Time Warner Cable (TWC) recently committed themselves to improving the customer experience through a variety of steps. For this we can thank competition. But the jury is out about whether they can actually change. To succeed in this journey (long overdue based on the ACSI benchmark) TWC (and others) must get certain aspects of their change program right or face the ire (and further defection) of their customer base.
So here is free advice on the areas in which they must succeed:
- Understand the problem – What elements of the customer life-cycle create the most customer angst? TWC must realize that the list of potential issues is large (e.g. billing, installation, customer service, etc.) and they must focus on the areas which have the largest impact.
- Identify the goals – Knowing the problem is important but knowing how those problems impact the goals is more important. For example, customers may be upset with billing but it may not cause them to terminate service. On the other hand, and if their letter to customers is any clue, customer service may be the chief irritant. If the cable service fails often and unexpectedly, and TWC is unable to marshal a timely and professional response, customers may defect. Since these defections are costly, the goal might be to reduce customer churn by some percentage within the first 90 days.
- Marshal support across multiple constituencies such as customers, employees, shareholders – Customers will support this without a question but with some degree of skepticism. To succeed, TWC must convince shareholders to accept subpar financial performance while they make needed investments in both time and money. TWC employees, especially those on the receiving end of customer rants, will welcome this announcement. But if TWC fails to invest employees will quickly understand that they will bear the brunt of improvements alone. (It’s the old story of “no more vacation until morale improves.”)
- Set the right expectations and find early wins – The danger in making pronouncements like this is that there is a time lag between (1) saying you are going to change, (2) changing, and (3) the changes being noticeable by customers. So TWC will do themselves a favor by setting realistic expectations and finding quick and visible changes.
- Stay the course and make a long-term investment – Early and easy wins are followed by the hard work. TWC will need to continue their investments in people, process, and technology even as shareholders complain and customers churn off their network. The results don’t and won’t occur overnight as this article from HBR reflects.
- Develop trust by communicating success and failure – In all of this TWC can help themselves by keeping the communication channels open. The opening gambit of publicly announcing the change is positive. Backing that announcement up with periodic (quarterly at least) updates in a similarly public way will help engender trust with their constituencies. And they need to confess failures and short-comings. CEOs love to give good news. Having the honesty to give bad news will help establish credibility.
Clearly TWC must do even more work out of the public eye and behind the scenes. The pivot point for TWC will be to ensure that this very promising announcement is followed by positive results, or at least honest communication.