Open Enrollment | Subscribe to Target Marketing HERE
Connect
Follow us on
Advertisement
 

Cover Story : The Customer's Keepers

With a ramped-up loyalty and retention program, Charter Communications is having positive, measureable churn reduction results

December 2008 By Heather Fletcher
Get the Flash Player to see this rotator.
 

"For any subscription services firm, and cable would be that business model, churn is always, always an issue," Doolittle says. "So while the economy might be impacting the rate of churn, our tactics are generally fairly robust, just because of the nature of the business. We have 12 million subscribers in the footprint, and about half of those are customers. And in any given month, they are choosing whether or not they're going to continue their service with us."

Charter seems to be holding its own, according to industry judges. In August, JPMorgan analysts characterized Charter's subscriber "loss stabilization," or churn reduction, as a bright spot in the company's second-quarter performance.

How Charter is doing compared to other cable providers is difficult to independently measure. The industry's overall churn rate is a closely guarded secret—even the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing won't disclose it. Therefore, Charter declined to reveal its churn rate.

Keeping Customers 101
Every customer is subject to leaving on any given day, says Phil Bellaria, Charter's vice president of customer loyalty.

So, Bellaria says, the company approaches retention on three levels:
  • through improving end-to-end customer service, such as increasing network reliability and customer relations (i.e., allowing call-center agents to route customers with service issues through the "same-day service" queue);
  • by marketing methods, including launching "Live It" nationwide in July and continuing trigger-based retention programs;
  • via enhancing brand perception, through the media (i.e., commercials on Charter's cable stations) and speaking to customers regarding Charter's value to them and differentiation from other brands.

"My favorite retention success stories are just the stories I hear from different agents about how they were able to resolve [a] customer's issues and the customer wrote back and said, ‘Thank you so much,'" Bellaria says.

Doolittle adds in the truism that it's more expensive to pull in new customers than it is to keep the old ones. So on the analytics side, Charter maintains two predictive models geared toward divining which households will churn.

The first overlays the following data: demographics; service history, including what customers buy and whether they are amenable to cross-sells and upsells; contact center history regarding customer experience; and engineering data, such as how many service outages the household endured.

The second model sounds simple: It looks at how long the customer has been a subscriber, as longer-term customers tend to be more stable.
"We've been able to pretty effectively push analytics into our direct response marketing tactics, primarily direct mail, outbound telemarketing and online," Belle Isle says. "And what we want to also do is push that same type of insight to our contact center. So as people call in, in response to a direct mail piece or an e-mail offer, the call-center representatives are enabled with the same customer insight for that transaction as we have when we're trying to decide what to mail and who to mail or who to call or what offer to place in an e-mail, to really guide that interaction."

Meanwhile, even though Doolittle says some subscribers are considering disconnecting or downgrading service because of the volatile economy, Bellaria adds that most customers are staying put.

"On the retention side, we haven't seen much of an impact from the worsening economy," he says. "I think in a situation like this, a lot of people kind of hunker down and cut out discretionary spending. But, therefore, things like Internet access and savings through your telephone service and entertainment through your cable TV service become even more important. I'd say we have seen impacts on the margin, but not as much from a retention perspective."

A Closer Look
"A real key to retention is to offer good service to the customer and then to also overlay that with some retention programs that help keep the customer around longer," Doolittle says.

Belle Isle says any given month, Charter has at least four loyalty and retention plans in full swing. The mainstays are "Live It" and trigger-based programs, such as "Double Trouble" and promotion roll-offs.

Just three months into the "Live It" program, 162,000 customers joined. Belle Isle predicts more than 200,000 will sign up for rewards by year's end, and as many as 450,000 will be living it up by the close of 2009.

"Double Trouble" customers get extra attention because they've made two service calls in 60 days, with a Charter truck needing to visit their homes at least once. Depending on the month, this group has between 3,500 and 5,000 customers in it, Belle Isle says.

Bellaria says that after Charter makes the repairs, it works on repairing the relationship. Subscribers particularly respond to the Hallmark apology card. "I think customers just appreciate the honesty," Bellaria says of the program that began in 2006.

The final example, subscribers who are nearing the end of a Charter promotional deal, tend to number around 50,000 a month, Belle Isle says. The company then works with customers to see if they prefer downgrading their service or continuing their current service levels with the standard service rates. Also, Doolittle adds, Charter offers longer-term promotions like the two-year, "Triple Play" option of bundled cable television, Internet and telephone service in one, lower bill.

"I think that the most important thing is that Charter is really on the leading edge of loyalty and retention marketing in the cable industry," Belle Isle opines. "And we're doing that, not for its own sake, but because we recognize that we need to provide extra value to our customers and that we need to really strengthen the relationship in a two-way manner. Kind of create the conversation ... really drive an actual relationship with our customers."

That Personal Touch
At times, it may seem like Charter marketing executives are taking their retention and loyalty responsibilities home with them. That's probably because they are.

Bellaria says Charter's "Good Neighbor Policy" is an aspect of brand differentiation that employees take to heart. Charter is a local company that is locally active, unlike many other competitors, he says.

Still, it's a little surprising to hear that Doolittle, Charter's vice president of marketing science, would personally handle a customer complaint. One of his mother's friends called him, upset because Charter hadn't given her an instruction manual for her DVR. "So I went to the local office near our headquarters and got that DVR instruction manual and mailed it to her to help keep her as a customer," he says, laughing. "Sometimes it's something as small as the instruction manual. Sometimes it's a bigger issue."

Belle Isle says his responsibility is his next-door neighbor: "I get calls every couple weeks: ‘The cursor's not moving on my laptop.' We're all ambassadors, I guess."
 

Companies Mentioned:

SPONSORED CONTENT

MORE ON DATABASE, LISTS AND CRM >>

FROM THE BOOKSTORE

<i>The Business of Database Marketing</i> covers all the bases for the typical business reader.  It even includes a catalog of the 37 “Best Practices” and a roundup of some of the major “Dos and Don’ts” in making business sense of the world of database marketing.  It will be the one easy-to-read and easy-to-understand guide for putting database marketing and customer relationship management to productive use for every business. The Business of Database Marketing

The Business of Database Marketing covers all the bases for the typical business reader. It even includes a catalog of the 37 “Best Practices” and a roundup of some of the major “Dos and Don’ts” in making business sense of the world of database marketing. It will be the one...

ORDER NOW

 

SPONSORED CONTENT

MORE ON MARKETING STRATEGY >>

FROM THE BOOKSTORE

PDF FORMAT

<i>"Despite news to the contrary — especially from the social media space — reports of the death of email are greatly exaggerated. In fact, as your inboxes most likely show, email is growing and becoming even more sophisticated."</i> -- from <i>The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing</i> 

It's true. Email marketing is still going strong, and continues to be one of the most important factors in any marketing campaign. 

From the first six months of 2010 to the first six months of 2011 alone, there was a nearly 21 percent increase in email volume! The average number of emails received per day in the first six months of 2010 was 472, and during the first six months of 2011, the daily average increased to 571. Marketers are having success with their email campaigns and using it more and more.

That being the case, your email marketing campaign needs all the attention it can get, and knowing what works and what doesn't is the best way to start. That's where "The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing" comes in. 

The Guide is brought to you by the email marketing experts at DMIQ and their extensive research into one of the largest email campaign archives in the industry. On top of latest trends, it features 19 best practice chapters from today's email marketing thought leaders. You will learn how to create a relevant email program to nurture leads and drive sales, how to best use call-to-action visuals in your emails, and how to use social email to improve marketing effectiveness.

You’ll also learn:

•	Email Marketing Trends in 2011
•	Best Practices in Writing Subject Lines
•	The Strategy (and Tricks) for Improving Open Rate and Response
•	6 Tests to Improve Email Program Results
•	5 Best Practices for the Gangbusting Email Campaign
•	Best Practices for Improving Email Performance
•	6 Ways to Make Your Emails Mobile-Ready
•	Email Branding — The 16 Most Effective Strategies
•	11 Best Creative Practices for B-to-B Email Marketing
•	The Keys to Developing a Successful E-newsletter
•	How to Determine Your Customers’ Email Content Tolerance
•	How Email Marketers Can Optimize the Social Media Opportunity
•	…Just to name a few!

This comprehensive report also offers three in-depth case studies, so you can see practical examples of how these methods worked for real-life businesses. "The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing" is an essential tool for any business that ever sends an email. 

<b><u>100% Money-Back Guarantee</b></u>

Your order is risk-free. If you are not completely delighted with “The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing,” notify us within 30 days for a complete credit or refund, no questions asked.

<u>About DirectMarketingIQ</u>
The Research Division of the Target Marketing Group, DirectMarketingIQ (www.directmarketingiq.com) is the go-to resource for direct marketers. Publishing books, special reports, case study stockpiles and how-to guides, it opens up a new world for those who seek more information, more ideas and more success stories in order to boost their own marketing efforts. DirectMarketingIQ has unparalleled access to direct marketing data - including the world's most complete library of direct mail as well as a growing library of promotional emails across hundreds of categories - and proudly produces content from the most experienced editors and practitioners in the industry.

Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to read The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, which is in PDF format. The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing

PDF FORMAT "Despite news to the contrary — especially from the social media space — reports of the death of email are greatly exaggerated. In fact, as your inboxes most likely show, email is growing and becoming even more sophisticated." -- from The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing It's true....

ORDER NOW

(PDF Download)

Direct mail, email, mobile, social media, video, search ... the marketing landscape can either be a minefield where mistakes can kill campaigns, or a perfectly integrated mix of channels that maximizes the reach of the message and gives a nonprofit the best chance to capture more donor dollars.  

<b>In <i>"The Art & Science of Multichannel Fundraising" </i> from DirectMarketingIQ, the roadmap to that "perfectly integrated mix" is thoroughly laid out in over 130 pages -- <u>it's specifically created (and priced) for nonprofits</u>. </b>
  
First, 9 chapters from leading fundraisers give you the latest best practices in multichannel fundraising, including how to:  

• Choose the right channels for your campaign 
• Develop creative that works across multiple channels 
• Revitalize the direct mail component of your multichannel mix 
• Make sure email plays its increasingly important role perfectly 
• Seamlessly integrate mobile marketing into the fundraising campaign 
• Boost your online strategy with social media 
• Create a multichannel donor renewal campaign 
• Figure out that you're doing right — via testing and results measurement 
• Use all the pieces of the multichannel puzzle  

Second, in 8 robust case studies, find out the secrets behind multichannel fundraising campaigns that worked.

About DirectMarketingIQ
The Research Division of the Target Marketing Group, DirectMarketingIQ (www.directmarketingiq.com) is the marketers’ go-to resource. Publishing books, special reports, case studies and how-to-guides, it opens up a new world to those who seek more information, more ideas and more success stories in order to boost their own marketing efforts. DirectMarketingIQ has unparalleled access to direct marketing data – including the world’s most complete library of direct mail as well as a massive library of promotional emails across hundreds of categories – and producly produces content from the most experienced editors and practitioners in the industry.

<b>Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to read , The Art & Science of Multichannel Fundraising which is in PDF format.</b> The Art & Science of Multichannel Fundraising

(PDF Download) Direct mail, email, mobile, social media, video, search ... the marketing landscape can either be a minefield where mistakes can kill campaigns, or a perfectly integrated mix of channels that maximizes the reach of the message and gives a nonprofit the best chance to capture more donor dollars....

ORDER NOW

 

COMMENTS

Click here to leave a comment...
Comment *
Most Recent Comments: