Cable and Mobile Consumers Clamor for Digital Services and Support

Customers today increasingly turn to over-the-top (OTT) for simpler, connected experiences

By Chris Bauschka, Senior Director, Communications and Media, Salesforce

It’s no surprise that the communications and media industries are facing an accelerated pace of disruption. Customers today expect simpler, connected experiences, and are increasingly turning to over-the-top (OTT) and on-demand services to find them — such as Apple, Amazon, Netflix and others.

To better understand the current attitudes of American mobile phone owners and cable subscribers, and how traditional carriers and providers can keep pace with industry disruptors, Salesforce commissioned its “2017 Connected Subscriber Report.” Based on insights from the recent survey conducted online by Harris Poll of 2,210 U.S. adults — 2,067 of which were mobile phone owners and 1,703 were cable subscribers — the report uncovered new insights into the ways customers prefer to shop and possible reasons why just 42% of cable subscribers and 54% of mobile phone owners believe their respective providers have their best interests at heart. It also points to new ways that communication service providers (CSPs) can improve customer satisfaction and survive amidst the growth of OTT services.

Traditional Channels Still Reign When Choosing a CSP: Is that a Good Thing?

Despite the growth of digital technologies, many consumers still leverage traditional engagement channels, such as making phone calls to contact centers and visiting the retail store, when choosing a CSP — likely due to the fact that many digital channels, such as self-service websites, mobile apps and onboarding portals, leave something to be desired. More than one-third of American mobile phone owners (37%) say when shopping for wireless providers they began their purchasing process in brick-and-mortar locations. Among the 59% of mobile phone owners who go in-store to complete the purchase process, more than half choose to do so to pick up their products the same day (59%), or to consult store associates for advice (56%).

Regardless of the purchase method, younger mobile phone owners were more likely to run into certain issues while making purchases. Millennials, ages 18-34, are three times more likely to cite additional or hidden fees emerging during the signup process (21%) than baby boomers, ages 55+ (21% vs. 7%). And 17% of millennials believed it took too long to complete paperwork once their phones were purchased. The lesson here for mobile providers is if they want to capture the all-important millennial audience, they need to ensure their experiences are as good as the best experiences millennials find when ordering food online, buying a book on Amazon or hailing an Uber. They also must ensure a consistent experience across digital and assisted channels alike, regardless of where the customer begins their purchasing journey.

Establishing Trust with Customers Still a Struggle for CSPs

Despite continued efforts, CSPs struggle to win customer loyalty and trust. In fact, only 42% of cable subscribers, and just more than half of mobile phone owners (54%), agree that their respective providers have their best interests at heart. One pain point for consumers, particularly millennials, was the complexity of their monthly bills, with more than one-third of millennial cable subscribers (41%) and mobile phone subscribers (40%) saying they agree that their bills are too confusing. Nobody should need an accounting degree to understand their bill, yet it appears that providers haven’t gotten the memo.

Even worse, when customers need support from their CSPs, it appears they often feel compelled to negotiate with their providers to get quality service. More than half of all cable subscribers (56%) believe they get the best customer service when they threaten to switch vendors, and 40% of mobile phone owners reported the same sentiment.

The ‘Holy Grail’ for CSPs: Improving the Customer Experience

Fortunately, there are ways CSPs can salvage customer satisfaction, and it starts with making changes to how they approach services. According to the report, a significant number of mobile phone owners (45%) and cable subscribers (42%) would be more satisfied if their CSPs offered simple plans without hidden fees — a straightforward request that could go a long way in building trust with customers.

In addition, roughly two in five millennials (44% of cable subscribers, 40% of mobile phone owners) believed that discounts on OTT services, such as streaming TV and music, would improve their satisfaction with their providers. Millennial mobile phone owners would also be happier with their providers if they personalized interactions based on customer data (26%), or delivered consistent experiences across all channels (21%).

What’s Next for CSPs?

It’s no surprise that OTT streaming services, like Hulu, Netflix, WhatsApp and others, are a rising threat to current CSPs. In fact, 60% of all Americans, and 83% of all millennials, are currently subscribed to one or more paid streaming services. Furthermore, more than half of cable subscribers (56%) and mobile phone owners (51%) would be likely to use non-traditional companies or OTT content providers including Apple, Google, or Facebook rather than their current providers if it was available. Respondents that have either “cut the cord” or never signed up for cable did so because they believed it was too expensive (63%), or because of bad service from cable companies (23%).

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. As customers’ needs have changed, CSPs have clear opportunities to provide better service, simpler billing options, easy-to-navigate on-boarding online and many other improvements to capture the next-generation of cable and mobile subscribers.

If you’re interested in learning more about how subscribers engage with their providers, download the full Salesforce “2017 Connected Subscriber Report.” And to learn more about Salesforce solutions for communications and media, visit