Cable s Rapid Reinvention

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1 Achieving Differentiation in a New Competitive Landscape Mark Syp, Group Vice President, Major Cable and Telco Accounts, Maritz abstract The lines are blurred. The cable industry has moved into a new, converged broadband services market against larger and often better-funded competitors. New competitors include satellite, wireless and wireline telecommunications providers all of whom are now vying for market share in TV, voice and/or data services. With cable s flagship TV service offering now at its lowest household penetration since 1990 i, it is imperative that cable companies continue to formulate strategies to better attract and retain customers. While strategies may vary across the sector, most are directly aimed at the same basic business requirements: Increasing ARPU (average revenue per user) Reducing customer churn and increasing customer retention Leveraging customer service as a competitive advantage Driving cost efficiencies Building a more educated sales force Attracting and retaining quality employees In this document, Mark Syp provides two options for cable multiple system operators (MSO s) to consider as they look to differentiate themselves in this highly competitive marketplace. The first option explores best practices that drive sales, while the second outlines concepts that improve service quality to retain and grow customers.

2 60.9% Cable 28.4% Alternate Systems 10.7% Other Shifting paradigms. New competitors. A complete industry transformation. All of these have hit the cable industry headon in just a few short years. Someone changed the channel on the remote control of the cable industry. In very short order, the cable and telecommunications providers found themselves in the same comprehensive and complex industry, competing for the same customers. Today, new competitors have captured 28.4 percent of the paid TV market causing cable company share to fall to just 60.9 percent of US households - it s lowest level since 1990 ii. Recent research indicates that competitor product differentiation and marketing is responsible for 39 percent of this shift iii. However, a much larger 54 percent of cable customer attrition is reported as a negative experience with an existing cable provider iv. Put simply, cable companies are losing far more customers on their own than their competitors are taking from them. 54% Negative Experience 39% Better Service 7% Other As a result, cable multiple system operators (MSO s) are struggling to become more efficient, more effective and more innovative to defend their share in this highly competitive marketplace. They re consolidating their operations, expanding their offerings, forming new partnerships and battling telecommunications giants to deliver a full suite, or tripleplay, of television, voice and data services to each customer. And while these opportunities present great potential for the cable industry, they also place many new demands for sales and service on cable company employees from understanding the new products and services to effectively selling and servicing the customer. Unfortunately, cable MSO s already have a reputation for less-than-ideal sales and service. In fact, the 2008 Contact Center Satisfaction Index score for cable TV placed the industry at the bottom of the list and above only the airlines. Changing this perception will be challenging. However, cable MSO leaders understand the need to improve both sales and service processes and many are already laying the groundwork for change. Yet, in order to create the right processes, it is imperative that cable MSO leaders first grapple with what is contributing to their current state. Each operator will have differences, but most can begin by better understanding the needs and expectations of both their employees and their customers. When Worlds Collide Employees and customers live in completely separate worlds, yet these worlds do not exist in isolation. The key moments of truth when customers and employees interact have the power to define or redefine the quality of the relationship and the measure of loyalty between customer and employee. These potential interactions are numerous, but examples include: Information Gathering: Where the customer is presented with a brand expectation and/or promise Ordering: Where the customer interacts with the company s sales force Installation & Set-up: Where the customer interacts with the installer in the home Upgrade & Service Changes: Where the customer interacts with customer care personnel Billing & Dispute Resolution: Where the customer interacts with accounting and billing personnel Customer Service: Where the customer interacts with sales and service employees Repair Service: Where the customer interacts with technicians in the home At any of these moments, employees represent the brand. Whether their role rests in sales or service processes, these individuals and their actions and capabilities determine the success or failure of the cable MSO. As employees or partners, their day-to-day lives are spent on the front lines, connecting with customers. Being good isn t enough; they need to be inspired and prepared in order to guarantee the addition and retention of customers.

3 Through working with these employees and partners, customers experience and judge the brand. Most know that they can choose between various companies for their specific broadband needs, and they spend little time considering their service until something goes wrong. If their MSO fails to deliver a customer experience that s consistent with their brand promise, they ll risk churning a customer or losing a potential sale. Unfortunately, many customer-employee interactions are set up to fail. Research indicates that 68 percent of the time, telecommunications customers that defect due to service point to employee attitude as the primary culprit vi. Making matters even worse, 74 percent of those who had a negative service experience with their telecommunications provider told at least one other person vii. Put simply, if employees are having a bad day, so too will the customers they touch.

4 So what can cable MSO s do to win more and lose fewer customers during these key moments of truth? How can they maximize the overall experience and achieve lasting differentiation? The first step is to operate from a framework that addresses both sales and service through separate but interlinked processes: a sales process built on a strong foundation of hiring, developing and retaining talent that is aligned to customer needs; and a service process based on understanding, enabling and motivating employees around a common brand service mission. Driving Revenue: Optimizing the Sales Process Cable companies can create sustainable sales growth when they hire, develop, and retain key sales talent and align that talent around what the customer values HIRE Retain Customers DEVELOP INTEGRATE RETAIN MOTIVATE ALIGN ENABLE UNDERSTAND Aquire Customers Driving Retention: Optimizing the Customer Experience Cable companies can build lasting customer relationships when they deliver a superior service experience through engaged and empowered employees Fortunately, by getting it right, next-generation cable MSO s can enjoy significant benefits over their competition, including: Increasing ARPU (average revenue per user) Reducing customer churn and increasing customer retention Leveraging customer service as a competitive advantage Driving cost efficiencies Building a more educated sales force Attracting and retaining quality employees

5 Optimizing the Sales Process MSO s are faced with many short-term challenges of driving sales performance. Maximizing ARPU through bundling is a key objective and can be accomplished only through an effective sales force of direct representatives, supervisors, managers, call center personnel and installers. While not a one-size-fits-all approach, the following four activities can provide a strong foundation for sales effectiveness: Hiring practices; training and reinforcement; sales coaching and incentives and recognition. Each of these must be balanced with the integration of customer and employee perspectives. Hiring Practices A great way to drive sales effectiveness from the start is to recruit and hire the right people. The traits which are most important for your successful sales people can be determined by your customers and by analyzing the strengths of your top performers. Competency models should reflect and understand the drivers of these important traits. The goal is to both hire sales people from whom your customers will want to buy and provide management with tools for maximizing their performance. Training and Reinforcement Getting sales people acclimated and productive can be highly challenging. Research shows that 62 percent of organizations take at least seven months to integrate a new sales person viii. Cable MSO s do not have the luxury of several months and need their sales people delivering results as quickly as possible. Therefore, training programs must be optimized to help drive more immediate performance. By building training programs around customer and employee research, cable MSO s can drive the performance of rookies, core employees and the MVPs. Sales Coaching Coaching is a vital component in driving sales effectiveness. According to a recent study, sales representatives receiving three hours per month of coaching exceeded their selling goals by seven percent, increased revenue by 25 percent and increased deal size by 70 percent. The same research also concluded that calls per representative increased by a healthy 76 percent among top performers, and by 261 percent in the core ix. Coaches should provide questions, not answers, to create a self-directed learning environment, where sales people can develop their problem-solving capabilities. It is important to put the right people in coaching positions those who have the right mix of leadership skills and product knowledge and then equip them with the right skills to be effective coaches. Incentives and Recognition A self-funding, non-cash incentive program grounded in incremental improvement can often provide the needed motivation that will drive increased sales performance. To motivate sales teams, it is important to adopt an approach that will address the needs and drive performance among top performers, the core and new hires. Top-Performer Programs Top performers will always be self-motivated and will deliver results. The primary goal is to retain this group. Therefore, it is highly recommended to incorporate feedback from those who are likely to be rewarded when designing incentive and recognition programs for this audience. Exhibit: Moving the Middle Core and New Hires Core and new-hire sales people need something different to feel motivated enough to change their behavior and deliver improved performance. More than three-fourths of participants are not motivated by top-performer programs because they don t perceive an opportunity to win x. The answer is a Moving the Middle approach that creates opportunities for everyone to earn and will drive the greatest performance among this group (See Exhibit above). Because this group is disproportionately large, even slight improvements in performance will drive substantial business results.

6 Integrating the Customer and Employee Perspectives The best hiring, training, coaching and motivation strategies can be wasted if they are not aligned with both the internal and external environments. Any MSO should spend time informing these strategies with ongoing customer and employee data. Customers can tell the MSO what traits are valued, what skills are relevant and what drives purchases. Likewise, sales employees can provide valuable information about customer needs, process ideas and obstacles to success. Optimizing the Customer Experience Many MSO s face a difficult battle to optimize the customer experience. Yet for those that accept the challenge the rewards can be significant. Not only can improving the experience help to reduce customer churn, but it can also drive revenue through increased product usage. In fact, in a recent study of call center representatives we found that 82 percent of customers who were satisfied with the service they received would listen to additional sales offers xi. Optimizing the customer experience is about understanding what drives results, enabling employees to deliver and motivating them to care. All while engaging them in the brand, the mission and the values that the cable organization wishes to foster. Understand To successfully optimize the customer experience, MSO s should continually listen to what customers are saying about their experiences. Further, to provide a more complete picture, it is also important to listen to employees through comprehensive engagement research. The purpose of integrating both perspectives is to uncover critical gaps between customers desired experiences and what is being delivered today. The customer experience metrics gathered from customer and employee research should then be analyzed to identify specific links to key business results. With the right linkages, cable MSO s can begin to focus on specific employee behaviors that drive business results and develop a service mission for the organization. Enable With action items identified, cable MSO s will be ready to engage their front-line employees as owners of the customer experience. This can be accomplished through facilitated learning sessions with on-site employee teams, performance aids for building knowledge and skills, and coaching engagements for leaders. Through these approaches, employees and channel partners can identify the root causes of customer experience breakdown and build plans to bridge the gap. When customer experience solutions transition into broader training initiatives it is important to have a plan which drives knowledge retention. Research indicates that after a learning event, only 13 percent of the information is retained after 30 days, if there is no reinforcement provided to the learner xii. It is important to implement a reinforcement campaign after the initial learning intervention with active reinforcement 24 hours, 7 days, and 30 days after the event. Motivate To ensure ongoing compliance to new customer experience standards, cable MSO s should reward and recognize those involved in delivering the experience whether employees or partners. For example, technicians, customer service reps, customer care reps, and other operational personnel should be rewarded for activities that have the most positive influence on customer experience, such as consistency in first-call resolution, high satisfaction scores associated with installations, etc. Additionally, managers should take the time to recognize anyone they catch doing something right. This after-the-fact recognition can be very empowering to the recipient and can drive repetition of desired behaviors. Rewards can come in many forms, including empowerment, meaningful communication and formal recognition and incentives. Most important is that the reward is meaningful to the individual receiving it. The objective is to motivate to the point where new behaviors become habit.

7 Choosing the right reward options can make all the difference and research indicates that non-cash awards are more effective in driving lasting behavior change. A recent study looked at cash and non-monetary awards. When asked whether I would prefer the cash value of the prize rather than the prize itself, a large majority (78 percent) said that they would prefer the cash. But actual performance differed greatly between those working for cash and those working for a non-cash award of equal market value. Those working for cash improved performance by 14.9 percent, while those working for the non-cash award improved performance by 38.6 percent - a difference of 2.5 times when the value of the incentive remained the same xiii. Integrate In order for employees to deliver against any brand promise of cable MSO s, they must be continually engaged with the brand. This requires creating and communicating a compelling service mission that gives energy and power to the work of customer experience; and provides intent, meaning and direction for all employees and partners. Additionally, it is critical to have both buy-in and alignment of leadership across the organization to support new customer experience initiatives. Organizational silos may independently be working towards improving the customer experience but without purposeful integration, leadership and alignment, it will be difficult to achieve maximum impact through all customer interactions. Conclusion Cable MSO s are at a crossroads. Operating as they have in the past will not be enough in the increasingly competitive marketplace. To achieve true differentiation in the long run, the focus must be turned to optimizing both the sales process and the customer experience. By employing the right strategies, cable MSO s can transform the industry and build credibility with a skeptical customer audience. If you would like more information on how Maritz can help cable MSO s respond to today s business challenges, please contact us at maritz.com or (877) 4 MARITZ.

8 About the Author Mark Syp, Group Vice President, Major Cable and Telco Accounts, Maritz As Group Vice President, Mark Syp is responsible for leading the Maritz sales, strategy and operations teams in the cable and telecommunications sectors. A performance improvement professional, Mark is focused on helping his clients improve the performance of the people most important to their businesses their employees, channel partners and customers. Through 25 years of direct client relationships, Mark has addressed business issues resulting from the original divestiture of the telecommunications industry to the current convergence of the cable, telecommunications and technology sectors. This experience gives Mark an interesting and unique perspective on supporting clients who need to acquire and retain customers, engage employees and grow their overall business. In addition to the cable and telecommunications sectors, Mark has partnered with clients in the pharmaceutical, financial, and consumer sectors. Mark resides in Princeton, New Jersey. END NOTES: i Nielsen Media Research, 2008 ii Nielsen Media Research, 2008 iiimaritz Customer Experience Study, 2006 ivmaritz Customer Experience Study, 2006 vamerican Customer Satisfaction Index Q vi Maritz Customer Experience Study, 2006 vii Maritz Customer Experience Study, 2006 viii Sales Performance Optimization / CSO Insights, 2006 ix Shifting the Performance Curve: Exporting High-Performance Sales Disciplines to the Core, Sales Executive Council, x Maritz Poll, 2004 xi Does Service Sell? The Financial Impact of Customer Service in Call Centers, Maritz Inc., 2008 xii Evaluating Sales Training Programs, OnTarget Research xiii HRO Today Magazine (September 2006) TT-73331

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