I live in New York's Hudson Valley region. While we were in the path of the recent blizzard that dumped more than 3 feet of snow across Long Island and parts of New England, our area was relatively spared with just a foot of snow that accumulated. We also lost power and our landline phone, cable, and Internet service, all of which are provided in a bundled service from Cablevision Corp.'s Optimum division. The outages brought a dismal reminder of a much lengthier outage we experienced in late October when Superstorm Sandy rumbled through the Northeast. But in another respect, Optimum's response during and after the blizzard was quite heartening and refreshing.Optimum sent us an email early on the morning of February 9 to apologize for the service disruption we were experiencing and how they planned to send us updates on service restoration as they became available. I didn't see this first email right away since we didn't even have WiFi available for my smartphone. However, I did see the first email and a subsequent follow up email from Optimum after our service was restored later that morning. The second email also apologized for the service disruption and provided us links if we needed to reset our Optimum Online modem or digital cable boxes or if we had additional questions for technical support. We also received a recorded apology from Optimum on our answering service.
As it turns out, we didn't need to reset any of our devices. All of the services returned without requiring technical assistance.
As Peppers & Rogers Group founding partners Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D. often discuss, it's imperative for businesses to build trust with customers today if they hope to retain or attract them in today's hyper-competitive environment. Customers have become empowered by their increasing use of smartphones and social media channels. With so many companies and channels to choose from for different products and services, loyalty can easily be strained.
Still, earning customer trust goes beyond demonstrating good intent and competence, argue Peppers and Rogers. Companies must also proactively protect their customers' interests. This can be demonstrated by warning a customer if they are about to make a mistake (e.g. Amazon alerting a customer if they're about to order a book or CD they'd previously ordered through them).
Proactive service, loosely defined, also includes reaching out to customers with forethought regarding their anticipated needs. This would include the actions taken by Optimum following its service outage. Instead of simply gushing apologies, Optimum offered its customers assistance with resetting their equipment. The company anticipated what its customers' needs might be and responded in kind.
It appears that Cablevision gets it. According to Forrester Research's 2012 Customer Experience Index in which it canvassed more than 7,600 consumers about their experiences with 160 brands across 13 industries, five companies saw double-digit gains in their customer experience scores between 2011 and 2012. Cablevision is one of those five companies, with double-digit growth generated by its ISP division (13 point gain) and cable TV service (10 points). By comparison, all but two of the 16 brands that earned very poor ratings by consumers polled by Forrester were health insurance plans, TV service providers, and ISPs.
Quite honestly, this most recent Optimum service outage, which was relatively brief, didn't have a dramatic impact on my ability to continue working or on our family's entertainment needs. But it meant something to me to have Optimum reach out to us proactively to let us know what was going on and the steps they were taking to address the outage. It also speaks to recognizing customers' feelings of vulnerability during a powerful storm like this and providing them with some level of reassurance that actions were being taken to address their interests.
As proactive trustworthiness continues to grow in importance in the customer-company relationship, let's hope to see other companies across different industries follow suit.