Live from The Cable Show: Innovating the Customer Experience

Discussing "the new consumer" from l to r: Geoffrey Sands, Moderator (McKinsey), Kristin Dolan (Cablevision), Andrew Goldberg (Cox Communications), Inc.), James Ryan (Liberty Global), Michael Quigley, (Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.), Sam Schwartz (Comcast)

Discussing “the new consumer” from l to r: Geoffrey Sands (McKinsey), Kristin Dolan (Cablevision), Andrew Goldberg (Cox Communications), James Ryan (Liberty Global), Michael Quigley, (Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.), Sam Schwartz (Comcast)

The consumer experience was once again front and center in discussions at the Cable Show today. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler opened with sharp comments about what the new rules for net neutrality will mean for cable broadband providers, promising that the FCC will do everything in their power to protect the consumer, and urging them to think along the same lines as they grow their business.

And the cable companies are indeed thinking about the consumer experience. It drives innovation in all aspects of their business – from video content to broadband and WiFi, to increased momentum towards “TV everywhere”. What is the consumer experience? How can we make it better and easier? These questions were cited again and again as driving key business decisions – and success or failure of each new venture.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler with NCTA Chairman Michael Powell.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler with NCTA Chairman Michael Powell.

Even while discussing advancements and new technology, like new features on Comcast’s X1 platformsmart set-top boxes, and Gigasphere, the new brand for DOCSIS, the question was asked, “when is the consumer’s day in all of this? When will it come together in a way that delights them?” Because looking at the future, it can be easy to forget for a moment where some challenges around the consumer experience stand today.

Pleasing all customers all of the time – which customers expect – isn’t an easy task. As Comcast’s Brian Rogers pointed out, cable providers serve all types of consumers, “from my folks, who don’t want any of these new services, to my kids, who want them all, to everyone in between.” Charter’s Tom Rutledge echoed this sentiment:

“Every imaginable kind of consumer subscribes to our service. So not everyone wants cutting edge, but some do.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the key is to see things from the customer’s perspective. Even understanding how consumers use services – sometimes in unexpected ways – greatly informs the business. During the London Olympics, Comcast’s Sam Schwartz said there was concern that online content would cannibalize primetime ratings, but they actually found that people who consumed online during the day would even watch even more in the evening, so they made everything available during the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and it just drew more audience in.

The same goes for advancements like video on demand – even though many use it, Cablevision’s Kristin Dolan cites that 94% of Americans still watch linear TV. Sometimes it’s just a matter of educating the consumer. Comcast’s Matt Strauss points out that in the beginning, everyone was “afraid to touch the red button” that said ‘on demand’ for fear of being charged – and 30% of households still don’t touch it. He says TV everywhere will likely be the same – just educating consumers and raising awareness about its great value proposition (access to the content they want, when and where they want it) and the fact that it’s part of their package, will likely be a big challenge in and of itself.

One way to raise awareness for new services is to open up services for a while for promotions like Comcast’s Watchathon Weeks, exposing consumers to what’s available, some of which they may already even be paying for but just not using.

Delivering value to customers means not only providing great services, but making sure they’re aware of them, and that they’re easy to use.

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