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VBS 2021: Customer remains king for cable & broadband industry

Enhancing customer service is key to the success and growth of the industry

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NEW DELHI: In the aftermath of Covid2019, businesses and organisations across the world tried to make sense of what hit them as they weighed their futures against the new lessons that the pandemic taught them, unlearning some of the established tenets in the process. Industry experts largely agree that the television broadcasting, video-on-demand (VoD) and broadband ecosystem had it relatively better off with their customers homebound and skyrocketing demands for connectivity and content. However, swift technological evolution and even swifter changes in consumer behaviour and demands posed challenges on this front too.

And these challenges are what the seventeenth edition of the Video and Broadband Summit attempted to shine a light on. The insightful discussions during the summit rounded off with a session focusing on ‘Customer First’ moderated by PwC India Partner Raman Kalra. The panelists included some eminent names from the industry, such as JioFiber president Anuj Jain, Siti Networks DGM Strategy Anurag Nigam, UCN Cable Network head – operations Debashish Mohanty, GTPL Hathway vice president Yatin Gupta and Shemaroo entertainment COO - broadcasting business Sandeep Gupta.

Kalra opened the session by commenting about how customers today are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing content to consume, with mushrooming VoD and OTT platforms and ever increasing channels of entertainment. He noted that despite the demands for content and internet broadband having hit the roof during the pandemic, the challenge of remaining relevant is a concern for both the service and content provider in the highly competitive market today. Kalra posed the question on what strategies can be adopted by the industry players so as to ensure they continue to acquire and retain their customer base, keeping in mind the constantly changing customer demands and behaviour.

Jain agreed that “customer first is the fundamental pillar” for their business. He stated three crucial points for the same—

·       How to enable the “right plan” for the customer to get associated with the brand

·       How do you deliver customer onboarding, meeting the promises that you made in the plan

·       Third is “in life” wherein after the customer gets activated, your service has to  perform and if not, you must be aware and able to pinpoint where, when and what went wrong through data analytics. To further make his point Jain shared what is referred to as the ‘death of call center’ set-up wherein the business must know about the disruption in service, before the customer breaks it to them.

Gupta shared insights on the major consumer demand shift in the last twelve-odd months of Covid. “It reflected a huge spike in terms of subscriber base for cable TV which flattened out later. But the broadband business has continued to grow because people are still working from home, kids are still studying from home.”

In order to deal with the impact of consumers’ pressing demands, altered business strategies had to be deployed, shared Mohanty. “In the present scenario customers have multiple demands- linear TV, OTT Content, online classes, work-from-home- everything he needs from a single desktop or device, sometimes. Basically FTH- Fibre-To-Home is the best solution for connectivity at least for the next few years.”

He went on to say, “UCN is doing a QOS (quality of service) survey – on what the customer feels about UCN connectivity quality and bandwidth. As of now we are providing 100 Mbps which we have increased to 300 Mbps with unlimited plans,” and added that with increasing consumer demands, if a business today fails to provide a particular service, then someone else will.

Nigam interjected how nobody could have imagined a year back that the entire India would work from home one day. “All this has forced an average household to stick to the basics, that is focus on the necessities and be frugal for as long as they can,” he said. If this continues for too long, it will impact the industry on multiple levels, whether it’s the broadcaster or a distribution partner.

Citing an instance from MSO consumer behaviour post lockdown, he shared how consumers had become selective while opting for TV packages. “Consumers have downgraded from high value content package to low value package or they have opted for standard definition (SD) DPO pack and topped it with ala carte HD channels, instead of taking an HD package. Why? Because the pricing of SD was lower than HD, this despite having an HDTV at their disposal.” Even multiple TV households were decreasing and hybrid TVs were getting replaced with OTTs during the lockdown.

Debashish took the discussion further by adding that lack of “exclusivity” in HD channel content is a major factor, since the customer is getting similar content on SD at a lower price. “So channel packaging needs to be done as per customer requirement,” he remarked. Entry barrier is also due to the higher pricing, as compared to SD. Only if HD content differs and is exclusive can we see real change, was broadly agreed by all.

Competitiveness has also gotten fiercer, which can adversely impact the revenue of the whole industry in the long run. “Hence it is time that all industry players come up with product differentiation- exploring new customer segments, converting customer service departments into ‘customer experience enhancement’ departments  which can only be achieved if all the stakeholders work together towards a common goal- that’s ensuring customer success,” stated Nigam.

From a content perspective, Shemaroo’s Sandeep Gupta said, “At Shemaroo, content is evaluated based on customer taste. So content has to keep evolving for, at the end of the day, consumers come to us looking for entertainment. For broadcasting, we look into the research and BARC data.”

The discussion then steered to customer acquisition and on what are the leading practices being taken by the industry to ensure it. Jio’s Anuj Jain began by admitting they focused more on delivering on customer expectations and less on marketing. He added that fibre being a cherry picking market and more localised, it’s a different challenge altogether.

When it comes to the cable industry, it is mostly a “one or two sizes fits all” kind of business, admitted GTPL Hathway’s Gupta, with not much being looked into individual customer preferences as long as they get their pack of choice. This situation is slowly changing, the company has begun ‘know your customer’ processes to understand who is the customer first and inform them about the innovative products or services on offer. “We were one of the very few platforms that started a campaign targeted at all DTH players called ‘Chhatri hatao, GTPL lagao’ to remove the Dish and replace with GTPL Hathway subscription, which got a fair amount of response from consumers,” he added.

Knowing your consumer is a part of the process to enhance consumer experience, which also involves proactively handling tech / troubleshooting issues. “With our one million subscriber base, the total data that is collected from every customer per week is one Petabyte of data- which captures every aspect of the customer experience data- any sync issues, freezing, buffering issues etc. This is how we make customers the focus and part of the process,” explained Jain.

Factors like user outreach and bettering their experience goes on to ensure customer stickiness. Brands need to be consistent, facilitate continuity, safeguard connectivity of service and target smooth onboarding experience to achieve this goal, suggested the panelists.

The session concluded by highlighting that there’s a need for businesses to invest deeply in knowing and engaging with their customers. Analysing customers’ content consumption data can also lead to rich dividends and RoI. “Deep data insights and data intelligence can lead to immense possibilities for businesses,” Kalra summed up. In conclusion, enhancing customer service and experience is a key component to the success and growth of every stakeholder in the industry.

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