Comcast Business takes a continuous improvement model to CEM

CEMComcast Business (Nasdaq: CMCSA) may not nearly be the size of AT&T (NYSE: T) or Verizon (NYSE: VZ), or have the multinational business customers, but its aggressive moves to leverage its existing HFC and growing fiber networks for business services makes it a competitive force in the business services arena.

One look at its Q4 2011 and it's clear that the MSO is making continual headway in the business services arena. During the quarter, Comcast reported that business revenue rose 36.8 percent year-over year to $498 million. A big part of that growth is coming from its increased focus on selling a suite fiber-based Ethernet, next-gen voice, and video to both SMBs and a growing set of medium-sized business customers.

But in order to maintain and support the growing complexity of its larger business customer base, the cable operator has adopted the Customer Experience Management (CEM) mindset.

Comcast looks at CEM from two perspectives: First, they look at all of the touch points and the interaction they have with the customers have over the relationship lifecycle. Secondly, they look at how to design the interactions to ensure they are making the desired experience.

Tracy Pitcher, Comcast


"CEM is important to Comcast because we do believe that the customer experience can truly be a differentiator and something that sets you apart from your competition," said Tracy Pitcher, senior vice president, SMB Operations​ for Comcast.

Keeping customers happy
With CEM being part of customer retention, Comcast Business has focused on what it calls a continuous improvement model. This model has enabled the service provider to continually drive down churn every year since it began aggressively launching services in 2007.

"We have spent time not only reviewing the touch points and lifecycle, but also refining our customer segmentation and service models to ensure our customer experience models aligns with what they are expecting form us," Pitcher said. "We're in that alignment stage of building the model to make sure we're aligned with our customer's expectations."

Driving the continuous improvement model is a need to understand each customer's unique identity.

Pitcher said the service provider uses a customer identification tool. This is something that can be used by customer service representatives who interact with the users to illustrate which segments the customers sit in so Comcast can tailor the experience with their expectations.

"You need to know who they are, what products they have, what locations they are in, etc," she said. "Once you have the ability to identify them it also enables you to track and report the interactions, and reporting and tracking those interactions becomes part of this ability to find moments of success that can be repeated and gaps of process that need to be addressed."

After being lured to call up for service, customers interact with Comcast Business through various touch points. These include everything from sales, service delivery, and eventually the technician who comes to the premise to install the equipment to get the service hooked up. And if that customer has an installation issue or billing question, they'll talk to another member in the organization.

"We really looked at the whole lifecycle to say how every one of those pieces is creating an experience and what that should look like for that customer," Pitcher said.

Unlike the traditional telcos, one of the advantages that Comcast Business has is that it has no legacy T1 service base to cannibalize.

And while Pitcher can't point to a specific statistic, she concedes that customers that have "been with us for a long time do have a propensity to stay and they get to participate and receive and learn about new products and services to fulfill their needs."

Supporting diverse needs 
Given the diverse nature of each customer, Pitcher said that understanding their identities is essential to knowing how to serve them. 

"Customers vary based on the number of locations they have, the geographic dispersion of those locations, the product mix, and even the operational complexity to support those products," she said. "All of those things come together to refine and improve the experience."

Initially serving the SMB customer, Comcast has continually scaled up into serving larger multisite customers through a series of acquisition and organic initiatives like the launch of its Ethernet service.

However, even within the SMB arena, there is complexity especially if they have multiple locations like a retail chain.

"We can have customers that have the SMB product line with traditional voice Internet and phone, but they may have 10 locations," Pitcher said. "By the nature of having 10 locations you just became a bit more complex operationally so we have a treatment path for that customer group."

Similarly, a customer that purchases a fiber-based Metro Ethernet service could require a specialist with knowledge of that product to troubleshoot issues.  

Depending on the product set a customer has, Pitcher said Comcast needs "to understand who they are and what they have so we can give them the right support model."

Although it does not currently conduct management of every one of the vertical markets it serves, it's clear that, for example, a hospital customer's needs and product mix is very different than a multi-location SMB.

"A health care customer is different than the 10 location dry cleaner, and so then is their product mix and the operational complexity, and therefore that's about what's driving the experience they receive more so than their vertical," Pitcher said. "Over time, if we become the top player in health care or the top player in some other vertical that could change, but today we're leveraging these other criteria."

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Comcast Business takes a continuous improvement model to CEM