The top nine cable MSOs have funded a study to find the best way to structure an industry-wide customer-move referral program, executives said during a recent Cable & Telecommunications for Marketing teleseminar.
After the trade group was called in to help facilitate an industry discussion on the move program, the MSOs last month hired consultants, said CTAM senior vice president of marketing Seth Morrison. Those consultants are expected to deliver a proposed plan for the program — which cable marketers have dubbed "MoveCo" — sometime in June.
The idea of an industry-wide move program has been kicked around marketing circles for the past two years, but has gained real traction over the past six months, said Cox Communications Inc. vice president of marketing Joe Rooney.
"This is definitely a 2002 project," Rooney said. "This will happen this year."
Customers who disconnect cable service during a move are six times more likely to buy a direct-broadcast satellite dish than at any other time, Rooney told the CTAM tele-seminar audience.
WHY IT'S NEEDED
Last week, he detailed some of the reasons why cable customers who are moving are so susceptible to churn. For one, consumers who move from one region of the country to another may not have a relationship with the cable operator that serves their new neighborhood.
And providers of other services — such as local telephone companies — may market DBS to new residents before the local cable company gets the chance to make its pitch.
The typical reluctance to spend money on DBS equipment can fly out the window during the turmoil of a move, Rooney also suggested.
"When you move, you're spending a lot of money," he said. "If you're spending $1,500 on curtains, what's $100 for a dish?"
While marketing executives from the top MSOs are leading the MoveCo cause, they've also enlisted the help of their operations teams, said Morrison.
"You can't make it work without operations, IT [information technology] and legal," he said.
The cable operators must find a way to motivate customer-service representatives to collect customer data for the move program and to transfer calls with limited hold time.
"Any plan we put into place has to address quality of service," Morrison said.
Because different MSOs use a variety of customer billing and database software, the MoveCo program would need to integrate those systems — or at least allow them to communicate with each other.
Lawyers are involved to make sure companies don't violate any antitrust rules while collaborating on the project.
Morrison said the consultants are looking at whether they can use Cable Television Laboratories Inc.'s Go2broadband service-locator platform that allows retailers to determine which cable operators offer high-speed Internet service in different geographic areas.
The MSOs have not yet committed to funding the MoveCo program beyond the discovery phase.
"We don't know what it will cost to fund this" until a plan is in place, said Rooney.
Once the consultants unveil their initial proposal, Morrison predicted there would be a period of negotiations among the MSOs as they air their individual concerns.
And after the program moves past the proposal stage, MoveCo will also offer its services to smaller cable operators, Morrison said. The more ubiquitous the participation among cable operators, the more effective the program, he said.
Even after an industry-wide move program is put in place, MSOs may still want to partner with other move programs outside the industry. Cox would not rule out working with programs unique to a region, or with nationwide Web sites that handle moves, such as getconnected.com, makethemove.com and movingcentral.com, said Rooney.