We’re supporting field technicians to deliver services better and faster, using digital innovations.

Demand for high-speed data continues to increase while customers’ expectations of service delivery, network resilience and fault resolution are sky-high.

The field work supporting our networks – and customer connectivity – is a complex endeavour. It requires a deep, up-to-date technical understanding of the technologies, the use of multiple tools and close interaction with colleagues and partners.

However, customers do not care about the complexity involved. They want services delivered and ready to use on time, first time. And when faults occur, consumers and businesses alike need them fixed fast.

We are committed to improving the experience we offer our customers. We identified a number of key customer pain points and the barriers stopping our field technicians from doing their best possible work, and design and deploy digital approaches to solving them.

Below we introduce some of the new tools we are deploying to set up our field teams for success and meet the standards our customers expect.

CT dashboard

A CT dashboard is a fully integrated application offering access to accurate customer information and service performance insights in one centralised location for our Communication Technicians (CTs). This dashboard includes live and historical performance data, customer information, outage information and suggested actions.

Technicians are now able to see the past 10 days’ history of speed performance, noise margin fluctuations and congestion. They can also see the live difference between Telstra and nbn network performance. These insights enable the technician to identify patterns and problems and make quick and accurate fault diagnoses.

ACE Chatbot

The ACE Chatbot combines powerful automation with live chat to speed up routine tasks and serve relevant information to technicians while they are on customer premises. For example, technicians can reset passwords in one minute via ACE while also better managing the face-to-face relationship with customers.

ACE provides technicians with a wealth of data visualisations which enable them to see a number of metrics including response times and helps them better plan resources according to need. The ACE chatbot has proved so effective that it is being used more than 2,000 times a day across our field technicians.

Technician Plus & Team Leader Plus

We have developed two strategic platforms – Technician Plus and Team Leader Plus – where CTs can access all the apps and tools they need to use, in one place. The platforms make it easy for technicians to share issues they encounter in the field, which enables leaders to prioritise action or support.

The first app we built was an “issue and opportunity resolution system” called TIDE. Accessible by all field personnel, TIDE allowed employees to create tickets regarding issues mentioned to them by customers. Other employees could then click on the ticket to gain further perspective concerning the issue, add related comments they had received while on the job, and subscribe to the topic in order to receive updates regarding its status. Team leaders also had the ability to alter the status of the topic, marking it as in progress when teams were working on a solution, or complete when it had been resolved.

After employees saw the potential impact of TIDE, many began creating their own applications. Six, then 12, then 20 apps were developed in quick succession, each addressing the most crucial needs of the employees who created them.

The portal utilises Microsoft PowerBI analytics to offer new ways of visualising data. It pulls in the last seven days of data from around the country to enable quality auditors and team managers to monitor performance indicators. Reporting can be customised to show specific user and customer KPIs, such as revisits or satisfaction ratings.

Applications can be built quickly and easily when needed. For example, our Network Site and Pole Inspection app allows any of our active field staff on the ground to complete a site inspection on a piece of Telstra infrastructure they are passing – an exchange, or a tower, for instance.

We are also able to build and deploy apps very quickly to meet rapidly changing requirements. An example is our Fire Assessment and Recovery app. As fire attacked the Australian bush, we needed a way to capture fire damage details from the field to target our recovery resources, and for insurance purposes. This app was quickly deployed and allows any of our field teams to lodge a site report, which is added to an hourly-updated database, with maps and photographs, to give us a clear picture of the situation.

Some of these applications were recently showcased at Microsoft Ignite in Orlando.

VR Glasses

We hope to replace some of the traditional online and face-to-face learning experiences with VR. Our VR proof of concept trial has been very encouraging. VR could help to reduce costs of travel between major training centres and make learning experiences more immersive. We can send the glasses wherever they are needed so technicians outside of metro areas can easily access the latest training.

Videos are produced by field leads and a technician resulting in highly relevant content pitched at the right level for the field teams. We have developed trials on working at heights, working in pits and holes, and dealing with sharps. The latter course compresses a 30-minute presentation into an eight-minute interactive and immersive experience, demonstrating the potential of VR for better learning opportunities. More engaging content can also lead to better recall, keeping our technicians safe.

Mobile tech lab

One of the challenges of covering a country as large as Australia is the sheer size. Bringing field technicians together for training sessions can often require them to take days out of their usual schedule.

We chose to bring the training to our technicians with a fleet of six mobile technology labs to complement our other fixed facilities throughout the country. The mobile labs are fully equipped with the latest technology and programs for technicians, including our VR training experiences for working at heights, working in pits and dealing with sharps.

To date, the six mobile labs have travelled nearly 80,000 kilometres (that is almost twice around the world) and on journeys as long as from Adelaide to Darwin, enabling us to continue upskilling our technicians in even the most remote areas.

Knowledge management

With a field workforce spread across vast areas in Australia, we needed a more digital and efficient solution to help us capture skills, transfer knowledge and provide support to technicians.

We wanted to find digital solutions to provide support for technicians and build their confidence to deal with customer issues the right way, the first time, and we found Microsoft Teams could deliver the benefits and options we wanted.

We established a Microsoft Teams space for entire field services, covering every technician. We deployed it using a script that auto-enrolled every field technician, avoiding the pitfall of having to get technicians to set it up themselves.

Leaders now deliver coaching and advice through Teams and bi-weekly meetings are group video calls. Team leaders report they get more engagement over this medium and find it easier to cascade news and policy changes.

Digitisation is showing us many ways to enable our Communication Technicians to deliver a better service for our customers.

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