Cable Tightens Customer Service Windows

The days of waiting around for hours for the cable guy to show up is quickly vanishing as cable operators increasingly implement one-hour – and in the case of Mediacom Communications  half-hour – arrival windows.

Time Warner Cable should have all its service calls on a one-hour arrival schedule by June, according to John Keib, the MSO’s chief care and technical operations officer. Disconnects aren’t included in that, he noted, but all other service call arrival windows are being scheduled in one-hour blocks. The company has invested heavily in workforce management systems on the backend and tech training on the front end to implement this program, Keib said. But the investment has been worth it. “We see this as just another piece of customer service,” he said.

That was also the goal at Mediacom when it devised its 30-minute arrival windows last year, said Tapan Dandnaik, senior vice president of customer service and financial operations. At this point, about 25% of Mediacom’s service calls are scheduled with 30-minute arrival windows. The goal, Dandnaik said, is to reach 80%. It’s unlikely the number will reach 100% anytime soon, however, due to the rural nature of many Mediacom systems. It just takes too long to drive from one call to another despite real-time scheduling and staffing.

TWC didn’t add any staff to launch its one-hour-window service calls, which began rolling out last year. Instead, new and more accurate expectations were implemented in scheduling service calls. At the same time, the MSO has gotten better about communicating with its customers about its service calls including sending email and text reminders, and allowing customers to reschedule if they aren’t there for some reason. It’s also better communicating how long the service call will take creating a more realistic expectation for customers.

Not only is the policy making its customers happier, it’s reducing other costs and operational time-sucks. At TWC, customer calls into call center inquiring about their service call have dropped 20%, Keib said.

One-hour appointments are really all about giving customers what they want, said Jana Henthorn, senior vice president of academic and industry outreach for The Cable Center. Customers like the idea but they really like the idea of flexibility and things like first-call resolution more satisfying.

Of course, the Holy Grail for operators – and customers – lies with on-demand scheduling. MSOs are regularly adding night and weekend appointments, something customers have wanted for some time. And that flexibility could end up being more important for customers than one-hour windows, both Keib and Dandnaik said.

It was certainly important to Eric Sherman, a long-time cable and entertainment executive who chose to keep his Optimum service from Cablevision Systems after the operator promised to install his service on the day he was moving into his new house. FiOS wasn’t able to fit him in for two weeks.

“It the deciding factor in my decision to stay with Cablevision,” Sherman said, “and it was the smoothest install I’ve ever experienced. It was a three-hour window but they called in advance to tell me they were coming. Cablevision has always had exemplary customer service and when I tested the market, they beat FiOS hands down on installation, price and flexibility. They made it easy for me to stay with them.”