Cable Technology Feature Article
Upgrade your Cable TV Base - Move 'em or Lose 'em
By Bob Wallace, Founder, Fast Forward Thinking LLC
For cablecos pulling out all the stops to retain subscribers, moving them up to the latest and greatest features and functionality is arguably as important as TV Everywhere strategies, especially in the conspicuous absence of customer reward/loyalty programs in the cable sector.
Why you ask? Because the legions of cableco TV customers have likely been with their provider since the provider got in the game. As a result, they likely use old gear with older features, minimal software smarts and primitive core capabilities such as alpha-numeric search and program guides.
Why aren’t these current customers current on what their provider is offering today? Often these longtime customers are being relentlessly pitched triple play packages and only use – and want - one or two services. Often they are not eligible for deals aimed at customer acquisition. Or upgrade opportunities haven’t been “explained” to them properly in cableco’s direct mail pieces and TV ads.
And while it’s not that common to have a six year old car or TV or smartphone, it’s fairly common to have a set top box that age or far older.
Apples to Oranges
Stay with me here. Longtime customers with old everything get pitched by telco TV providers gigantic and small and satellite providers (to a lesser extent) all showing off their latest and greatest goods and deals. By comparison to the old stuff, the brand new stuff is a shock and awe. Deal closed without even an apples- to-apples comparison.
It does seem odd, as car buyers with a 2008 Ford Explorer will likely look at the 2014 model at upgrade time before looking at competing SUVs. However, TV customers are less aware than car buyers/leasers than what their operator’s latest is, if they are eligible for it and are used to an outdated TV experience.
Image via Shutterstock
And if they are in a longtime cable TV only area and competition comes to town resulting in many folks on the street jumping to the new provider, a customer might assume whatever the new provider has is superior and is worth a change. And they may not to do, or know, what due diligence is when it comes to what their cableco’s shiny new whatever is.
All traditional TV providers need improvement when it comes to customer education. That’s the core of the upgrade challenge. Stop wasting time and money turning off consumers with attack-like ads that bash the competition for having a smaller video-on-demand library or dial-up like Internet access.
Take all those resources and apply them to create a wireless provider-like upgrade program – only better – that moves customers with older gear to newer gear. Notify customer directly (and individually) that they are eligible for an upgrade and briefly explain the benefits in terms the masses can understand regardless of demographic. Don’t wait for customers to come to you to see if they are eligible as the wireless guys have done and still do. Nonetheless, you don’t see a ton of folks with clamshell phones today do you?
Make the benefits compared to what they have clear and any fees/charges clear up front, not for them to discover on their first invoice. Throwing in some form of “reward” of their loyalty and business would be a super idea. Instead of a providing a feature free that customers will be billed for later, throw in a gift card, or a consumer electronics device like an iPad Mini (part of Comcast’s (News - Alert) latest deal) that helps drive multiscreen viewing.
The Biggest Decision
Once you’ve notified customers of their upgrade eligibility, the cable company is presented with a difficult decision. Does it take the logistically and financially-challenged approach or doing truck rolls to each residence to swap out the box and educate customers on all the new and improved features or does it request upgraders to visit their local cable provider facility to swap the box and have them do a self-install? There are folks that are consumer electronics tech savvy and many more whose VCRs would still be flashing 12:00 if they were still in use.
This is an especially huge decision for a cable innovator such as Comcast, who has been building features in the network (cloud) as opposed to them being resident in the box. Their cloud DVR is one example. The more change from old to newest, the more the customer will need assistance.
The benefit of a truck roll for the upgrade is that the tech or techs are in the customer residence and have a captive audience that they can educate on everything new and improved. The obvious downside is the cost and time of having these resources used for this purpose.
Sending user manual material or even leaving it behind after an install is ok, but showing is better than telling and cableco techs know the products, services and features (and apps) cold.
The Bottom Line
Since every profit and loss business is about the bottom line, cablecos and their business partners need to run the numbers (if they haven’t already) to determine if this upgrade undertaking would be justifiable. It’s tough to put a price tag (News - Alert) on having a direct relationship with customers in an industry where that is sorely lacking.
But positive word of mouth spreads like wildfire among satisfied customer. The advice here would seem to be for cablecos to “lock” them in as happy, still-loyal customers, or be locked out if/when they switch to the competition.
While retro is king with fashion, automobiles and movies, nothing old is never new again in cable TV.
Edited by Maurice Nagle