Beyond Cable's Tech Obsession

For cable operators, the next step should be about more than just networks, speeds and screens

March 5, 2013

4 Min Read
Beyond Cable's Tech Obsession

LONDON -- Cable Congress 2013 -- Europe's cable sector is on something of a high: In tough economic times the market has grown in terms of revenues, digital TV users and broadband connections. (See Cable Operators Boast Euro Growth.)In many respects that is down to the investments the region's cable players made in upgrading their networks to Docsis 3.0, investing in content delivery mechanisms (and content) and focusing on the most relevant technology choices for their customers' homes and (in some cases) businesses. And what's next? A new generation of home gateways, Docsis 3.1, smarter apps, faster speeds, Wi-Fi integration ... there's certainly no resting on any laurels. But there's a noticeable difference between the cable sector and the telco/mobile market. Talk to people, or listen to a presentation, in the latter market (at Mobile World Congress, for example) and there are a lot of brain cells being taxed on the subject of customer experience, targeted marketing, real-time service quality and business intelligence/analytics. There's a great deal of time and effort going into customer experience management strategies.Today, I sat through a press conference presentation (about 25 minutes, 24 slides, lots of statistics) managed by multiple representatives from industry body Cable Europe. The slides were packed with information, bullet points, technology updates, even a list of European customers likes and dislikes, but there wasn't a single mention of customer care, customer relationships or customer experience.When I questioned why customer experience had not been addressed, I was met with incredulity: In the eyes of the Cable Europe executives, they had been talking almost exclusively about customer experience (faster speeds, greater choice of content and screens, smarter set-top box interfaces, and so on).To be fair, they saw the point I was making and I could see theirs. As a cable customer, I have been happy to see my broadband speeds increasing (and my downstream speeds matching the advertized rates), my TV channel range increasing and my home device functionality evolving, with little in the way of tariff increases. But when something goes wrong and I need assistance, is it quick and easy for me to find out what has gone wrong and where it has gone wrong (is it just me or a broader problem facing multiple customers)? Not really. And why is my cable provider, which has been my triple-play supplier for the past decade, still trying to convince me to become its customer? And when it does send me some generic marketing material, why does it address me only by my initial? Does it know who I am, how I use my services, what might enhance my connected life?Currently, no. And it seems that goes for the sector in general. In Europe, at least, enhanced network and device technology equals better customer experience. It's telling that in the (relatively small) exhibition area at Cable Congress, not a single booth is marketing customer relationship or customer experience-related solutions. (It should be noted that both NetCracker Technology Corp. and Sigma Systems are at the event with OSS offers that promote customer management as part of the benefits.)This, I'd suggest, is where the cable operators need to focus next -- to build on their current technology and service bases. While a number of the cable operator executives speaking in the conference here referenced increasing attention on customer service and customer interfaces, that still appeared to be a reference to enhanced home gateways and the like. What they should be talking about now is gaining a greater understanding of their customers, investing in business intelligence tools that can help them mine the data they hold about their customers, networks and services (and I mean a LOT more than some recommendation engines that will tell me I might like comedy show A because I just set a series record for comedy show B…).There's some evidence that the cable operators in North America are already thinking about this. As noted in Tuesday's cable news roundup, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) is seeking white paper proposals for this year's Cable-Tec Expo, set for Oct. 21-24 in Atlanta, and suggested subtopics include customer care/billing and big data (business intelligence). Maybe Europe's cable sector will follow suit and be talking about more than just technology at Cable Congress 2014.— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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