2nd Place Winner: Seasonal Plan Keeps Vacationers Connected

Looking to maintain the best high-speed Internet experience for its customers and to roll back churn among vacationers, Cox Communications tested a "Seasonal Saver Plan" in Phoenix last year.

This option program enabled customers to maintain an active account while being away from their primary residence for extended periods. It also kept Cox High-Speed Internet customers connected to the company's revenue rolls, and away from the costs associated with disconnecting and reconnecting procedures. For those efforts, the program, which is being adopted company-wide, earned a second-place award in CTAM's Customer Retention Case Study Competition for operators/distributors.

The program's roots trace back to customer interaction. "It really started with word of mouth, talking with customers," said Winston Warrior, Cox corporate product manager for high-speed Internet. "A lot of people leave their homes for a month or more each year. We realized we needed to figure out travel patterns and be flexible."

Warrior said Cox chose that Arizona city as the test market, owing to its strong migration patterns: "There's a real reverse commute in Phoenix because it gets so hot there."

In January 2002, a team was formed with members from corporate and the Phoenix system to discuss the idea of implementing a "seasonal tier" for the CHSI service. After several planning sessions, tests with various configurations files and modem models, the Seasonal Saver trial began in Phoenix in late March 2002 and ran through November of that year.

Several weeks into the trial, 220 customers had signed up for the plan. By mid-September that total had grown to 730. More importantly, these gains were achieved without direct marketing or expense. The customers were calling to disconnect their CHSI service, but the local CSRs were able to sell them on the plan and keep them from churning.

For $9.95 per month, versus the usual price point of $39.95, CHSI customers can access their extant e-mail addresses and check mail via Cox WebMail, keep their personal WebSpace updated and active, and modify account changes in members services, via support.cox.net.

All but 20 of the aforementioned customers proactively called Cox when they returned home and with the help of attendant customer-account reports were moved to their regular speeds/rates.

"It's a seamless program. They call us and there are no truck rolls. People like to stay in touch, keep their e-mail access," explainedWarrior. "We were very pleased."

The MSO was so pleased, in fact, that it's moving toward making "Seasonal Saver Plan by Cox" a corporate program.

Warrior said the number of customers enrolled in the plan has already increased significantly. However, he believes its growth curve is poised to accelerate.

"Once we get all the CSRs accustomed to the program and working through the process, we think it will be even bigger," he said. In particular, Warrior anticipates a push with an as-yet untapped market — students.