The days are long gone when the “hook” for the industry call center “sell” was a premium movie service.
For most operators these days, it's all about the bundle, so Starz Entertainment Group has designed an incentive program to aid customer-service representatives in meeting company objectives while working the premium channel back into the selling mix.
The incentives are not from an era gone by, either. A decade ago, rewards for selling premium channels included such items as logo mugs, shirts or jackets. But Starz has teamed up with Minneapolis-based BI: The Business Improvement Co. to handle fulfillment of premiums the customer-service reps can earn for selling the subscription movie channel under the Starz Rewards program.
Prizes range from small home electronics to skis to a chance to bid with one's selling points in online auctions. Participants can also search by their local ZIP code for tickets to events that may be purchased with their accumulated points.
“As premium revenues get to be a smaller portion of the affiliate picture as part of the triple play, our sale tends to get marginalized,” said Starz senior vice president of affiliate sales and support Debbie Egner. The executive was at HBO decades ago, when “we had huge access to [customer service representatives] with lots of premiums to throw around. Now, it's all about the other products.”
As a result, Starz is taking a more holistic approach to the promotional tools it provides to affiliates, starting with the distributor's business goals (selling the triple play of video, voice and Internet service, as well as high-definition television and digital video recorders) and offering materials that integrate the channel as a means to close that sale.
For instance, a caller inquiring about video service will be asked if they are subscribing to get movies like those offered by Starz. If the answer is yes, the representative uses provided training tools to help sell the customer into a digital tier. Starz Online is used to sell a customer high-speed Internet access.
This is not just a sales promotion tool, Egner emphasized. Eighteen months ago, the premium service began designing e-training, customizable for affiliates, to help educate representatives about the different products they sell and noting methods for incorporating Starz. For instance, Comcast University, the multiple-system operator's online training program, mandates that new hires take the Starz-provided tutorial on how to navigate the on-demand platform, using a virtual remote visualized in the program module, according to Starz.
Operators can't afford to take personnel off the phones for training, they say, so Starz has designed self-help modules, according to Starz director of point of sales Karen Abene. Affiliates dictate the priority messaging in the training, as well as the rewards program's points structure.
The network began promoting the incentive earlier this month at The Cable Show in Las Vegas. One direct-broadcast satellite provider has expressed interest in launching the program. Starz officials also said they are meeting with system executives affiliated with a top-five cable operator that may launch the program in the Southwest.