The death of call centres at Bigpipe, Auckland's high speed internet service provider

At Auckland’s latest ultra-fast broadband service provider Bigpipe, the call centre is dead. Customers will not be able to dial for help. No more on-hold, no more listening to elevator music. And no more data cap.

Bigpipe - a Spark Ventures business - is offering what it terms is the fastest broadband in Auckland, packaged in three simple offerings, $79, $99 and $129. The fastest upload/download speed of 200 mbs, comes at the premium price of $129 per month. No strings attached. No landline needed, and no data cap. Initially, the service will be rolled out in Auckland, with future locations planned across other  places in the future.

Oliver Smith, head of Bigpipe, told Idealog: “Everyone else seems to concentrate on bundling products together, tacking on extras many people don't want, like sky boxes or landlines, locking people into contracts. 

“At Bigpipe, we focus on two things only. Broadband and great customer service, and absolutely nothing else. This really shows up in the latest Truenet reports where Bigpipe topped the charts on its debut, and maintained its position through a second month. It’s also reflected through customer reviews which are extremely positive.”

Trunet, which compares speed of ISPs wrote in its August report: “Bigpipe, was easily the best performer for DSL (digital subscriber line used in transmitting data) file download speed, maintaining hourly peaktime speed to within 99% of the off-peak speed.” More here

Why we hate call centres

The company’s research validated why call centres are not the way to go.

“It was very clear when researching customer's needs, we found they absolutely hate call centres.  They'd much rather get stuff done online themselves and not be kept waiting, but their experience of online service with other ISPs is that it was treated as a second class citizen, always ready to fall back on the safety net of the call centre.

“That's why we made the bold decision to not have a call centre at all, forcing us to provide the best online service possible. With smartphones and mobile data plans so prevalent now, getting online to get help if you have a broadband problem is no longer an issue.”

He says the plans are simple to sign up to. The company typically respond to urgent emails in around 20 mins and can prioritise which urgent problems to solve. “As of right now, it is 17 minutes – we show real time response period on our support page. That's less time than you'll often spend on hold with other ISPs, and it's also time you can spend doing what you want, instead of listening to crackly hold music, getting passed around different teams.

“What's really great about this, and has surprised even me, is that this sort of service is exactly what many people want.  Sure, some people will always prefer to call, just like some people prefer old fashioned broadacast-style TV to on-demand. Bigpipe probably isn't for them,” Smith says.

He says the service is particularly aimed at people frustrated by their current ISPs call centre and don’t want to be frustrated by listening to hold music.

“If you don’t like it, you can always leave as we don’t lock you into term contracts – that’s how confident we are that our service is top notch,” he adds.

What soul searching unravelled

What made the Bigpipe service possible is Chorus’ high speed fibre cable which is being rolled out across the country.

Bigpipe did some soul searching before it launched its service. Smith notes: “The clear 'winners' were the impact of data caps (meaning either slower broadband or unexpected charges when you hit your cap); frustration at being kept waiting on hold when trying to contact customer service, and complicated plans and pricing,” according to Smith.

That’s why Bigpipe has paired down its plan to three simple ones based on three pricing models – the only difference between them is the speed, no extras. “It is easy to see what plan works for you rather than being confused by hundreds of different combinations.

“We only sell naked broadband and we don't do datacaps at all.  You pay a simple monthly fee, prepaid on your credit card, and that's it. It's broadband you can set and forget, which is exactly what we think broadband should be.

“It is Bigpipe’s belief that Ultra-Fast Broadband should not be offered to customers at any less than 100Mbps (megabits per sec, a measure of how fast data speed is) download speed, anything lower defeats the purpose of purchasing UFB.  You’ll notice that our entry level starter package offers the same speeds as many other ISP’s fastest plans. If it’s speed you want and unlimited data to make the most of it, the choice is easy," Smith says.