Broadband Communities

JUL 2014

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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8 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | JULY 2014 PROVIDER PERSPECTIVE Toddler Left Alone for Three Days Quake Shakes Crowded Stadium A headline is meant to shock and pull readers into a story with a tantalizing, catchy, gripping message. But what about this one? Customers Still Unhappy With Pay TV, Internet Providers Yes, that's a recent (and unshocking) headline about the annual review of the telecom market by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). It's hardly attention-grabbing because the annual survey fndings have become predictable. If this were a sports page headline, it might as well be LeBron Leads Team in Scoring Again or Home Run Slugger Suspected of Taking Steroids . Tis year, ACSI found that average customer satisfaction with pay-TV providers dropped by 4.4 percentage points after peaking last year at 68 (out of 100). Every provider experienced a drop, including satellite, cable and fber providers. Teir highest-scoring measurement? "Picture quality" with an 83. At least they spent some of the industry's $100 billion capital investment to make one improvement. It gets worse. American consumers don't like their Internet providers, either, and rated them 3.1 percentage-points lower than last year. In fact, cable companies receive lower scores for their Internet service than for their pay-TV products. After pay-TV providers allocated so many resources in recent years to upgrade HD channel selection, roll out cloud- based products, improve plant performance and increase broadband speeds, why are they still receiving such dismal evaluations? Shouldn't all that investment drive some gains? To be fair, there are two reasons these customer satisfaction scores are hard to change. One is rapid rate increases, which drive increases in customer expectations. Te second challenge is the reputation Big Cable built over the past 20 years, which has been difcult to break. Cable companies' answer to the reputation problem has been to create new brands – XFINITY, Maxx, Optimum, Spectrum and so forth. "Maybe our customers will think we are someone else," they speculate. CHANGING THE STORY Beyond the predictable headline about poor customer satisfaction, the actual story is quite interesting. It's worth the time to read this news story if you are a PCO or an ISP that competes with Big Cable because it ofers a roadmap for diferentiating your product. Te lowest metric for both pay-TV and Internet service is "call center satisfaction," and this metric dropped even lower this year. Why is this? Many customers report reps' lack of empathy and inability to help, as well as long hold times and poor policies. For ISPs, the call centers were rated 58, one of the worst ACSI scores across all industries. Cable's response to those underwhelming scores is to discourage customers from calling. One CEO recently announced that his company received 20 million fewer calls last year. Is that because his subscribers were sending emails to disconnect their service rather than calling? Tis makes call centers and help desks a core area of opportunity for independent operators hoping to outperform their competition. Providers should consider adding resources – more head count, more talent, better training, longer hours and so forth – to this area of their operations. Tis is a great way to diferentiate, and property managers and customers will notice. Another area of opportunity is Internet performance during peak hours, which dropped 4 percentage points this year and garners one of the lowest ratings in the study. Once again, smart PCOs and ISPs that target the MDU market can predict and anticipate data trafc patterns based on the profles of the residents they serve, and they can shape their bandwidth around volume during peak times. Tis is clearly an area that customers will notice. I recognize that customer satisfaction may be measured a bit diferently in the MDU world than in the single- family environment. MDU operators have to consider such additional elements as on-site staf support, response times around higher churn and product communication skills. Tese are key metrics as well. However, Big Cable competitors have given the independents openings to outplay them in several areas. And that's the real headline of this story. Consider these metrics to be great opportunities to drive your own customer satisfaction scores up, well above the traditional TV and Internet guys. To me, that is very newsworthy and could produce "shocking" results. v Bryan Rader is CEO of Bandwidth Consulting LLC, which assists providers in the multifamily market. You can reach Bryan at or at 636-536-0011. Learn more at Is Bad Customer Service Newsworthy? Independent operators can take advantage of customer dissatisfaction with the majors. By Bryan Rader / Bandwidth Consulting LLC

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