Last week, Comcast unveiled its latest plan for improving its customer service, which includes hiring 5,500 more customer service agents and automatically crediting a subscriber's account $20 if a technician fails to show up for a scheduled visit.These solutions fail to address Comcast's real problem though: A disconnect between customer expectations and Pay TV providers' old-fashioned services.
"As a company, we haven't always put the customer first and we need to do a better job," Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit wrote in an email to Comcast employees. As part of its efforts to retain customers, Comcast has said it will make its subscriber bills more transparent on pricing and is reassessing its policies and fees to remove those that "customers find particularly frustrating."
Comcast isn't the only pay TV provider that is accused of neglecting its customers. Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and the pay TV provider industry as a whole frequently receives low customer satisfaction ratings compared to other industries. And while more transparency into billing systems and shorter wait times can help, Comcast and other pay TV providers must do a lot more to hold on to their customers.
In fact, MoffettNathanson, a research firm that tracks the telecommunications industry, released data earlier this week showing that for the first time, the pay TV industry lost subscribers in the first quarter which is typically a strong period. Even though pay TV cable providers signed up new subscribers at an average rate of 0.5 percent, they lost 33,000 total subscribers across multiple pay TV providers, reported Analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson.
It's not a mystery why people are "cutting the cord" on cable subscriptions when you compare the traditional TV-watching experience to an online streaming one. Instead of having to tune in at a certain time and slog through a program guide, streaming services like Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix let you watch shows on demand on multiple devices with the option to save shows for later and receive recommendations based on your watching history.
Companies like Netflix also make it easier to cancel or put your subscription on hold through self-service, whereas most traditional TV operators insist that you wait to speak with a live agent (who will most likely try to talk you out of cancelling).
Just like other industries that face disruption, traditional TV providers must put customer needs and expectations in the center of their products and services to keep up with their competitors.