It was the apocalypse of all cable days
Paris Hilton, the Burger King mascot, and celebutantes alike gathered in Sin City on May 2nd to witness the ‘Fight of the Century.’ A fight so epic that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, two of the world’s greatest boxers, were each poised to earn a nine-figure check, win or lose, in 36 minutes.
Early reports indicated that Mayweather vs. Pacquiao would break the record for the most-watched Pay-Per-View event of all time, with over $30 million buys. What did that mean for cable companies? It meant that a lot of people were watching TV that Saturday night.
However, the so-called ‘Fight of the Century’ quickly became the ‘Meh of the Century,’ once viewers realized that Money May and PacMan were going to spend 12 rounds hugging and dancing in the ring. Much like this lackluster sporting event, the customer experience around not only ordering PPV but also viewing the fight was painful from beginning to end.
When things go from bad to worse
Despite numerous marketing efforts to encourage the fight’s viewers to order the fight on PPV as early as possible, most, that is nearly 90 percent, of PPV orders came within just hours of the fight. By waiting until the last minute, customers faced ordering issues, which were likely caused by a system overload. Cable companies scrambling to fill orders asked that the fight be postponed, so even the people in the arena had to wait an additional 45 minutes for a fight that was already five years in the making.
Customers that completed their order were disappointed to find that they still couldn’t view the fight: either the screen was pixelated or completely blank with a vague outage notice. Angry customers took to online blogs expressing their feelings about facing issue after issue. For instance, the Twitter feed for @comcastcares was populated with customer complaints, which highlight how creative people can get with 140 characters. Cable issues even impacted those not watching the fight. Service outages were experienced all over the country with little to no explanation. Even one of West Monroe’s own received a frantic note from her roommate after discovering the cable was out–fearing that maybe they hadn’t paid their cable bill. Talk about an unnecessary, stress-induced situation.
Poorly communicated service outages are by no means the end of the issues faced by cable customers on Saturday night. After exhausting self-service issue remediation methods, when customers eventually called their cable provider’s contact centers to troubleshoot, most of their calls were dropped before getting through to a representative. Persistent customers reported that they tried a myriad of methods to get in touch with a customer service rep, even choosing the Spanish option to get on the phone with someone. Unfortunately, even the most ambitious efforts generally did not pay off.
So, desperate times call for desperate measures
Many customers, after multiple failed attempts to watch the fight via PPV, resorted to streaming the fight online through unsanctioned means. In fact, Twitter Chief Executive, Dick Costolo, claimed that Periscope, Twitter’s video app that allows smartphone users to broadcast content, was the real winner of the fight.
When your customers are K.O.’d but not the fighters
It’s undeniable that the competitive landscape for media companies is changing, especially for cable giants. We first got a taste with the rise of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. Now, even technology companies like Twitter are taking a seat at the table. The fact that customers forked over $100 to view a boxing match, one that many people argue is a dying sport, demonstrates that people are willing to pay a premium to view exciting content. However, the underwhelming fight paired with a less-than-exceptional customer experience will undoubtedly make customers have second thoughts about watching the next “fight of the century.” Rumors of another fight already have $40 price tags on them, because viewers just aren’t willing to pay the premium any longer. Furthermore, as customers are already turning away from cable providers to provide access to entertainment media, the events of last weekend may have been the catalyst for many to make the permanent switch to streaming services. So not only is boxing hanging on for dear life, but so are cable companies.
How companies could have avoided Saturday’s blows
All of the reports of poor customer experiences are telling us that cable companies were simply unprepared for Saturday’s frenzy. What they could have learned from other industries is how to handle the heat in the ring when things don’t go according to plan. Similar hype was raised in 2011 when Target partnered with Italian designer Missoni: After months of promoting the luxury-for-less partnership, Target’s e-commerce site crashed and all of its products went on back-order within one hour across the country. Customers were left waiting for products for months following the launch, and the Target brand suffered considerably. Since then, businesses should have learned from Target’s mistakes:
1. Prepare and test the infrastructure. The service outages, ordering difficulties and contact center dropped calls were likely a result of improper load testing. Companies preparing for an upcoming event that is bound to bring the attention of mass audiences should ensure that their technology infrastructures are prepared to handle higher than normal traffic.
2. Staff call centers appropriately and maximize trunk space. Cable companies should have prepared their contact centers by reconfiguring their workforce management system’s algorithms to estimate the expected number of calls in both the best case scenarios (i.e. all viewers behave as hoped) and worst case scenarios (i.e. what happened). After determining the right amount of resources for the duration of the event, call center management should have communicated with IT about the need for additional trunk space (i.e. the network capacity for receiving calls) to minimize the number of dropped calls.
3. Communicate expectations. Although the mainstream media was primarily responsible for the hype generated around the fight, cable companies had plenty of responsibility and forewarning for high viewership. For months leading up to the event, cable companies should have prepared their marketing, IT and operations teams for the day of the event, so they all knew how to work together in the event of anything going wrong. Unfortunately, the events that ensued tell us that there was poor communication between the media, marketing, IT and operation teams. On top of that, the companies airing the fight did a poor job of setting realistic expectations for their customers, if they set expectations at all.
Whether it’s Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, a royal wedding, or a televised Justin Bieber concert, cable companies need to properly prepare for higher-than-average viewership to the same extent that a boxer needs to prepare for a career-defining fight: participating in three-a-day workouts, jumping rope from sunrise to sunset, and even chopping trees are things you can do to perfect your fight. If cable companies only place the burden on call centers to salvage relationships with dissatisfied customers, they run the risk of decreasing their share of wallet. Thus, by properly setting up the infrastructure, staffing appropriately, and managing the hype, cable companies can ensure that they will have the stamina to last all 12 rounds. Something that companies, regardless of industry should keep in mind in order to keep your customers satisfied.
So cable companies, if you’re listening, let’s get ready to rumble!