and
  • Enhanced service support on the nbn™ network to help resolve issues faster, supported by our business nbn™ Operations Centre.

Availability of business nbn™ products or services will depend on internet providers, and the type of nbn™ connection available at a business premises.  A list of internet providers that currently retail business nbn™ wholesale offerings can be found on the nbn™ website.

Businesses in some countries have struggled with work from home models through COVID-19 due to poor Internet coverage, causing severe economic damage. Is nbn the unsung hero in Australia’s success with work from home deployments? 

nbn has definitely played a key role in keeping everyone connected, working, running their businesses, engaging with friends and family, helping educate their kids and a whole range of other things. We are fortunate that the rollout of the nbn™ network is more than 95% complete, which means the vast majority of Australians already have access to fast, reliable, secure broadband.

Soon after COVID-19 commenced and many of us needed to work from home, nbn’s engineers quickly assessed the network’s capabilities, and we announced that we would provide up to 40% extra wholesale broadband capacity and waive additional wholesale charges to retail service providers until July 2020. This meant that internet providers could allow more capacity for their customers, at no additional charge. We do believe this has made a significant difference during COVID-19 and we have observed extremely low levels of congestion on the network.

Demand on the nbn™ network has certainly been significant – recently we observed that the nbn™ network is accommodating an increase of up to 62% more downstream network usage, and an additional 117% of upstream network usage during certain daytime business hours, compared to the pre-COVID-19 baseline. We feel very proud of how well our network has performed during these COVID-19 times.

With so many businesses under pressure from COVID-19, how was nbn able to provide relief and make a difference?

Over and above the 40% increase in network capacity mentioned above, nbn announced a $150m relief package in support of retail service providers to pass on to their customers.  Broadly the $150m is split as follows:

  • $50m fund for residential customers facing financial hardships
  • $50m fund for connecting low-income families with school children
  • $50m for businesses facing financial hardship and in support of keeping emergency and essential services connected and supported.

We also executed a ‘community service’ style information campaign, providing practical tips, advice, and guidance to help businesses get the best out of their broadband connection.

In my role leading Business CX for nbn, I had the privilege of leading the establishment of the COVID relief package for businesses. At such an unprecedented time like COVID-19, it makes me very proud to work for a company like nbn which puts the customer first, and has played a significant role in keeping the nation connected, while at the same time stepping up to provide financial relief and additional support where it matters most.

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