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The Cable Show 2014: Changing Media Habits Complicate Customer Service

Serving customers as they use multiple devices to access video is making life complicated for cable operators.

At a panel at The Cable Show Wednesday afternoon called “Meet the New Consumer: Insights and Strategies for a Changing Media Marketplace," executives talked about the way new viewer behaviors are affecting customer service.

"It’s kind of a conundrum. We want to support the customer any way we can,” said Kristin Dolan, COO of Cablevision Systems. The company offers managed routers to its customers better enabling Cablevision to provide diagnostic support. “We can tell the customer that the fourth iPad hooked onto the router might not be getting the signal it needs.”

But an operator can only provide services up to a certain point. One installer helped a customer by installing their Xbox and even hanging a bracket for the TV. “Please don’t do that again,” Dolan said, noting that “every extra minute in the home leads to a staffing model that leads to higher expenses.”

Dolan said operators need to find ways to “facilitate customers getting the rest of the help they need, but not at your expense.”

“How do you keep up with innovation around devices and apps and content?” asked Andrew Goldberg, VP of strategic planning and analysis at Cox Communications. “One thing we try not to do is get head of our ability to support them. Just helping consumer navigate content is hard enough."

“This evolution in the amount of content has grown so fast, much faster than the tools we give consumers to navigate through all of it,” said Sam Schwartz, chief business development officer of Comcast Cable. “We feel like we’re catching up with X1.”

Michael Quigley, VP of business development and multiplatform distribution at Turner Broadcasting, said, he’s tired of hearing people say there’s nothing on TV.  “We’ve got to make sure you can find it, even at 2:17 when you can’t sleep. Getting it to you easier and more quickly is the goal,” he said.

In order to help its best customers find content Cox has created Contour, which includes a recommendation engine. “People enjoying that feature are watching a broader range of content, seven more channels a month,” Goldberg said. “When we harness this reservoir of 300 plus channels and expose them and prioritize them and recommend them, people are able to find them faster.”

While navigation could be improved consumption of video continues to rise.

“This is a more video centric-society. It’s hard to extrapolate and say we see a plateau. Each year growth takes our breath away,” said Quigley. He pointed to the March Madness of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament which ran up record ratings on TV and tremendous growth on digital platforms.

“The more content we give consumers to consume and the more ways we equip them to do it, we still have not really disrupted the linear experience,” Goldberg said. “Consumers have all these choices yet linear TV has been stable. The pie for video consumption is growing over all. We have yet to find the saturation point for video. That bodes well for us in the industry.”