Broadband providers push customer self-service

This (US) spring two broadband communications companies will deploy customer self-service software from competing vendors.

Cox Communications Inc., the Atlanta based cable company, has signed a deal with Support.com Inc. and BroadJump Inc. Verizon Communications Inc. in New York has selected Motive Communications Inc. to serve its DSL customers.

Cox has licensed the Broadband Resolution Suite, a combined software solution from Support.com and BroadJump. Cox is already mailing client software to its 780,000 cable modem subscribers, and plans to have the necessary back end systems up and running by March.

The demise of Redwood City, Calif. based Excite@Home Inc. adds a certain urgency to Cox's need for more customer support since Cox is about to inherit many of Excite@Home's customers. "We were the channel for them in the markets we serve," said Joseph Passazanti, knowledge manager with Cox. "Now we will own the entire relationship with those customers."

Support.com, in Redwood City, Calif., and BroadJump, in Austin, Texas, had already joined forces in early December. "Our technology has always been more focused on the PC," said Gary Zilk, senior product marketing manager for Support.com. "BroadJump adds the broadband piece, things like automatic installation and connection management."

Carriers like Cox are particularly eager to reduce customer calls to call centers, said David Hawley, analyst with the Yankee Group Inc. in Boston. "These are very costly, five to fifteen dollars per call."

Passazanti said the software will give Cox the ability to fix problems without a phone call.

Verizon decided to go with Austin, Texas-based Motive Communications, which competes with Support.com and BroadJump. "Motive's strategy is similar," said Joanie Rufo, analyst with AMR Research Inc. in Boston. "All these software vendors are trying to solve problems before they even reach the tier 0 stage." Tier 0 refers to Web-based support, before the customer has to pick up a phone and get a customer service rep on the line.

Sanjay Castelino, market segment manager for the communications industry at Motive, said Verizon will use Motive's software to support dial up customers as well as DSL users. "This is a key benefit for Verizon," said Castelino. "They have a common platform for both and don't need to train two sets of analysts on different systems."

Verizon plans to roll out DSL support in April and dial up support in June.

Hawley said the two deals are representative of a trend. "We see carriers investing in software, such as customer self-service, that help them make the most out of what they already have, and these tend to be relatively small investments with high returns."

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