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In this issue, we speak with Dave Zatloukal, Hughes Senior Vice President, Products & Services, about how Hughes achieves operational excellence.
Hughes has long been known for its innovative technologies, but that’s no less the case for its operational excellence. Can you provide us an overview of the key challenges faced by your organization and examples of metrics that demonstrate its achievements?
Over the past several years, we have experienced significant growth in our Consumer business and have expanded our service offerings on the Enterprise side of the business. All of these changes have led to challenges and opportunities for the North American Operations organization.
For example, following the launch and impressive growth of our HughesNet® Gen4 service, it’s been important for us to remain highly responsive to customers. That means, when a customer places an order, we need to install and activate it quickly through our network of local dealers and installers. By implementing a real-time scheduling system, we’ve increased our order activation rate from 81% in 2015 to 84% in 2016.
We have also continued to improve the performance of our optional services, like HughesNet Voice. By improving our installation process and call quality, we’ve increased Customer Satisfaction from 68% (3Q15) to 74% (3Q16).
And we’ve introduced new technologies, such as SmartBrowsing, that allow customers to access websites at high speeds even if they have depleted their data allowance. The benefits of these changes have reduced our Customer Service cases by 15%. During the same time period, our Customer Service Satisfaction rates increased from 83% to 86%. In short, year-over-year we’re doing a better job. We’re eliminating the reasons customers call us for help and we’re improving the way we resolve issues when they do.
How does a company as large as Hughes drive excellence across all of its operational activities – from installation to service delivery to customer care to support?
We have developed Key Performance Indicators, or KPI reports, that we review weekly for both the Consumer and Enterprise business. The KPIs look at the business from the customer’s point-ofview so we can review our performance from the outside. This gives us insight into developing trends related to customer dissatisfaction that would not be readily apparent if we focused solely on internal operational metrics.
When anticipating a major milestone, such as the EchoStar® XIX/JUPITER 2 launch, how do you prepare in terms of operations?
We get involved from the early planning stages. During the satellite design phase, we have to decide where to put our gateways. For EchoStar XIX/JUPITER 2, there are 22 gateways, between Canada, the US, and Mexico. We have to scout locations for the gateways and data centers, which require fiber to get to the Internet. It can be tricky to find those locations.
In the case of EchoStar XIX/JUPITER 2, we expect over 1 million new subscribers. That means all of our backend systems— such as billing, ordering, customer care, and support systems—have to scale to support that type of volume. So we start the planning and upgrades up to a full year-and-a-half in advance. By the time we are a month or two from launch, we’re just fine-tuning those systems.
For the launch of EchoStar XIX/ JUPITER 2, is there anything new or different being addressed by the operations organization?
It’s “new” in the fact that we have 22 new gateways, 43 physical locations, and a total of 65 gateways to support the North American services and Brazilian operations.
It’s not that one satellite supports one network. For EchoStar XIX/JUPITER 2, in addition to the new gateways, the satellite consists of 138 beams that represent over 3,100 individual networks being supported. In total, across all three of our satellites, the organization is responsible for the surveillance, management, and performance of over 7,100 consumer networks.
How does your organization work with the other Hughes service entities in Europe, India, and Brazil, and in particular, how has it assisted the launch of HughesNet in Brazil?
Think of Europe and India as large enterprise operations. The primary interaction between the organizations is in the context of supporting our joint multinational customers. And we share information and best practices.
On the Consumer side, with HughesNet in Brazil, we are more closely aligned. We manage their three gateways while they support the services that run over them. The support teams from Brazil and North America meet regularly to share learnings and best practices. We also meet at the executive level monthly, to ensure that the service is performing as intended. I have been impressed with how quickly the team in Brazil has come up to speed and am very excited about the consumer service opportunity there.
What are your longer term goals in driving continued innovation and operational excellence?
At the Consumer level, it’s all about scale and performance, which means automation. It’s taking the consumer experience – looking at our business from their perspective – and making sure that their experience is as pleasurable as possible. That may mean changing the way we do business. As an example, in the past, if a customer had a problem, they’d contact our call center. Now, we’ve come out with a Mobile App so customers can choose how they prefer to interact with us, be it through social media or texting.
In the Enterprise space, there’s been a shift in the market away from centralized IT departments. Today, instead of working with one corporate office, we deal with thousands of different individual franchises that own separate retail operations. We can’t do all of that manually, so we’ve turned to automation, taking much of what we’ve learned in the consumer markets and translating it to the franchise market.
At the network level, it’s all about quickly identifying and correcting issues. We look at fault management, which tells us if something on the network is working or broken, and we look at performance management, which provides us with performance-based trends over time. These trends enable us to set triggers that allow us to predict and correct problems before they occur.
And, in terms of installation and maintenance, it’s all about providing tools to the field so they can be successful. We track “First Time Success,” “Time on Site,” and the percentage of times we may have to return to a site within the first 30 days. Those are three key metrics that keep us sharp in terms of operational excellence.
The bottom line for our organization reflects the company’s and our parent company’s overall mission, which is “The Customer Comes First.”
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