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Rewarding switching over loyalty

A fast marketing engine.

It took about 8 weeks for the marketing department at Charter Communications to catch-up with my decision to cut the cable TV cord. Considering the size of Charter, I’m impressed with the turn around time to add me to the prospective customer list mailings. New subscriptions are up for Charter and the company is doing well in spite of serious market pressures from alternative forms of media content and broadband services. But wait, what just happened here?

Rewarding switching and quitting over loyalty.

The offer that marketers make to prospective customers for reduced rate services during the first 12 months of service continues to add friction for customer loyalty. Consider the madness. I received an offer in the mailer equivalent to the pricing I had with Charter before I cancelled my service. When Charter notified me that my special pricing was over and that my rates were increasing I called to cancel service. During that call, no one tried to retain my business. 20+ years of cable service loyalty gone in a flash.

 

Cable and cellular providers are judged by Wall Street on the metric of number of new subscribers. So we are left with a system where the guy who has paid for cable service for 20+ years is paying a higher rate than the guy who just switched from somewhere else. We have a system where a customer can quit and then wait 8 weeks to be offered a better rate of service than he had when he was an existing customer.

Who is the winner?

The winner is the guy who quits the game altogether or jumps from one provider to another. But this isn’t how companies known for customer service do business is it? This isn’t what they teach in MBA class. This type of behaviour isn’t even really logical either. What customer likes to be treated like this?

“Profit in business comes from repeat customers; customers that boast about your product and service, and that bring friends with them.” ~ W. Edwards Deming

There has to be a better system. What say you?

Onward and upward!

Roku Streaming Stick

I had a television content problem.

Charter Communications went to a digital only network a few months ago and started requiring set top digital converters to unscramble program content. I’m not bashing Charter in this post for their decision, but when they did this, the two small TVs in my basement became unusable. I have a wall mounted TV in a workout room another one in a game room. Both have a cable coax drop next to them. But I don’t use them enough to warrant paying $20/month for two set top boxes and they don’t have a place to mount a set top box unless I created a stand or somehow mounted them on the back of the TV.

In a perfect world, I would not have cable TV service at all. I previously wrote about my obsession with dropping cable TV and cable TV online alternatives. But I also don’t want to create a family revolt. For right now, it simply is what it is.

HD Antenna Trials.

I tried a couple of different HD antennas for local programming and because I could mount the antenna behind the TV. I’m about 35 miles away from many of the major network broadcast antennas. The antennas provided limited success. The problem is that both of my TVs are in a basement and not near a window. Even with a power booster, the reception was spotty at best.

Enter Roku Streaming Stick.

My next thought was to buy a Chromecast HDMI stick to put in the TVs and then simulcast from a tablet near the TV. That would work for some content and provide an alternative to cable. As fate would have it though, when my wife was shopping at a local retailer they didn’t carry Chromecast. They had a Roku streaming stick and after some preliminary research we decided to give it a try.Roku_Streaming_Stick-20

The Roku streaming model was a closer fit for what I wanted. In the Roku system the device streams content directly to the connected screen and not as a simulcast. Since my display device is a wall mounted TV, I didn’t want to have to bring a tablet with me to view the content.

Roku Experience.

The installation of the Roku was simple. Plug the stick into a HDMI slot and the AC adapter to wall for power. Then change the source on the TV to HDMI and follow the onscreen setup. The process asks questions about language and wifi connectivity. Once configured an installation key is displayed on the screen with a URL and you simply go to a website to register the device.

After installation, the Roku menu presents applications much like a phone or tablet. There is a base set of applications or you can add more through the on screen Roku menu or via a computer hooked to your account.

Roku solved my television content problem.

It streams Netflix. It streams news channels with clips of recent news. It streams ESPN with live sports. It streams live music through Pandora. Let’s just say it has options. There are over 1000 app channels. Some of the channels do require separate subscriptions (like Netflix), but the Roku service is a one-time fee for the price of the stick. There is no recurring fee for the roku service. This is the type of solution I was looking for on those basement TVs that don’t get used everyday.

Oh and it still fits within my dreams to dump cable TV service. One day I’ll get there!

Charter Communications Loyalty Discount Letter

Well this is something you don’t see every day.
I received a letter this month from my cable and internet service provider Charter Communications. As I opened the letter I suspected it was notification of a rate increase or programming changes. But to my surprise, the letter informed me that Charter was providing a $17 discount off their standard service rates for another 12 months.

Last year, after more than 12 years of service with Charter,  I called and price shopped them against satellite providers. Charter put me on a 12 month promotional rate which lowered my monthly bill considerably. This loyalty letter informed me that my 12 promotional rate had ended, but that they were providing another 12 months of discount.

I’ll say this about Charter Service.
I know many people are in a love/hate relationship with their communications providers. I’ve listened to a few of my friends talk about their dislike for Charter. But I’ve also heard other friends talk about bad experiences with Dish, DirecTV, and Comcast. The reason? A monthly communications bill is pricey, so people expect to have the service run flawlessly.

My experience over the years with Charter has been good. I’ve used them for television and internet services for over 12 years and have not had any major disruptions in service. I had an issue one year when I moved to a new house and converted to my own cable modem. It turned out the signal strength was too strong from a signal boost device I installed. The Charter technicians showed-up on time and attempted to solve the problem to the best of their abilities.

More recently a near-by lightning strike took out the DVR unit. Charter was onsite the next morning to replace the unit.

Loyalty discount feels nice.
It feels nice to look at my monthly invoice and see a line item for loyalty discount. I think it’s a great move from a company to reward customers for the longevity of their continuous service. This makes me not even want to investigate 12 month teaser rates from other providers. Maybe that’s a lesson for Charter or at least input into what feels like a marketing experiment to improve customer retention rates.

I wish my mobile phone provider would do something like this!