Improving the operational efficiencies of today’s increasingly sophisticated and complex networks requires not only a whole new tool set, but also a different mindset, agreed the panelists during a Wednesday’s Cable Show session called Keeping Shop: Best Practices for Operational Efficiency and Proficiency session.

“The challenge is to support all of the platforms, not just send out bills. With more Wi-Fi in the homes and more services, we are now layering on apps, providing technicians with tablets and using in-day routing systems. With tablets pushing dispatch and routing, it’s made us more efficient,” said Paul Cronin, SVP of customer experience for Cox Communications.

Many of the improved efficiencies can be attributed to savvy workforce management systems and real-time technician training, the panelists concurred.

“The level of training is the key. We focus on SCTE levels of certification and supervisors. We want them in the field more often to spend time with new technicians. And workforce management has really helped. We integrated it into our billing system and it has become very efficient,” explained Terry Cordova, SVP and CTO at Suddenlink Communications.

With efficiency the operative word, workforce management is the go-to strategy for the vast majority of service providers, and not just the major players.

“Workforce management really helped with our dispatching and has allowed greater technician flexibility. We’re finding new opportunities to handle workforce management via dispatch, and by adding GPS systems we’ve not only provided a tool to increase efficiency, but it saved us a half-million dollars in fuel costs,” said Ed Pardini, SVP of the national field operations group for Mediacom Communications.

Yet it’s what happens in the field that counts, and just how technicians interact with both the customer and home office. Each panelist agreed that when technicians are properly trained and armed with the right tools, efficiency rates climb.

“Our technicians are taking the time to make sure everything is working. If it’s not, the problem is resolved the same day. With real time information, there’s no hiding,” Pardini noted.

With the flood of new, complex services now in many homes, network transparency has taken on an even higher priority, Cronin said.

“The new reality is that new, complex systems take time and greater visibility into the network and equipment is the new reality. If you try and squeeze the technicians, it will result in trouble calls.”

At the end of the day, concluded Pardini, it’s all about tech training.

“The learning curve is steep, but today’s technicians are very quick learners. The amount of information we’ve asked them to absorb in the past five years has been amazing.”