What You’ll Learn

The YK Communications team wanted more subscribers to use their CommandIQ app from Calix in order to reduce trouble calls and improve customer experience. They came up with a multiprong approach that drove app adoption to 86%, earning them a national award and improving the service they deliver.

Guest Speaker

Russell Kacer

Show Notes

Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.


Intro: A production of Pioneer Utility Resources. StoryConnect, helping communicators discover ideas to shape their stories and connect with their customers.

Andy Johns: What can you do to increase app adoption among your subscribers? That’s what we’ll be talking about in this episode of StoryConnect: The Podcast. My name is Andy Johns, your host with Pioneer, and I’m joined on this episode by Russell Kacer, who is the president of YK Communications down in Texas. Russell, thanks for joining me.

Russell Kacer: Good morning, Andy. How are you?

Andy Johns: I’m good. So I think this is your second time on the podcast, so that makes you not just a guest, but a friend of the podcast. So we appreciate that.

Russell Kacer: All right.

Andy Johns: We are recording. I saw Russell briefly at the Calix Conference, Calix Connections Conference out in Las Vegas where he and YK Communications won the Giant of Customer Support Award. So congratulations on the win.

Russell Kacer: Thanks, Andy. We were really excited to find out about the award and really excited to get our name out there in front of the whole crowd.

Andy Johns: Yeah, well seeing your name as big as that screen was with that great big crowd. I mean, that’s got to be a pretty good rush. Now, what the number said on the screen when they flashed it up there. They said giant of customer support, and it said 86% app adoption rate for subscriber cell service. So unpack that for us a little bit. What does that mean? Because that’s a pretty impressive number.

Russell Kacer: It is. So what that means for us is that 86% of the GigaSpires that we have deployed out in our customer network do have the CommandIQ app attached to them. So, the Giant of Customer Support was a lot more than just the app, but that was one of the biggest components of that; that was kind of the decision maker on the award. But yeah, it’s really important that we get that app attached to those GigaSpires as we deploy those out into the network. And that’s something that we kind of make a priority here YK.

Andy Johns: Sure. And there are couple of things I want us to unpack there. Obviously, not everybody listening is going to have Calix equipment. I think Calix is like a 43% market share. So there’s a lot of folks out there with Adtran and some of the other providers. But I know Adtran also has an app, I believe, and some other things there. So I think mostly what we’re going to be talking about on this episode does apply to folks, whatever app, whatever they’re going for app adoption. So if you are not a Calix customer, there may still be plenty of value for you to listen to the rest of this episode, I guess is what I’m saying.

Russell Kacer: Sure.

Andy Johns: So let’s talk about kind of the first piece of it, the CommandIQ app. Let’s define that a little bit. And then why do you want your members, why is it important to YK and to you to have your folks, your subscribers, signed up on that app?

Russell Kacer: Well, there’s, I’d say, three or four different components as to why we want to get CommandIQ on the user’s device and get them familiar with it and using it. One is we feel like it’s just that overall experience, and it gives the customer ways to customize their connection. It’s more than we’re just providing that that Internet connection, but that’s where they really get to start setting some of those parental controls and setting some schedules and having some control over how their household or their office utilizes that connection. So I think the first point of it is just the overall experience and giving that customer some control over their experience. Second is it leads to other revenue opportunities. When you start adding some of those other items on it, like ExperienceIQ and ProtectIQ, and I know Calix has kind of made a commitment that there’s going to be more and more of those over the top services that are going to drive through that CommandIQ app. Getting them familiar with CommandIQ is just kind of the base point to add more on top of that. So, you know, there’s no hiding it that there are some revenue opportunities in there. I’d say point number three, there’s an idea of self-service that goes on there. Just recently, as we monitor Facebook messages, we’re starting to see more and more customers that will call in or message in and say, “Hey, is there an outage? I checked my app and everything looks good on my end.”

Russell Kacer: So we’re starting to see that the customers are – right. And that’s what we want them to do. We want them to say, “Hey, let me check in and make sure it’s not just this device. Or it’s not just my connection.” But they’re kind of checking those points before they call in and start a ticket.

Andy Johns: I love that.

Russell Kacer: Right. And the fourth piece of it is just communication. So with CommandIQ, and I’m sure the other apps have the ability too, there’s push notifications that you can push out. And those are based on either a behavior that the customer has some type of a trigger point, or if you just need to push out some type of a notification if you’re doing. We use that anytime we’re doing a scheduled maintenance that we know that there’s a possibility for service to go down, we’ll go ahead and push those notifications out. So those are kind of what I think are the four main points of why it’s so important that we push CommandIQ and the app adoption.

Andy Johns: Very cool. Now, one of the things that has been a decision point for different folks that I know have worked with either CommandIQ or with a different app like this, is the decision on what to call it. Some folks have tried to call it their own thing. They don’t want to call it CommandIQ. They want to call it something with their brand. You guys decided to call it CommandIQ. Let’s talk a little bit about that and then how you guys kind of started talking about this app that you were rolling out in the community.

Russell Kacer: Well, and I think that’s one of those things that’s definitely dependent upon what works best for you and your customer base. When the the ability to customize that app came out, there was a pretty hefty customization charge that was in front of that that we kind of decided, you know what, let’s wait. It was one of those things that we found out later on when there were some updates that were being made to CommandIQ. It was those that did that had the customization that actually got pushed to the back side of those updates. And so as kind of rolling out with the standard offering, we were the first ones to get the updates. I don’t know if it still works that way, but I know it was one of those things that we kind of decided this might be a good thing for us. And I’ve always heard any time you get into different software platforms and things like that, the more customization you do, the more opportunities for some hiccups you have later on. So sometimes it’s better to go with the standard offering. But it’s one of those things too, that we also, being a small provider, we have a lot of different pieces that we kind of third party out, and so we didn’t have a single app to where you could pay your bill to do the CommandIQ functions to some of the other, like we’re a security provider, so we have a different app for our security systems. We felt like if we were going to do the customization, we needed an app that we could bring all of that into one. And so we felt like we wouldn’t do the customization and kind of communicate out to the customer, these are the kind of the group of apps that you need as a customer, rather than saying, “This one is the YK app. And oh, by the way, you need these others.” We felt like it just made sense for us to say, “Here are kind of the suite of apps that you need as a YK customer.”

Andy Johns: Got it. Now, I know any time you’re talking about an app, whatever it is, whether it’s Candy Crush or whether it’s, you know, any of the apps out there, the challenge is to get people to download it and try it. How do you feel, and I’m assuming it’s that way with you guys, but that’s always the biggest hurdle when you’ve got somebody who’s pushing an app out there. What do you think? From the very beginning, what do you think has been kind of the key to your success in getting people to give it a try and download it and get it started?

Russell Kacer: Well, I’ll tell you, one of the things that just lined up perfectly was CommandIQ came out and was available about the time that we started deploying GigaSpire. So as we moved away from the GigaCenters when it was time to to deploy the GigaSpires, that was about the time that that Calix released CommandIQ. So we’ve kind of had a little bit of an advantage of we wanted to make Command IQ a priority right from the very beginning. And we really drive home the importance of that app from the time that the CSR is making the sale. And so that’s something that we’re talking about. Whenever the customer does sign up for service, the CSR is going ahead and asking the customer to download the app and have it ready for them.

Andy Johns: Right there. Either on site or on phone. Yeah, okay.

Russell Kacer: Yep, right there. And then we let them know that it’s going to create a quicker and smoother experience at the time of install if they have it ready. It gives them the opportunity if they’re kind of fumbling for that. I don’t remember the username and password to the app store, that sort of thing. So we kind of get some of that out of the way. When we do send the reminder the day before of their install, we remind them again, please make sure you have the app downloaded. Here’s the link. And then it’s one of the things that when the technicians roll out, there’s an expectation there that they actually take some time to review the app at the end of the install. And one of the things that we really find is successful is we ask the technicians to share with the customer what their three favorite features of CommandIQ are. And so each technician has their own set of favorites. I don’t really care which favorite that they’re talking about, but it really gets the technician to talk to the customer. This is how I use it, or this is why I really like this feature and gets a little bit more of that buy-in, and they’re comfortable talking about the features that they like about it. Another thing that we do is.

Andy Johns: Very cool. I like it.

Russell Kacer: Thanks. We offer ProtectIQ and ExperienceIQ for 90 days for free just to get them used to that. It lets them show and the technicians is able to show them the advanced parental controls. We’re able to provide them some reports at the end of the 90 days as far as how many cyber threats were blocked in the first 90 days of that and kind of build that level of importance around those add-on features. But one of the things that we do from a support standpoint at YK is we have our 2+2+2+2 program, which really gets to be a mouthful. But the CSR, the sales specialist that works with that customer, it doesn’t matter if they’re just a basic residential customer or if they’re a business customer. They get that dedicated sales specialist from that point forward. They get their cell phone number, their contact information, and the sales specialist is checking back in with the customer at two days after the install, two weeks, two months, and then right before the two year mark. And so we have opportunities at the two day, two week and two month to make sure that the customer is utilizing CommandIQ. Did you know that you can also do this in the app? Just some other tips that when we’re making those touch points with the customers that we’re reminding them the app is available and for the different features of how they can utilize it.

Andy Johns: That’s awesome. So we’ve talked about, the reason why you’re wanting to get folks on it. What kind of benefits have you seen now that it’s going or what are you hearing either from staff or from your subscribers, your customers out there? What are they saying about it, and what kind of benefits have you seen now that you’ve got so much of this implemented out in the field?

Russell Kacer: Well, I think the number one thing, like I mentioned earlier, is to have customers call-in and say, “Hey, I checked my app.” So we really don’t and there’s no way to have any metrics on how many customers are taking care of the problem without us ever hearing about it. So there’s no real way to measure that. But the fact that they’re calling in and saying, “Hey, hey, I checked my app, and I’m still experiencing an outage. You know, is there an outage? Can I start a ticket?” That sort of a thing tells us that they really are going to the app and utilizing it for that self-service feature. But beyond that, with Calix Marketing Cloud on the backend, I can monitor to see how many of them are actually using those advanced parental controls in ExperienceIQ. I can do those reports on how many cyber threats that we’re blocking as they use some of those advanced features. And then more than anything else, I feel like as we push out the scheduled maintenance, any time that we do any maintenance, we don’t have, if there is an outage, customers are going to the social media, the website accounts, but they’ve already gotten that heads up prior to. And so we don’t get the panicked call-ins of, “Hey, what’s going on? Or is there an outage?” They know that during this window they may experience some intermittent outages. And like I said, just having the heads up are one of the biggest things that we push here at YK is just communication needs to be proactive, not reactive. So we’re always trying to get that information out in advance.

Andy Johns: Got two more questions for you. I know when my provider came and set up – and it’s a municipal provider here – I was pretty surprised that they didn’t have an app. And it was, you know, I think the phrase they used it at the Calix Conference was just a dumb pipe where, and then I’ve got the arrow or some of the other stuff on top of it to run that. There’s a lot of talk about that at the Calix conference. Obviously, as we mentioned earlier, Calix sells a lot of that stuff. But as a person who’s right on the front lines of making this happen and kind of making those decisions, that’s something that you see value in and kind of layering those layers on top more than just being that dumb pipe, as they kept saying.

Russell Kacer: Absolutely. And for a company like us, we had four individuals at Calix Connections this year. And it’s more than just kind of hey, we’re selling these products and kind of the whole cheerleading hurrah experience. But I know the other individuals that attended with me came back this year with a, this is what we want to be. We want to be that experience. We don’t want to be that dumb pipe. And I think one of the things that when you go down that road of just being a dumb pipe provider, you’re easily replaced. I mean, there’s something about having that human aspect and that overall experience that just makes you irreplaceable, and they want to be in relationship with you just because of that entire experience that you’re providing. So I think that that’s something that is not a suggestion, but I really think to maintain that level of customer support, customer experience, all of that, to have the longevity of that customer, we really do need to create that overall experience. That’s much more than just being a provider and a dumb pipe.

Andy Johns: And I guess I should’ve defined that term a little bit more. That was the phrase used at the Connections Conference a lot for a provider who is just the the fiber connection or just the broadband connection and no additional services or no additional opportunities for customer experience beyond that. Somebody who’s easily replaced, like you said. I’ve also heard a lot of value. I mean, purely if you just get the app on the phone, and we know how many times we look at our phone every single day. And if they’re seeing your logo or your app right there, that’s a reminder. I mean, there’s value just in that for folks seeing and remembering their provider right there.

Russell Kacer: And that’s why we don’t want to inundate the customer with push notifications, but we usually try to get 2 to 3 push notifications out each month just so that – it’s not only, hey, there’s a scheduled maintenance or this promotion is going on, but it’s just a reminder when that CommandIQ notification pops up, it’s, oh, this is YK. And I need to pay attention to this. Or oh, yeah, I’ve got that app from YK. Next time I have an issue, maybe I’ll go start there instead of just calling in. So there’s more to the push notifications than just the promotion and the update on the schedule maintenance. But it is that kind of brand recognition component of it as well.

Andy Johns: That’s an excellent point. That sounds like a pretty good cadence there. The last question I have for you. I’ve talked to folks that have really struggled with getting folks to adopt the app. You know, I was talking to a family member this week that was saying that she just didn’t want to learn how to use Amazon on her phone because it was too hard. I was like, the whole business model for Amazon is to make it easy. You know, it’s as easy as they could possibly make it. But, you know, they’re always going to be those that kind of struggle to learn. I think the advantage of somebody like yourself and a lot of the folks that we work with, it is a smaller group. So you can really spend some hands on time with them. But I guess my question to close is what advice do you have for another provider out there who is either hasn’t started an app or is as kind of launched it, but not really having a lot of success. What advice would you pass on to those folks?

Russell Kacer: I’d say two things. One is you’ve got to create the value in the app. And for us, I mean, Calix has done a great job of providing marketing tools for us. There’s the Jerry Dee videos, and there’s the how-to guides and all those things that make it easy for us to put those in our customers’ hands. We kind of went a little bit above and beyond and created our own YK branded videos with our team members on it talking about this is why we recommend CommandIQ. This is what ProtectIQ, ExperienceIQ. Those are on our YouTube channel. They’re on our web page for the pages that talk about those different edge revenue suites. But just really take the time to explain, this is why you need it. This is why it creates a better experience for you. The other piece of advice I’d give is don’t be afraid to do some of the incentives and the contests around it. You know, do some promos around for everybody who downloads the app in the month of November, we’re going to do a free month of – we’ll draw a name and do a free month of Internet service. So, you know, I’m not one on being super gimmicky, but at the same time, you know, that’s all you need to get some people to go ahead and click download and get that set up. So, you know, and I guess I should have said Andy it’s really easy for us in the beginning because we rolled out the GigaSpire at the same time, but there are still some challenges getting catching those that did have that equipment before we deployed CommandIQ. And that’s where we just really try to drive home that value of the app. And like I said a few little incentives here and there help as well.

Andy Johns: Always helps. Well, it’s been really cool to see your story and the story of YK. I remember the first episode that we recorded with you guys. You were knocking down a wall that was literally in the building between the TV side, I think, and the Internet side. And now you guys are winning awards for that customer experience and all that. So it’s really cool to see how far you guys have come. And I appreciate you coming on to share the story.

Russell Kacer: Thanks, Andy. We’re proud of it. We like to talk about it and like to share it with others.

Andy Johns: He is Russell Kacer, the president of YK Communications in Texas. I’m your host, Andy Johns with Pioneer. And until we talk again, keep telling your story.

Outro: StoryConnect is produced by Pioneer Utility Resources, a communications cooperative that is built to share your story. StoryConnect is engineered by Lucas Smith of Lucky Sound Studio.