As a long term Sky TV customer I’ve often been frustrated at the lack of attention the company gives to its loyal customers relative to its interest in winning new ones. While I understand the business goal – winning new customers is always much more expensive than retaining existing ones – as a customer it can leave a sour taste in the mouth.
That taste was sweetened this morning by an unexpected call from Sky customer services offering me a new HD DVR, together with 12 months’ subscription to HD channels, all at no additional cost. No set-top box charge, no “set-up fee”, no installation charge, no further commitment. The normal fee for an existing Sky customer to upgrade to this package, as still described
today on the company’s website, is £180 - £60 set-up cost plus 12 months of HD channels at £10/month. From £180 to zero – that’s what I call a discount.
I couldn’t let the fact that I don’t yet have an HDTV, or my general rule to reject all cold calls, prevent me from accepting this offer. Sky’s latest HD DVR should represent a vast improvement over my 9-year-old Sky+ model, in speed and ease of use, interface and EPG, and storage capacity. I won’t get the benefit of the HD channels, but maybe, just maybe, those free channels will be enough of an incentive for me finally to replace my CRT TV.
Sky’s initial financial loss on this, and presumably many other HD upgrades, results from their determination to remain competitive in the years to come. The resistance of many of their customers to subscription fees is high, as shown by our own user research
. We found that, while Sky’s overall satisfaction ratings are high, more than a quarter of Sky’s customers would switch to another provider offering the same service for 10% lower monthly fees. We also found that more than a third of Sky’s customers do not rate the company as meeting expectations on value for money.
With this new offer, although it is limited to selected existing customers, is aimed at the right spot: to make sure its subscribers are not lured away by competitors such as Freeview HD, Freesat HD, Virgin Media and BT Vision. While none of these alternative providers offer the exact same package as Sky, they are each, in their own way, becoming more competitive in certain aspects. Slowly but surely it seems as though the UK pay and multichannel TV sector is finally opening up to greater levels of competition. Whether Sky’s financials can withstand the impact of these customer retention strategies remains to be seen.
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