Walker Anderson, Region Manager of Sales and Marketing, Comcast Cable

By Walker Anderson

A few weeks back, I tried to find a t-shirt with the phrase: “Just unplug it, and plug it back in.”

There seemed to be some odd, geeky, comedy to sporting the world’s most coveted self-help tech tip.  Of course, the industry term is “power-cycling,” and it’s a quick-fix step we routinely take with most of the gear that helps us play and work.

Indeed, it has become second nature for any electronics issue. If I’m hungry, I’ll eat; if my screen freezes up, I’ll power-cycle my device. Customers scoff at service professionals when they recommend it, because it’s widely considered a pre-contact ‘given.’ That said, imagine quantifying the customer service interactions it eliminates for TV providers and customers. Think of how many times you have power-cycled your equipment in the past year. Now imagine that each instance compelled a call center interaction at $1 each. Finally, scale your rough sample against the 95M+ pay TV subscriber industry.

That cocktail napkin-math should illustrate the value of empowering customers to self-resolve. For the telecom industry, a wave of new tools is being deployed to push this opportunity forward for the benefit of everyone.

Cox Communications offers a mobile-friendly web-portal, “COX Support,” that allows customers to navigate guided tutorials and videos for many product issues.  U-verse offers “Ufix,” a similar online resource, and Charter and others offer comparable troubleshooting platforms.  Common capabilities include access to popular product walkthroughs, multimedia to assist content clarity, live chat support and search functionality with exact and subtopic results. Xfinity leverages these tools across multiple platforms under the “My Account” moniker. My Account can be found online, as a stand-alone mobile app and on the X1 Entertainment Operating System as an IPG app. Cox and Xfinity are among providers that have built in real-time system response capabilities, as well. Through them, users have the ability to send refresh signals to their boxes, see estimated resolution time in the event of neighborhood plant work and schedule a customer service call to a convenient time and number.

The only thing standing between these tools and their intended users is awareness that the tools exist.  In other words, service innovation is ahead of adoption rates. For that reason, it is an important moment for customer experience platforms in the industry. ROI on new apps, gear and features is being limited by a gap in customer knowledge. Providers have equal onus to improve ease of use and resolution as they do to roll-out fantastic new products and features.

Self-resolution innovations are not limited to reactive troubleshooting tools. For instance, platforms are being enhanced to expand the types of data they aggregate.  That new performance information is being modeled to guide decisions on real-time and future technology improvements. Additionally, these platforms employ interactive design elements that assist the user in bridging the knowledge gap so that customers can more easily intuit their functions. Industry-leading interactive entertainment platforms and apps use on-screen tips, video tutorials, accessibility components, content multipathing and customized recommendations to ensure a richer customer experience. Examples of this can be found in feature update messages on U-verse welcome screens, in “Tips and Tricks for X1” app on the Xfinity X1 Entertainment Operating System and in a variety of other tactics from an array of providers.

The end result of all of these self-resolution tools is on-demand knowledge and/or resources that can help avoid a professional customer service interaction. From there, fewer performance issues turn into negative experiences, positive swings in customer satisfaction emerge and competitive churn is reduced.

Now that the platforms are out there and evolving, the challenge becomes raising awareness. They may never reach the status of “unplug it and plug it back in,” but they can and will become the first customer troubleshooting step for cable/TV customers.

(Walker Anderson is Region Manager of Sales and Marketing, Comcast Cable. He was named one of Cablefax’s Overachievers Under 30 in 2014.)

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