Which cable company is better?
Customer satisfaction with the cable TV industry has reached its lowest point in the last seven years, according to data from the (ACSI). Yet, while cable TV’s rates continue to plummet, the cord-cutting alternatives ratings continue to climb.
In fact, many of these companies have customer satisfaction ratings cable companies can only dream about achieving—with Netflix and another popular online retailer and media provider ranking in the 80th percentile, according to the . And while performance numbers for Hulu were not available, its recent announcement of a 50% growth in subscribers since 2014 also hints that they must be doing something right.
Comparison numbers were also not available for Google Fiber, perhaps the most disruptive mover in the Cable/ISP space, but Google has been very successful at marketing its focus on delivering a differentiated customer experience. Alana Karen, Google Fiber’s Director of Service Delivery, intentionally uses to communicate its plan for Google Fiber’s customer service as well as provide updates and examples of positive interactions between Google employees and the customer service team.
So what are the cord-cutting alternatives doing differently than cable?
What You Say and How You Say It Matters
It is interesting to juxtapose the content found on a traditional cable provider’s website with content on the sites of its competitors, like Netflix and Google Fiber. Everything, from the look and feel of the site to the tone or type of content posted, is quite different between a traditional cable company and its new competitors.
For example, Comcast’s customer facing blog, “Comcast Voices, ” focuses heavily on large projects, technical developments, and new product features. These posts are very polished, informative, and formal in tone. They have less to do with customer-centric content and more to do with showcasing Comcast’s achievements.
In contrast, the content posted on and is more casual in nature. The messages are also more customer-centric. For example, Netflix posts monthly rankings of Netflix connection speed by ISP. Google Fiber’s recent blog post includes sample tweets from customers who had positive customer service experiences, and an infographic related to customer service delivery.
These pronounced differences are expected. Traditional cable companies’ histories stretch back to a time when there truly was no competition—their customers had no other alternative. Netflix and Google, on the other hand, emerged in a highly competitive environment. Competition with the “big boys, ” such as cable companies, and for Netflix, even big box stores like Blockbuster, was mandatory for success. To win those customers away, Netflix, Google, and other cable alternatives have focused on the customer experience.
How Consumer Choice Reflects on the Customer Experience
Cable companies have one trait that other content distributors don’t—a lack of competition for traditional cable services. While customers have limited, or no choice in whom their cable provider is, they do have many options for cord-cutting services. A customer signing up for Netflix or Hulu is exercising a clear choice to move away from, or supplement, their cable subscription with another service.
And having a choice matters. In a case where a consumer has selected one service over another (for example, selecting Hulu Plus instead of Netflix), they develop a cognitive bias known as a choice-supportive bias. This bias creates the tendency for consumers to ascribe positive attributes to the option they selected and downplay any faults with the alternative selection.
What can cable companies, or other limited-choice markets, learn from cord-cutting alternatives?
Customers are biased to feel positive about the choices they make, and when those choices align with a specific company, the customer will also feel more positive about the associated company. To replicate an environment where this kind of choice-supportive bias can improve customer perception of a company’s product and services, cable companies and others in limited-choice markets should:
- Create more options and choices for customers.
- Offer a wide variety of attractive plans with clear, differentiated benefits.
- Understand each of your key customer segments and design, at least, two packages for each.
Customers will weigh the options against their lifestyle and preferences and feel satisfied that they had a choice. These choices, and the positive association that comes with them, will then create higher overall customer satisfaction and an improved customer experience.
In addition, companies can use blogs and social media to speak to customers in familiar ways. For example:
- Use real life examples, positive tweets, and infographics to explain benefits to customers.
- Review the lifestyle blogs and websites that appeal to your customers most and communicate to your customers in a similar style and tone.
By implementing these changes—offering more customer-centric content and providing more choices—cable companies and other companies that operate in a limited-choice market, can improve customers’ overall experience and satisfaction.
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