By Autumn Ladouceur, Silo’s Web & Social Media Coordinator
A day in the life of a Silo Field Technician involves a great deal of critical thinking, decision making, customer service and care. It takes someone with a questioning mind and a love for the outdoors!
I had the privilege of observing a normal day in the life of Silo’s most senior technician, Brad Axford.
Our day started with getting equipment prepared. Brad stocked up his van, making sure there was enough for all the appointments on his calendar, and extra in case he was assigned other appointments as the day went on.
“Some appointments will require stock that we don’t usually carry so we always look at our appointments before we leave,” he explained.
Before leaving for the day, Brad went through his appointments carefully, reading through the notes, assessing the situations he was going to face and planning for the day. Through this process he determined things like what methods he might use to diagnose a service issue or which technologies and towers a new customer might get the best signal from.
Brad explained that it’s always helpful to have a plan but that part of what makes the job so interesting is the unpredictability.
“You don’t know exactly what you’re going to find when you get to a customer’s home,” he said.
Our first appointment of the day was a “site survey” on Weir Rd. in Brantford. A site survey refers to an appointment where the technician is testing for a serviceable signal.
Without having to look at the tower map, Brad knew what towers were near because he’d done so many appointments in the area.
“This property is near Silo’s Lynden tower,” he said.
He still consulted the tower map to make sure he’d thought of every option. He also consulted the “tower master list” to confirm what technology is available on each tower, and what direction the equipment on each tower is facing.
Even though a site survey can be completed when a customer is not home, Brad likes to start by knocking on the customer’s door to see if they’re home, introduce himself if they are, and explain what he’ll be doing.
“Good morning! We’re here from Silo to test and see if we can provide an Internet connection to your home,” Brad said confidently when the customer answered the door.
Once he had made sure the customer was comfortable and understood the tests he would be performing, Brad explained to me that the best place to test for a signal is from the highest point on the property – in this case it was the peak of the customer’s roof.
Brad goes out of his way to be mindful of the customers property. He was careful not to scratch the customer’s home when setting up his ladder.
Next, he prepared a cable long enough to reach the roof, and plugged it into a router in his van. Because we were at a home with lots of trees, he decided to first test in the 900MHz frequency band using one of the newer technology platforms called Cambium 450i. band because he knows that it’s the best at penetrating through trees. With the cable and wireless receiver in hand, Brad proceeded to climb to the roof and start testing.
When a home is surrounded by leafless trees sometimes the technician will often suggest a “spring retest” because, even if a customer can get a signal in the winter when all the leaves are gone, they may lose that signal in the spring and summer when the foliage is harder to penetrate through.
After trying all the possible technologies our first site survey sadly resulted in no available signal. When a technician is left with no options they call into Silo’s tech support line to see if they can suggest anything the technician may have missed. Brad called and spoke with Rick who told him our best bet is to wait until there’s an upgrade on a nearby tower that might result in a signal for this customer in the future.
The last thing Brad did was add his notes to the customer’s file so that the next customer service rep, tech support rep, or returning technician will know where Brad left off.
Our second appointment was an upgrade in Jerseyville. An upgrade simply refers to an appointment where we replace old technology with new. This customer wanted to upgrade because she was having issues with her connection.
He informed me that because we would be moving them to a different tower, this will involve installing the installation of equipment in a new mounting location, including drilling holes and running cables. He told me he will be confirming the customer is okay with the changes, and asking the customer where their router will be placed and in turn where their cables will run.
“People want cable to run into their living room these days because many people use their Internet to watch TV. Others would like the cables to run into their home office where their computer would be. It depends on the customer’s priority. After we know that, we will figure out how to run a cable from point A to point B as inconspicuously as possible,” he said.
But before all that, Brad explains that it’s important to test the signal first to make sure the customer can get a connection before we even think about drilling holes in their home.
At this time in our day, we had finished our booked appointments. Brad called around to other technicians to see if he could help them with any of their appointments. He also called into the office to see if there was anything he might be able to take on. He spoke with Trevor who told him he could take two service calls in Onondaga, and a business service call in Cambridge area. Brad accepted and we made our way to Onondaga.
Our third appointment of the day was our first service call in Onondaga. Service calls are appointments where the technician is troubleshooting a connection issue.
We drove up and met a friendly chocolate lab called Quantum who was lounging on the front lawn. Brad knocked on the door.
“Hi there. We’re here from Silo to help get your connection back up and running,” Brad explained to the customer who lead us to their power adapter in the basement.
Brad plugged the power adapter into his tablet via an Ethernet cable, made a quick change to the frequency, and immediately solved the issue.
The customer had a few questions about his WiFi and how to set up an extra router in his home and Brad kindly obliged taking his time to answer the customer’s questions.
Our second service call in Onondaga and forth appointment of the day went very similarly.
Brad knocked on the customer’s door and we were plugged in and had the customer’s issue solved in under five minutes. The customer had some questions about a Netflix issue he was having but was interrupted by his firefighter’s radio and had to go. Brad offered him his personal phone number and said to call anytime with questions. The customer was very appreciative.
The fifth and last appointment of the day was our business service call. As you might guess, a “business service call” is simply fixing a connection issue at a business. Brad’s plan was to upgrade this family-owned business to the aforementioned Cambium 450 technology and see if it might do the trick.
Brad tested the new technology and sure enough got a way better signal.
He replaced the old equipment with the new, first replacing the old receiver which was fastened to the front of the family’s home. He then replaced the power adapter in the basement to one that matches the new technology. He made notes in the customers file, associated the new equipment to the customer’s IP address and tested the performance which was very much improved!
He told the family that they could now reconnect their devices and that they should be seeing better speeds.
Brad told me that this is one of his favourite parts of the job.
“I really like helping people.”