My Turn

Keeping the Customer Happy

8/03/2011 12:48 PM

Could personalized video billing help cable operators make their customers happy? That’s one of the things vendor Amdocs is looking into in relation to its sponsorship of the Cable Center Customer Care Committee (C5 for short).

Lisa Modisette, a vice president in the Amdocs Consulting Division, and Jana Henthorn, senior vice president of academic and industry outreach at the nonprofit educational Cable Center, mentioned video billing — an online video presentation of their current bill and what each charge means — as a possible enhancement of the customer experience. It’s being trialed by an MSO now and the goal is to reduce calls in to the operator.Jana Henthorn

How important is it to cable operators to cut calls in? Neil Smit, head of Comcast’s cable unit, said today a highlight of the second quarter was a 15% reduction in service calls a 9% diminution in repair phone calls. His goal is to reduce service-related truck rolls by 2 million and service related phone calls by 10 million this year versus 2009.

I think no one would disagree with the fact that we have a ways to go,” Henthorn (pictured, r.) said of cable’s customer-service reputation. “Part of the challenge of is that customers are no longer comparing us to other cable companies, they’re comparing us to all other service industries. We’re being compared to Federal Express - and being compared favorably to Delta Airlines. I think we are on the uphill track.”

C5 is working with 25 invited representatives from 11 cable companies on ways to improve that customer experience, through Webinars and in-person meetings. Last year, a customer-service expert from a different package carrier — UPS — came and shared lessons. “That was really well received,” Henthorn said.

Another C5 contribution Henthorn cited was presenting leading-edge research on customer effort, measuring how easy is it for the customer to work with your company. C5 brought in researchers to discuss it a year before the results were presented in the July 2010 Harvard Business Review. (HBR link here, subscription required for full article.)  “Our group had it early and were using to assess their customer-service effort.”

C5 is stepping up its activity, Henthorn said. “This is an active and engaged group,” she said of the participants, co-chaired by Comcast senior VP of customer-care operations Mike DeCandido and Time Warner Cable VP of operations and enterprise customer care, Andy Haines.

More MSOs are having executives focus on the overall customer experience, as opposed to just efficiently solving customer problems, Modisette (pictured, l.) said. “The number of organizations within an MSO that care about the customer experience are increasing,” she added, including commercial as well as residential units.Lisa Modisette of Amdocs

MSOs also “are investing in understanding who the customers are, should there be differentiation of service based on customer value or not,” she said. It’s an extension of the segmentation drilling-down that top operators like Time Warner Cable are already doing.

C5 is starting research on the value of customer retention through the enhanced customer experience — the return on investment, in other words. “We’re trying to deepen it and broaden it out,” Henthorn said.

And enhancing it, with innovations like seeing your cable bill in a video.