Update & Checking Interest

The Blog

As you know, this blog has pretty much hit rock bottom lately. I’m hoping to change that with your help. For anyone who is interested in writing tips or articles, please send them to my person e-mail pythonpoole [@] gmail [.] com, as I have not been checking my Scorptek e-mail much recently. I appreciate all of your help, and I would love to be more active here however this is exam month at uni. After April, I will have much more down-time to work on my personal projects including Scorptek.

Scorptek

Some of you have expressed interest in the progress Scorptek is making. Many of you assumed we were ‘way in over our heads’ so to speak to think that we could pull off such a feat and bring our own broadband DSL, digital phone and alarm monitoring services to the continental U.S.A. and parts of Canada. Well I’m here to re-confirm our original intention to become a start-up in this market, and we have made some nice progress lately.

Through our research however, we have found that the one thing that really holds Telcos and ISPs back is providing customer support. Support is very costly, especially if you have to offer over-the-phone support. To give you an idea, if you outsource your technical support to another company, you’ll probably be paying a minimum of $1 per minute! A 20 minute phone call could cost you 3-4 months of losses for that customer. If you think that’s bad, having your own in-house call centre is often even more expensive.

Dealing with the problem

So, how do we plan to deal with this problem? How can we keep our prices low and actively compete in the market while still maintaining a high quality customer support service? Well we have developed a business plan that includes many strategies to take care of this.

Firstly, we will strongly encourage all customers purchase our ‘Linkbox’. The LinkBox is an all-in-one device that acts as a business grade Wireless 4 port router and also has 2 broadband Quality of Service enabled phone ports (for either phone or alarm monitoring). By doing this we help eliminate problems users may have with third-party equipment which in turn makes solving problems much easier and it will streamline the connection so that the phone service can run at land-line quality with QoS. Customers can also bring their own equipment however support for those customers may be limited.

Secondly, we will develop a sophisticated ‘intelligence’, or rather an ‘automated assistant’ that will help you diagnose and solve most problems. Unlike a typical FAQ that usually don’t help, the system is designed to take care of 80-90% of issues concerned with technical support, billing, accounts etc. This will greatly reduce the load on our support agents and users will be strongly encouraged to use the assistant before requesting support.

Thirdly, this is a great idea I came up with for handling support. There are two main questions that need to be answered.

A) How do we cover the cost of support without any big losses?
B) How do we get a bunch of volunteer or affordable support agents?

This is how:

For our support agents, we are looking for young and eager students like you guys between ages 16-24 who have lots of experience and knowledge in the area of computers, troubleshooting DSL services and it’s a bonus if you’ve also worked with VoIP or digital phone systems and/or alarm systems and monitoring.

You would be a volunteer agent trying to gain work experience.. however for every support incident (e.g. chat session, ticket, phone call), you would receive a generous donation towards your student education fund for college/university!

When customers contact support, certain support options like live phone support will have an incident fee (e.g. $3.99 per call). That fee is donated directly to your college fund which can be used to pay tuition fees, books, supplies and other educational items such as a new notebook computer. Considering that about 90% of support calls are less than 10 minutes, you could potentially earn $1/minute for your college fund. If someone keeps you on the phone for longer than 20 minutes, you can ask them to contact escalated support or keep on the line and get another $4.

What we have found is that many customers are willing to pay for premium support services when they realize 100% of the cost is being donated straight to a good cause, a future education for someone, and it’s not just a way for the company to rip them off.

The result

What is the result of all this?
– Greatly reduced support incidents
– Support service that costs very little to operate
– Way to keep costs low (for customers) and still provide great customer care and support

Interested?

If you are interested in our future work-experience volunteer agent program, here is some information for you:

– You have the potential of earning $10-35 per hour towards your college education fund
– You can work from home (anywhere in the world), we provide the software and hardware to get you started
– Training program and comprehensive support database equips you for anything customers can throw at you (not literally of course!)
– Speaking English as your first or as a preferred language is strongly recommended, bonus points for those who can also speak French or Spanish
– Extremely flexible hours, work when you want to, it could be an hour a day or 10 hours a day. Whenever you are available.
– Play games or do homework while on duty, we are not picky, just don’t have distractions when you are dealing with a support incident
– You must be a current student to apply, and you must have a separate bank account or college fund for your donations to be deposited into
– Earn a certificate after 6 and 12 months stating that you volunteered as a support agent for us for work-experience. This is great to put on your Resume/CV and to show on your college applications

How much can I earn towards my college fund?

Per e-mail ticket: About $1
Per chat session: About $2
Per phone session: About $3

What can I use the money for?
– College/University fees and tuition
– College books and misc. expenses (e.g. car parking at college)
– Living expenses (rent, residence fees, food/groceries, utilities, etc.)
– Educational/Academic supplies including purchases like notebook computers, printers, academic software etc.

If you are interested let us know in the comments below. I think this is a great way for students to earn money for college and you’ve gotta be honest where else have you ever seen such a great deal with so much flexibility. Since you are volunteers and your monetary incentive is entirely paid for by customers, we can afford to have a bunch of students on staff for support from all over the world to provide support all day and night which I think is great. Great for us, great for customers and most importantly great for you to have this opportunity. Let us know what you think.

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24 Responses

  1. I will take phone calls, emails and live chat, please email me at caniac[@]gmvision[.]tv, thanks!

    ps. Good Luck with your projects!

    I know almost anything about running dsl stuff, errors, problems and all. I have installed DSL for people before, and then helped install a wireless network. (Email me and I will tell you about it)

    I have also helped with a few cable TV wiring setup changes, and have scrutinized the workers when they installed my cable 3 years ago.

    I am familiar with multiple windows OS’s, Wireless routers, Ethernet, *some voip* and much more!

    -Caniac

  2. An interesting idea to keep your costs down whilst being able to provide pretty much constant support cover. Providing you can be sure that the quality of support offered will not suffer because of the lack of supervision it sounds like a good choice.

    Is it normal for an ISPs clients to pay $4 for a support call? I certainly wouldn’t even if it was to get help in an area in which I had little knowledge (e.g. other business).

    I do hope you ensure there is sufficient quality control to ensure that support operatives has sufficient knowledge.

    Also seems very strange to be on a supp3ort recruitment drive this early – surely you are not expecting a great deluge of support issues all at once considering, as far as I am aware, your client base is currently nil. Is Sales not the area you should targeting? Just my two cents. Good luck.

  3. @Caniac, thanks for your interest, we will keep you in mind when we get to the point where we need to recruit agents.

    @Phillip, thanks for your comments.

    Of course Quality Control is very important, and we understand the risks involved with passing on such a job to students who are relatively unexperienced in the field.

    All support incidents will be recorded (including phone calls) and will be randomly audited on a periodic basis to ensure we are providing the best support service we can. Agents may also be asked to phone up other agents (pretending to be a customer) and evaluate their performance every so often.

    All our volunteer agents will first need to complete a comprehensive training program that will prepare them to troubleshoot just about any problem and handle unexpected situations.

    We are still refining the costs of the support incidents. Keep in mind that phone support is one of our last (and most expensive) support levels intended to only be used for urgent problems. If the problem is not urgent, our agents can resolve it over e-mail or chat for much less than the phone call.

    Customers will also be able to request ‘Escalated Support’ which is free support provided by management. It is however intended only for situations where normal support service won’t suffice (for very unusual or extereme circumstances or customers who are becoming emotional and need to speak to someone with more authority over the matter).

    If customers are not satisfied with the support they received, they can apply for a refund, and someone from Escalated Support will help resolve their conflict.

    As you noted, sales and marketing is a key part of the business and of course we must focus a lot of our energy there.

    We are still working on this, but we are making progress. We have come up with a few promotional ideas and advertising campaigns we may use. Most of them will be Internet based advertisements, however we are also asking around to get a sense of how much we would need to budget for mainstream media ads.

    The good thing is that most of the cost in ‘real life’ advertisements (e.g. tv, radio, magazines, newspapers, etc.) is actually the production. The cost for actually airing/publishing the ads is not unreasonable, so they are still something to look into.

    Right now though we have to sit down and work out exactly what our budget is for each of our business functions and figure out what gives us the most bang for our buck.

  4. thanks.

    Philip:
    Microsoft charges an arm AND a leg for service. see their site.

  5. @Caniac. The main difference is Microsoft is not a service provider. When you pay for a monthly service, there is a certain expectation that you can contact support relatively easily without it being too costly (under the assumption that a portion of the monthly costs covers support).

    In this case we are still trying to make support accessible to everyone (some services free, others starting at $1 per incident) while making sure we cover the costs and don’t have to end up adding them on to the normal monthly fee. This way we can keep our monthly costs low and be more competitive and those who need support can access it by contributing a small donation to our student agents’ college funds.

  6. Yes.

    Can I still have to donations even if I am not going to college for a few years?

  7. Yes, you can collect donations. However you must be a student at the time you work as a volunteer agent. Also, you must be at least 16 years old, with the assumption being that you will attend college within the next three years.

    Your donations can only be used towards college funds however. Legally, if you do not go to college, you lose all rights to those funds and they will be donated to other agents, you will have to sign a waiver form (with a parent if under 18) stating that you agree to these terms.

    You must also demonstrate that you have a bank account or fund set-up for college for the money to be deposited into, it is preferred if the bank or organization holding the fund agrees to only release the funds upon your verified acceptance into a college/university.

  8. 1. I’m interested in volunteering for this.

    Contact: legocrazy1@yahoo.com

    2. Would this dsl service block various ports? I’ve had so many problems doing any type of port forwarding using my Verizon internet service that it isn’t even funny (literally, I’ve failed every time).

    Once I even tried talking to Verizon about the issue, but the customer support was not very fluent in English, nor was his knowledge base enough to handle this. There website was just as helpful. I’m sure that this support system will be a ton better than what I experienced.

  9. @legocrazy1 thanks for your interest.

    Ultimately our network has to pass through one of the big-carrier networks (realistically it just wouldn’t be possible for us to build our own nation-wide network down to the last mile without billions of $$$$$).

    What this means is, if for example your Scorptek service has to pass through the Verizon network, your data traffic will likely be treated just like any other data on their network, which could also mean blocked ports. This unfortunately is not under our control.

    If you live in an area that overlaps with another network however (e.g. at&t or covad), we may be able to switch your service routing so it goes through their network instead.

    Usually blocked ports are the result of a misconfiguration with the broadband router though (I’m not saying this is the case here).

    We are doing what we can to negotiate a free and open Internet connection as we are a strong supporter of net neutrality. In Canada it looks like (at this point) we will have no blocked ports on our network, however Bell Canada which controls all DSL services in the country is imposing stricter bandwidth caps and priority traffic policies which are not ideal.

  10. Well, I will have to wait till next summer then.
    so, how much of your own lines do you plan to lay, assuming this goes well?

  11. @Caniac: Well our U.S. and Canada operations are a bit different right now.

    In Canada, users will be connected to a private network through Bell’s infrastructure. In the U.S., users will be connected directly through the big-carrier network that services their area. At this point we won’t be laying cables in the U.S., however we may consider bringing fibre (or ‘fiber’) straight to some homes in a few years depending on how successful everything is.

    We are also probably going to revise our support pricing a bit (and we hope this doesn’t discourage any of the volunteers). Phillip is probably right that a $3.99 price tag is a bit on the pricey side for a service provider (even though it is a donation).

    We are probably going to aim for:
    $0.99 per e-mail/ticket incident
    $1.99 per live chat incident (recharge @ 20 min)
    $2.99 per live phone incident (recharge @ 20 min)

    We are also considering making the donations for Ticket Support optional, however selected by default. If the customer does not wish to donate, they would be told that their issue may be treated with lower-priority. Volunteers would still be expected to answer these tickets when they have free time and would receive $0.10 donation from us.

  12. Are volunteers also interested in doing house-calls?

    One possibility is to have a house-call service for customers who require a technician to physically set-up everything or fix a problem.

    You would earn $99 towards your college fund for each house call that you make (calls would only be for customers in your area/city less than 25 minutes away). Total call time including commute would probably be less than 1 hour.

    You would be responisble for transportation costs, we would re-imburse you for any additional supplies (cables, line filters) you may require.

    For safety reasons, this option would probably only be available for those 18+, or those 16+ who can bring a friend for assistance (your friend would not receive $99, but would receive half (~$50) if he or she also registered as a volunteer).

  13. Darn I wish I was 16. I am turning 15 in august 😦
    you think you could change it a teeny tiny bit? :p

    so, do you plan to ever have other services in the future also? such as phone, or other…

  14. The age requirement is for several reasons. Mostly it’s a legal thing…in some places, children under the age of 16 need to be granted a special work permit and they work under different legal regulations, we would rather not get into all that hassle.

    It also has to do with the fact that customers may be uncomfortable with their support agent being a 14 year old kid who’s voice perhaps hasn’t even ‘broken’ yet. And there are also other reasons why we have made that decision.

    In regards to our services, as we have said before, we will be at the very least be offering DSL and Phone services. We may also offer alarm monitoring services, and there is a chance we may offer satellite TV services thorugh another company (e.g. a Dish network affiliate).

  15. Yeah, I can understand your concern (yes, my voice has finished “broke”ing. :p)
    Best of luck, I will be back in a year. (I am turning 15 this summer) (I will still visit this site though)

  16. If you need some German dudes just email me. further information i give if i get an email

    I can:

    $0.99 per e-mail/ticket incident
    $1.99 per live chat incident (recharge @ 20 min)

    With phone calls that(i think) wouldn’t work cus ww calls cost more than an call from the internal country…

    i don’t exactly know what the actual currency is from $ to €

    so if you need me email me or chat me(MSN: benny11112007@yahoo.de email and msn are different emails : ) )

    Sorry for my bad English
    My Germen is so much the better ^^

    (I am Webdesigner too!
    If you need something in that direction *blink*
    PHP,CSS,JS,SQL,HTML and Designing is my thing)

  17. Oh and i forgot to mention I am 16 German blackhaired and interesstet in GM and Computer as well as in other CPLanguages

  18. @Benjamin K:

    get a “majicJack” it is a phone line that costs $2 per month and can be used anywhere there is internet.
    http://www.majicjack.com

    good luck
    -Caniac

  19. this works in every country? also i mean
    from every country -> to USA ?

  20. All support agents will be using SEPS (Scorptek Employee Phone System) for support calls. It differs from the normal service by offering advanced PBX features, unmetered calling, call centre services, conferencing, and the ability to dial internal extensions.

    This service is entirely payed for by us and works over your broadband Internet connection.

    We will not allow Magic Jack to be used for support calls. @Benjamin, Magic Jack is U.S. only (includes U.S. number + calls to U.S.), but can be used in other countries.

    For our agents, we are looking for students who’s primary or preferred language is English (with a North American, neutral or mild accent). You may be located outside of North America, just so long as you meet our language requirements.

  21. so these ‘language requirements’ means english is needed xor an preffered language ?

    this means nothing for german dudes ? : |

    i mean i can write english at average but speak is a lil bit to hard cus, in germany we are learning a really stiff accent and i have never speaken to a real foreigner ôo

    //
    sorry if i don’t real understood what you say sorry %D

  22. I’m very interested in working this support team. I speak English as my first Language and live in the central United States. You can contact me through the included email in this comment or at: cameron@cameronh.info

    Thanks,
    Cameron

  23. Hello.
    I am very interested in working on the support team.
    My main language is english. I would be able to do live chat, and email sessions, and possibly phone calls depending on the times. I am currently 17 years old.
    I am not sure of payment types but if possible my preferred payment type would be through paypal.
    Thank you,
    Bj,
    VideoHead Studios (http://videoheadstudios.com)

  24. Hello.
    I am very interested in working on the support team.
    My main language is english. I would be able to do live chat, and email sessions, and possibly phone calls depending on the times. I am currently 17 years old.
    I am not sure of payment types but if possible my preferred payment type would be through paypal.
    Thank you,
    Bj,
    VideoHed Studios (http://videohedstudios.com)

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