Cable Operators Employing Preventative Care Maintenance

As the competition for pay TV customers intensifies, keeping existing subscribers satisfied has become even more important — and complicated — for distributors.

But operators are currently swimming in a sea of data, making it difficult create a meaningful proactive plan, according to Ryan Pellet, senior vice president of strategy and service for Nexidia, an Atlanta-based phonetic search technology firm.

Such independent variables as network reliability, customers’ payment history, rate hikes and the competitive landscape affect issues that operators want to address, including downgrades, disconnects and net promoter scores. Complicating matters is the fact that those variables can differ in each market.

A new effort pushed by software companies, called “proactive care,” requires proritizing these independent factors to determine how best to interact with a customer. “Big data can take those variables and determine a proactive action to retain that customer,” Pellet said.

But it can be tricky, Tapan Dandnaik, senior vice president of customer service and financial operations for Mediacom Communications, said. Each market presents its own set of variables, which can vary widely. Big data can sort out how those issues are affecting the company as a whole.

There is no way to completely eliminate the need for customers to contact their service provider, Dandnaik said. So the MSO is trying to make it easy for customers by creating a database that collates touch points including chat, calls and the company’s smartphone app so that if and when a customer calls in, all those contact points and information gleaned from them is readily available to an agent. Customers don’t have to explain their issue again and the agent has all the information at his or her finger tips, which helps resolve the problem quicker and more effectively, Dandnaik said.

Companies like Nexidia and Amdocs have created software that allows operators to track customers’ interactions and then present solutions. Amdocs is working with an unnamed multichannelvideo service provider to launch a project that will initially use big-data techniques to pinpoint variances in customers’ billing and call history in an effort to head off future calls, as well as downgrades or disconnects.

For instance, if a good customer suddenly pays a bill late after consistently paying on time, the operator could reach out with a pitch for an autopay program, Yossi Zohar, marketing director of Amdocs’ customer management division, said. The proactive-care program being deployed by the unnamed operator is designed to examine the last 12 months of the subscriber’s payment history. It then determines if the customer has called the provider over that year, and instructs CSRs to notify the subscriber of any bill variances before he or she calls in. Research has shown that proactively reaching out to customers in this way will deflect ire and improve satisfaction and loyalty.

Because millions of potential combinations of independent variables can affect a dependent variable, prioritization is important, Pellet said. The proactive software can be programmed to detemine which action is required to resolve an issue. Often, resolving matters is as simple as calling a customer before the customer phones the call center. Sometimes, resolution comes in the form of a credit or a service call to a customer’s home before a problem is noticed, he said. And customer-service agents could be given an early heads-up on issues customers might be calling about before those calls start to come in.

As in-home equipment has advanced, Mediacom is increasingly monitoring those boxes and will send customers new units (even if it doesn’t receive a call from a customer) if the company notices repeated problems, Dandnaik said. In other cases, proactive care can mean contacting customers whose promitions are ending and putting them on a stepped-up plan that will soften the blow of a price increase, Dandnaik said. That kind of proactive contact has reduced Mediacom’s churn and increased customer satisfaction in recent years.

Taking care of a system’s network’s reliability is probably the most effective form of proactive care out there, according to Bruce Leichtman, president of Leichtman Research Group. Cable operators have long been monitoring networks and nodes and notifying customers about service issues. He sees the best proactive care as taking care of the network and the system so customers don’t have to call in for any reason.

“If a customer calls in to their system they want the problem resolved,” he said. “The most important thing to them is that system works.”