What interested me was Mr. Kent’s focus on making customer service a strategic business growth strategy. This isn’t your typical “plain vanilla” service of “make customers happy so you receive fewer grumpy calls.” While obviously fewer calls, fewer truck rolls, and lower support costs are important for service providers, for SuddenLink, exceptional customer service is translating into growth. Suddenlink is ranked at the very top of US cable operators for its annual revenue growth and free cash flow (a major financial yardstick). They are focused on providing the best product, in terms of Internet speed and exemplary services. This enables the company to increase average revenue per user (ARPU). And there lies the old tried-and-true business secret — happy customers buy more.
It was refreshing to see a top executive emphasize the importance of customer service. Not long ago, most cable operators were ranked miserably low in customer satisfaction surveys. Today, the cable industry is catching up, with great strides.
Another example was a recent video interview with Neil Smit, CEO of Comcast Cable. Yes, I paid attention to that too — it is Comcast, after all! Mr. Smit also stressed his company’s strategic focus on customer services, arguing “it is absolutely not right for a customer to wait for a whole day for an appointment to install a service.” Ha, I had to wait for six hours before my service technician showed up from my own service provider — whose name shall remain anonymous. Mr. Smit also revealed that Comcast has reached the point where customers now complete about 50% of service installs via a self-install process. One has to applaud technology and innovation that was put into good use, such as in this case, to make an easy install process that results in less hassle and more services for consumers.
I couldn’t help but think about the business that I’m in. We provide software technology tools to enable service providers to provide this kind of seamless services. For me, it’s true that the better services that we provide to our customers (service provider), the more business we get. As the number of service providers in the world is finite, it’s therefore even more critical for me to focus on customer service for my strategic growth.
So now I’m learning from my customers. And I think you can too — improve what you are offering your customers and you may just find that you increase ARPU and subscriber growth.