Josh Hardy has been a Premise Technician at Cincinnati Bell Inc for 3 1/2 years. He is responsible for installing and servicing Cincinnati Bell equipment and services. We sat down with him to ask how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way he works and how he is handling the increased demand.
Q: What has it been like to be an essential worker during this pandemic?
A: It has been challenging at times. Every customer has a different need and different expectations when we get to the front door. With the situation we are in, customers are on edge and a lot of questions are being asked.
"We are trying to meet and exceed customer expectations of coming in, especially for their safety and for our safety."
Overall, it has been interesting. Customers are being patient and helping us understand their needs. As a company and as customers, we have all worked together very well. It is impressive to see what we have been able to do in the past 3 months, especially in these times when we don’t have a lot of answers. Communication has been very impressive as well, even remotely. In the 100 jobs I’ve done, probably more, we really have all worked together.
Q: Can you run us through a typical day you have as a technician? What is your process?
A: As a technician, I wake up and sign on to get a list of jobs. Before I head to a location, I screen what the order is, what the complaint is, or what I am installing. I plug the address into my GPS to see the telephone pole and house that I will be working with. At that point, I will send a message to the customer, and if I don’t get a response, I will contact the customer over the phone. That’s when we ask if they have any special needs. We get into details about how people are feeling and if anyone is sick in the home, and if there are kids or seniors in the house. We also assure them that we are feeling great, as well. At that point, if everything is good: we go to the house with masks, gloves, boot covers, hand sanitizer, etc. With COVID-19, we have been trying to minimize contact as much as possible, educate the customer before we do anything, and double check to see if any rooms need to be avoided or if anyone should relocate before we come in. Everyday there must be a lot of communication with the customer.
Q: How has COVID-19 changed the way you work?
A: It has definitely played a major role in our day to day tasks. We are more transparent when we get to the front door and we wear gloves, masks, use hand sanitizer, and ask a lot of questions in order to protect the customer. Cincinnati Bell is a very strategic company with the right tools and resources. We are typically ahead of the curve when there is a problem. I’m very impressed by some of the tools that were given to the technicians, not only to protect the customers but also us. They have provided us with a mobile app where we can send customers a text inviting them join a video chat on their phone. We can connect with the customer, virtually walk through their home and see the equipment, and sometimes solve the issue from our van, without ever stepping into their home.
Q: Since the COVID-19 pandemic started what kind of services have you been installing and how has it changed?
A: Right now, most households are at max capacity so one of the two biggest things I’m seeing are customers wanting to go outside of their promotions and increasing their internet speeds. This allows them to meet the demands of their household with their kids in school, the husband and wife working on laptops, etc. The other big thing we are seeing is an increased demand of our product that covers the whole home with Wi-Fi. With the kids playing in one room and the mom and dad in their offices at home, people are wanting more coverage throughout their house.
Q: What are some of the most common questions you are getting from customers?
A: A common question I have been receiving is about the consistency of the Wi-Fi connection. Customers need the internet connection to be reliable. Questions about coverage are also common. We walk the customer through their house and one of the most frequent questions I get when installing services is, “Will I be able to sit on my back porch while I’m working?” A lot of customers are trying to adapt to this situation and carry their internet further than the eye can see. It’s our job as technicians to expand the Wi-Fi coverage area as much as possible throughout their house.
Often there are also questions with the customer’s equipment. Everyone is used to fancy equipment from their office, and we have been running into a lot of issues finding out that customers’ equipment is out of date or isn’t capable of handling increased speeds. We have a lot of conversations about Wi-Fi speeds and updating equipment, whether that is our modems and routers, or their personal devices. Most customers have a hard time finding information and understanding their equipment. We often have a conversation over the phone, I’ll do my homework and suggest what they need to do, whether that is purchasing equipment or having us do a service upgrade. We do our best to look at the orders to address the customers’ needs.
Q: What have the interactions with customers been like?
A: Our customer base is very appreciative and respectful when the technician gets to the house. For the most part, I must give kudos to our customers. They are patient and willing to work with us. They have done a fantastic job of allowing a stranger in their home and trusting Cincinnati Bell during this crazy time.
The whole world is fighting this same pandemic- everyone wants masks and gloves. We had no idea what to expect, but Cincinnati Bell pulled through in a very timely manner to use its tools and resources to receive and provide PPE (Protective Personal Equipment) in order to protect their customers and employees. How do you expect someone to pop up with thousands and thousands of masks when there are billions of people trying to get their hands on them?
"Cincinnati Bell has done a great job - Bell's got my back. Our team leads do a fantastic job of informing us and passing out the equipment. As a whole, Cincinnati Bell is truly a family."
Q: To the question “is Cincinnati Bell really an essential business”? Can you offer a perspective on how essential our service is to customers?
A: I have one easy answer to that, and that is to turn it off. It is easy for someone to sit there and say we aren’t essential, but if all your services, internet, and TV were to go down all at once across the board... How would the world react today? Now tell me what a necessity that is- do you need it or do you not? When it comes to our phones and internet, that is what is keeping people’s food on the table. People are still able to work and to communicate because of the technology.
How We Can Help Essential Workers
Q: Is there anything the rest of us can do to help make your job easier?
A: Continue to be positive and patient with us. If the customer knows where they want us to install the service, then have things moved out of the way and make sure the kids aren’t in that room so we can keep a safe distance.
"Each situation is different, and everyone has a specific need or request when we arrive, so my biggest thing is just to stay positive and remember that we have the same concerns as they do in a time like this."
Put yourself in my shoes: everybody has been in quarantine for months. As a technician, we have to wake up every day, leave our family, and go into somebody’s house that they have fought so hard to protect for the last 3 months. We are still out and about loading up equipment, getting gas, etc. but at the end of the day, I have to go home. We go into every situation with respect for our customers. They are trying to keep their family safe, but I am trying to keep my family safe, too.
Q: What would you like customers to know about the technician scheduled to come to their home?
A: People fear COVID-19 and have taken every drastic measure to lock up and protect themselves against this virus, but they instilled trust in us to bring an outsider into their house to fix something they need. The expectation customers have of technicians to fix their problems, even with the fear of COVID-19, is a big deal to us - one we don’t take lightly.
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"The tech was great! The installation technician was awesome! He was prompt, clean, and thorough. He was really tops."
Paul Zink, Windsor Construction