TelevisionWeek is teaming up with TV industry veteran Marianne Paskowski. The blog will give Marianne a forum to convey her deep knowledge of the industry and pass along some of the juicy morsels she's hearing on the grapevine. Marianne has covered the TV industry from the inside out and top to bottom, and TVWeek's readers are bound to benefit from her sharp eyes, ears and wit. TVWeek.com invites readers to jump online, chime in and pick Marianne's brain on the latest industry news.


Marianne Paskowski

How Cable Can Boost Satisfaction Scores

September 30, 2008 10:47 AM

Michigan-based CFI Group released its Telecom-Cable Industry Satisfaction survey and, to nobody’s surprise, cable’s scores were “abysmal,” posting only a 60% customer satisfaction rate.

That’s old news. Cable never does well in these surveys, with respondents griping mostly about lousy customer service.

But there’s a new wrinkle this go-round: Longtime cable subscribers are angry that newer customers, thanks largely to competition from satellite and the phone companies, are being rewarded with lower rates.

Cable could fix this in a minute, if the industry really cared. .Cable companies lured subscribers with an attractive $99-per-month bundled package of phone, video and cable modem services. But those terms were only for the first year or two, and early adopters soon found their rates get higher after the initial offer.

In this economy, price is a problem. I have friends who dropped cable’s triple-play service when they saw their bills soar and ran straight into the arms of Verizon.

Cable boasts about customer loyalty and retention programs. But those plans are often a day late and a dollar short when a customer calls ready to bail.

Does anyone have a story about a good cable customer retention plan?

I’m afraid I don’t have even one.


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Comments (17)

Arthur Greenwald:


You pose a timely question. If ever there was a time when cable (and satellite) companies could pitch their services on the basis of value, this is it.

The cable companies should be hard-bargaining with studios and networks to offer all kinds of "free" pay-per-view incentives to bundle into attractive entertainment packages.

In fact I'd go further. They should team with beleaguered electronics retailers like Circuit City or Best Buy to offer discounts on big screen TV's.

Properly marketed, these amount to a home entertainment package that could save families hundreds of dollars vs. the cost of going out -- especially when you factor in fuel costs , babysitting, etc.

This is also the time for cable companies to revisit their oldest customers with new deals -- offer them lower rates in exchange for signing minimum service agreements (following the wireless phone company models?)


Marianne Paskowski:

I really like your ideas. Right around the time I move from New York, Cablevision started doing some of that stuff, discounts for products at consumer electronic stores.

Verizon on its installs gives new customers a couple of free months of premium services.

Personally I would love to take a survey about satisfaction with Yahoo email. I've been on the phone, yes to India, three times this week and still don't have all of my issues resolved. Each and every personal told me something different.

And nobody offered to give me anything for my troubles. So, cable by comparison doesn't look half that bad to me right now.

Thanks for your post,

Jeff Mulligan:

Marianne --

You cite one of the notorious abuses of marketing, which isn't limited to cable by any means. Offer incentives to new customers but not your loyal, established customers. Even better, to the wet-behind-the-ears MBA graduates who think this stuff up, be transparent and tell those loyal customers that they do not qualify. Rub their noses in it, and tell them that you'd rather grab their money than reward them for their loyalty.

Such foolishness happens in many industries, including the paid circulation policies of many magazines. There are many industries betraying their customers, revealing their contempt for service to the people who've supported them.

Certainly adds to the stereotype, well deserved in the cable industry, I think, that marketing people are there because they are too stupid to have real jobs.



Yo, Blondie --

Since when do you expect MSOs to be responsive to customers? Get over it -- and pay up. The people who run cable companies have lived for years in the basement of customer satisfaction and being the butt of jokes from comedians, Jim Carey, Larry the Cable Guy, you name it. But do they care? No. Why? Because their customers keep paying and the bosses have learned that common sense and fairness isn't as profitable as continuing to be a "cable guy."

Cruisin not bruisin

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Jeff,
I have no idea who once said better to be a prospect than a customer. That's what's going on here. Good to hear from you, m

Marianne Paskowski:


Apparently there are customer rewards programs for long time cable subscribers. I sent off an email to CTAM's president yesterday, asking about what they were.

Guess what no response.


Tell me, Miss Star Reporter -- where is CTAM? Aren't they raking in all sorts of dues trying to take cable business practices out of the 19th--yes, 19th--century? Such egregiously stupid behavior must thrill the FIOS folks. The clear message cable puts out is, "We see our customers only as cash cows. Pay up!

Marianne Paskowski:

CTAM is the marketing association for cable operators and programmers. I shot off another email to CTAM's president, looking for some good news to tell long time customers. Nothing back yet.

I hope they, long-time subscribers, are not taken for granted, m

(BTW, to correct a fatal flaw in your post, cable wasn't around in the 19th century.I know I wasn't.)

Joe Guerin:

One of your blog respondents pointed out some ways cable could devise some creative marketing ideas, partnering with Best Buy, etc. Cable won't bite, I predict. What a shame that cable still acts like it is a CATV service: "Be happy we're here; you wouldn't have TV without us."

Satellite and FIOS have long proved that arrogance to be outdated and wrong, but apparently cable hasn't yet learned the lesson



I do know, duh, that cable TV wasn't around in the 19th century! I was referring to the seeming provenance of the industry's current business practices. But in truth, few businesspeople in the 19th century would have been so obtuse. Even in the 9th century, they knew how to respect a paying customer.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Joe,

I did say that Cablevision had some program to link with a consumer electronics company, if you;re going to bother to go on their website and see it. But I no longer live in that MSO's footprint, so I don't know or care if they improved the program. Why should subscribers have to do the work? I won't.

Here's my basic problem. I would guess, that if I went up to the website for my cable provider, there might be a similar deal.

Am I going to take the time to push, no? My cable provider should be luring ME in, instead, with fabulous deals. Instead, I just get a bill.

Savvy marketers like CVS constantly offer rewards,extra bucks and a very pleasant, cost saving experience, in-store or online.

Thanks for your post, m


As a former Cablevision customer and current Dish Network subscriber I can tell you cable's customer service will probably also be horrible because of the monoply they have in certain areas. Verizon FIOS is still not availible in my area although I have Verzion home and cell service. But I would rather pay more then go back to cable, I have received more perks and better service from Dish (and I am told Verzion FIOS is also excellent) then I ever got from cable and offered incentives whenever I tried to leave.

Marianne Paskowski:


Very interesting stuff you just wrote. The sorry truth here, is that cable ops count on people like me, mired down in inertia. And that, lately, is dealing with Verizon DSL/Yahoo email.

Fun talking to India three times a week.

So RJ, keep us posted on how your switch went and want kind of perks you actually get or will get.

Appreciate your post, m

Char Beales:

Sorry to be late to the party -- on the road and just catching up on mountains of emails. Cable is indeed hard at work on innovative retention pricing and programs. Of course, each of your bloggers only sees what is available in their area instead of the big picture. From TWCable's price lock guarantees to Charter's $$ for gas; and Cablevision's long-standing loyalty programs, there is a lot of activity.

Please remember that a lot of pricing innovation came in cable's creation of bundle -- dramatically reducing the price of wireline phones for Americans. Ditto for bundling into high speed Internet service when most US HH were on dial up or DSL -- that's a case were a consumer gets what they pay for. Cable is a lot more than just TV.


Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Char,
Thanks for making those very valid points, I don't remember Charter's innovative gasoline program during this past summer's high prices. That was smart.

Another thing I thought about after I posted was Cablevision's online store that I never visited because I was in mid move.

Glad you chimed in, m

David Cohen:

If it's any consolation to cable folks reading this, Verizon FiOS TV is now spreading through Hoboken (where I live), and the customer-service horror stories I'm hearing are just as bad, if not worse, than some of the "typical" cable ones.

Marianne Paskowski:

Thanks for adding to the misery quotient.

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