1st Place: Contact's key to reducing digi-churn


Research indicates that the highest number of downgrades occur within the first three months following digital installation. To mitigate digital churn, Comcast Cable wanted to provide customers with educational opportunities to enhance their understanding of the service and reinforce their purchase decision.

Testing a number of tactics individually and in unison, Comcast found a combination that cost-effectively reduced churn rates vis a vis a control group. For its "Early Life Contact Stream" program, Comcast Cable is being honored as a first-place winner in the CTAM Customer Retention Case Study Competition for operators/distributors.

In determining the objectives for this initiative, the MSO's national senior director of retention marketing Stacy Gordon, and her staff, decided to establish positive communication within the first month of subscribers taking Comcast Digital Cable and to assist their learning about the service. Concurrently, the group wanted to determine the optimal cost per customer for an early communications path that could lower digital churn.

The strategies encompassed testing four contact streams with varying tactics and different touch points to see which would have the greatest impact on crimping churn.

Gordon said that the communication test, occurring within 30 days of install, cut across four systems, each serving between 1,000 and 2,000 customers (which she said were statistically representative of the company.

Conducted between March 25 and June 3 of 2002, the test groups were enrolled in one of four cells. The control cell received installation materials, comprising a checklist of reference items and consumer education info, as well as a national welcome kit presented at the time of installation, which also included various explanatory usage materials.

The second cell received the checklist items and were contacted about five days afterward by phone for a survey that served as a quality-control mechanism, a followup on the installer as well as the previously disseminated information.

The third cell got the installation materials, participated in the post-install survey, and then received a second call, about 15 days later, designed to review features and afford verbal, step-by-step instruction for components that the customer remained unfamiliar with.

For its part, the fourth cell group got installation materials and took the post-install survey. Members of this group did not get the second educational phone call, but Comcast mailed them quick tips on digital on-screen guide features, as well as a 15% discount voucher for Discovery Channel Store merchandise, 21 days after the install.

While Gordon said the first three cell groups showed slight churn amelioration, the tactics deployed for the fourth group resulted in a 10% improvement.

"You need to contact customers early and establish a relationship," said Gordon. "[The program] validated our thinking based on other research we had seen. It was just a question of determining the right combination of tactics to optimize contact with customers."

Gordon deemed the Early Life Contact Stream program a success, as it has been "made available to the field." Under Comcast's organizational structure, local management teams are empowered to deploy programs they believe will perform well in their areas. As such, decisions to utilize this program have been made on a market-by-market basis. Gordon said a number of Comcast managers have adopted the program, adding that others are welcome to call her department to discuss the options that are available.

For what she called "continuing validation" and improvement purposes, Gordon said Comcast remains involved in testing other elements and call-in components.