January 17, 2004

Marketing tips from my Cable TV Operator

By Arun Natarajan

Here is a posting (quoted verbatim) from the telecom focused India-GII forum at Yahoo Groups (dated Jan 13, 2004):

Three months before, I got a connection from my cable operator who had
takn a pipe from HTMT (in cable netowrk) Setup charges 3500, monthly
Rs. 500 for 400 MB data transfer. When I mentioned it on this list the
members advised me that it is not posible to offer such rats. I should
have heeded their advice. last month suddenly my connection stopped
working. When I enquired, I found that that I had used up my 250 MB
limit. I was shocked, asked what is the matter and was given a new
rate card of 250 MB for Rs. 500. No intimatin no warnings Just a
simple blocking through their software. Reason HTMT has increased
their rates. It was a simple marketing technique. Offer reduced rates,
once I am hooked on to it, increase rates. Now I am stuck to their
rates. They charge Rs. 1000 for single computer for unlimited access
but I am not biting this time. best regds bala

I empathize with Bala. But, I don't think it would be right to call this a "marketing technique"--simple or otherwise.

If anything, it's bad marketing. By not meeting his expectations, Bala's service provider has pissed him off. And he's now giving them bad word-of-mouth through this forum--which has several folks who are either potential customers for "always on" Internet connections, or are approached by others for recommending such services.

I would like to share a contrasting experience that I had with my cable TV operator.

Some time back, when broadcasters hiked rates for their channels, my operator decided that he had to pass it on to his customers. Instead of just demanding more when he came around to collect money the next month (ie, popping an un-anticipated and upleasant news), he actually put out a flier - issued well before month end and slipped under the apartment doors in our neighbourhood. He included the breakup of the rates that the broadcasters charge him and said that he hoped that we would understand his situation and bear with the hike in rates.

His note certainly did not help us as far the monthly budget went. But the fact that he had bothered to tell us in advance, in such a polite and transparent AND without interrupting us in the process, certainly helped soften the blow--especially towards him. (This means that, if he started a different business tomorrow and came to sign me up as a customer, I would give him a chance.)

Given the way in which consumers, can so easily air their grievances through the Net, services providers--and especially, ISPs--should be careful about setting and meeting expectations of their customers.

PS: Here's another interesting "marketing technique" that my Cable TV guy uses: he offers a Rs.10 discount to those consumers who pay their monthly Cable TV bill at his office before the 5th of the month.