Customer service and experience are as important as programming and pricing in differentiating television services. Focus group research in the United States and the United Kingdom suggests that service is key to making sure customers remain loyal. The research, commissioned by pay-television subscriber management company Paywizard, identifies eight key moments in a subscriber lifecycle affecting customer satisfaction.

The focus groups suggest that as well as looking for premium programming and favourable pricing, people now evaluate and select subscription video-on-demand services based on a wider set of criteria.

People want to feel appreciated by a service. They also want consistently clear communication and flexibility around pricing and packages. They want simplicity when upgrading or downgrading. A simple and instant cancellation process is more likely to encourage a future return.

The eight consumer moments identified by Paywizard and validated by the focus groups are:

Find — Deciding on a service to sign up to, that best suits your programming and pricing requirements

Join — The process of signing up, as easily and quickly as possible

Consume — Seamless viewing of appealing content, at any time, location and on any device

Upgrade — Flexibly upgrading your services package, as and when you like

Downgrade –Flexibly downgrading your services package, when it suits

Bill — Receiving accurate, clear and timely bills, using a favoured payment method

Leave — Cancelling a subscription with as little hassle as possible

Win back — Rejoining a service again, at any time, without re-registering.

The focus group study suggests that the behaviour of operators at these decision moments can directly affect customer satisfaction and retention rates.

Hamish McPharlin of Decipher Media Research said users are expecting more from subscription video on demand services. “Whilst initial drivers were around content, the emerging desires are around great customer service and more sophisticated ways of handling a customer’s interests and needs. And this becomes all the more critical in attracting the large base of older demographics that are starting to show interest, but require a greater level of engagement to help them get involved.”

Bhavesh Vaghela, the chief marketing officer of Paywizard, said it is harder than ever for consumers to differentiate between television services. “Intense competition has led to a point where every service has an extensive content library and price variation is minimal, which means that operators need to find another way to set themselves apart. Our own insight and experience of pay-TV services, together with the focus group findings, have led us to believe that customer service and experience is becoming the new and powerful differentiator”.

As informitv has often maintained, people do not pay for programming, they pay for a service and an entertainment experience. Services that put customers first will have more satisfied and loyal subscribers that are more likely to recommend a service to others.

Seize the moments is available for download from the Paywizard web site.