What You’ll Learn

What does subscriber experience even mean and why does a standard definition matter to the broadband industry? Naylor Gray of Calix is leading a discussion seeking to define that at the Calix Marketers Summit on May 4 in Ft. Lauderdale.

Guest Speaker

Naylor Gray

Show Notes

Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.


Intro: A production of WordSouth and Pioneer Utility Resources. StoryConnect: The Podcast, helping communicators discover ideas to shape their stories and connect with their customers.

Andy Johns: What does subscriber experience even mean when we’re talking about broadband marketing? That’s what we’ll be talking about in this episode of StoryConnect: The Podcast. My name is Andy Johns, your host with WordSouth and Pioneer Utility Resources. I’m joined on this episode by Naylor Gray, who is a VP for Product Marketing, Marketer Solutions over at Calix. Naylor, thanks so much for joining me.

Naylor Gray: Hey, thank you for having me.

Andy Johns: So Naylor has helped on a few presentations that I’ve done before, kind of coach through one of the sessions that I was presenting in Las Vegas with Calix. A sharp mind, and I think it’ll be a thought provoking discussion as we get into it here. We are talking about this, the subscriber experience, and how we might define that in advance of an event that Naylor is putting together for Calix. Do you want to talk just for a second or two about the details of when that event is? Because I know it’s coming up what? May the fourth. It’s quick.

Naylor Gray: It is. It’s coming up on May 4th. It’s in Fort Lauderdale, and it will follow the immediate end of the NTCA Sales and Marketing event. So once NTCA Sales and Marketing ends, the very next day, if you stay back, you can join us for a half-day marketer event that we’ll be hosting at the W Hotel, which is two doors down from where the NTCA event is being held.

Andy Johns: Perfect. And it’s called “The Calix Marketer Summit.”

Naylor Gray: That’s correct.

Andy Johns: Excellent. Okay, great. We’ll drop a link to it in the notes here, but I wanted to kind of get into a discussion because it’s an interesting topic. You know, so much of what we do on this podcast or what most marketing events and conferences are, is a lot of, you know, do this to get this result or some best practices. Here, we’re going to talk a little bit more philosophical and a little bit about what does this even mean. So, Naylor, what does it mean to you when somebody says subscriber experience?

Naylor Gray: It’s a great question because, you know, when I ask other people what subscriber experience means, everybody has a different definition for it. So maybe my definition of subscriber experience is, you know, a wonderful experience from your broadband provider, and your Internet always works, and you’re very happy with your service. But other people might define that as the number of inbound support calls or maybe the package that you purchased from them. Or maybe they define it as truck rolls going out to your house or your net promoter score, customer satisfaction. There’s so many different ways to describe it that it makes it hard to pin it down. And and that’s what I want to figure out. Like, what is a subscriber experience?

Andy Johns: Now, you mentioned before we started recording that a lot of other industries terms such as this may be defined by the larger big companies in that sector, in that market. But that’s not exactly the case here.

Naylor Gray: That’s right. If you think about it, in most other industries, the really large players in the industry, they’ll create a set of standards that the other participants in the industry tend to follow along. And yet in our industry, we cannot look to the largest providers to provide a standard for subscriber experience. And I’m not going to name names and shame people, but I just don’t think they care. I just don’t think they care about what a subscriber experience is. I think a lot of the smaller providers care. It’s very important to them. So I want the smaller providers to band together and create a definition for subscriber experience.

Andy Johns: And that’s going to be a big focus of The Marketer Summit that you guys have coming up, correct?

Naylor Gray: It is. We literally want to run an interactive session with the marketers who attend. We want to crowdsource a definition for what subscriber experience means. We want to identify common ways to measure it, and tease out some best practices. And the reason why I think that’s important is if we have a standard that everyone can adopt, then other marketers can come together and share ideas and practices, and they can learn from each other faster. It’s a way to accelerate the innovation cycles for broadband marketing.

Andy Johns: I like that. Now, going back to the different types of companies you were talking about, because I know you guys work with a ton of folks in the broadband space. We do as well. Have you noticed any, can you connect the dots? Have you noticed any patterns to certain kinds of companies, [do they] measure subscriber experience certain ways? And other types of companies, whether we’re talking about big, small, commercial, cooperative that new folks into the market versus legacy providers, have you seen any similarities or common threads on certain types of companies looking at the subscriber experience in certain ways? Or is it pretty much everything scattered to the wind?

Naylor Gray: I do see some common ground here. A lot of Calix customers, they will use a net promoter score or a customer satisfaction rating to measure subscriber experience. And that’s helpful because we know that they are at least looking to a common way of measuring it. What’s not helpful is that everybody has their own sort of definition of what a subscriber experiences. Some people literally define their subscriber experience as the packages that they sell. Other people define subscriber experiences, sort of an intangible sense of brand and community and goodwill between themselves and their members or their subscribers. And others define it in their own ways. So I’m looking to create a little unity around how we might define the subscriber experience. And then of course, the fast follow to that is how would you measure it?

Andy Johns: Now I know that you’ve been in the marketing world for quite a while, whether you’re talking about broadband or other industries. How do you think that modern consumers, how have times changed when it comes to subscriber experience or expectations? How have things evolved a little bit, or have they over the years?

Naylor Gray: I think it’s dramatically evolved. You know, if you go back 20 years, the big innovation in the industry was triple play. Meaning, you know, providers are going to sell phone. They’re going to sell Internet. And they’re going to sell cable. And there was a lot of reasons why that existed. However, as you fast forward and you get up to today, there’s been a lot of changes in subscriber habits. Not a lot of people have phones in the home any longer. A lot of people get their entertainment and content from specific providers. They’re not necessarily getting it from cable TV. The constant is they always want more Internet. Nobody wakes up in the middle of the night saying, “I need a less Internet in my life.” Most people are looking for more because of all things they’re using it for. They’re gaming with it. They’re working from home. They’re educating from home. They’re watching movies. You know, they’re connecting devices, cameras, all kinds of things. So every day there’s more and more applications for Internet and the Internet experience in your home.

Andy Johns: And then so that was zoomed out a little bit. Let’s zoom in. How do you think just in the last two years, obviously two rather unusual years. Let’s hope they’re unusual years. How do you think the pandemic has shaped subscriber experience and customer expectations?

Naylor Gray: I think it is. One, I think it’s help to educate consumers a little bit. They start to understand, you know, what are some of the basics of Internet service in my home? If I’m doing a Zoom call, for example, they start to understand I need more upload speed. When my Zoom call gets a little herky jerky, it’s because I don’t have enough upload speed. I think also they’ve started to really attach specific value to the internet, whereas in the past maybe the internet was something that you browsed on or got email with or watched videos. Now they literally are getting their livelihoods from the Internet. Not just people that do YouTube videos, but literally people that work remotely have established value. And because they can work remotely, they’re literally living in different places. They’re starting to choose where they want to live and where they want to live can also be defined by the amount of Internet services that are available so that they can work from home.

Andy Johns: What advice would you have for somebody who is thinking about — they’re listening to this podcast and they realize, “Well, I’ve never really defined our subscriber experience. I’ve never really looked at that.” And maybe they’re not using the Net Promoter Score, or some of the other metrics you’ve mentioned. If the discussion at The Marketer Summit is going to be more, how do you define it as an industry or as a group, what advice do you have for somebody who they’re kind of thinking about this for the first time? And this may not have been something that they’ve been tracking or paying a lot of attention to before.

Naylor Gray: I would offer simple advice. Why don’t you start by just writing down a couple of ideas, a couple of objectives that you want to achieve? And then, most importantly, how would you measure that? I think it’s really important to always measure the things that you’re doing because marketing, a lot of times, it’s a series of ideas, and it’s a hypothesis. I think something’s going to happen. So I propose my idea. I do it, I measure it. I realize maybe it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. So I do it again with a few adjustments, measure it, and I have iterative improvement. So just start simple, just write some ideas down, and then determine how you would measure it.

Andy Johns: Got it. Last thing for you. What can folks expect? I know you’re putting a lot of blood, sweat and tears into The Marketer Summit coming up. What can folks expect if they decide they want to stick around? I guess, can they still sign up? And then secondly, what can they expect if they stick around Fort Lauderdale for another day, which is admittedly not a terrible place to stick around another day?

Naylor Gray: If you want to spend another day, then Fort Lauderdale is a great place, and we’d love to see you at The Marketer Summit. So here’s what you can expect. There’s no charge for the event. We just want marketers to come together. We don’t want to turn them away because they can’t afford to be there. You can get there. There’ll be a continental breakfast when you arrive. We will open with an introduction from Matt Collins, the CMO at Calix. He will talk about the importance of marketing leadership and the importance of leading change within your organization. We will have a virtual keynote from Seth Godin, widely respected marketer, not just in this industry…

Andy Johns: Love Seth.

Naylor Gray: Yeah, he’s a great guy.

Andy Johns: He’s one of the best.

Naylor Gray: And he has always been focused on experience. So I thought, what better person, you know, to head an event focused on experience? After we hear from Seth, then we’ll break into an interactive workshop where we will literally go through the process of crowdsourcing, our definition, and how we measure it and what we think some best practices are. And then from there, we’ll break into a best practices panel, so that we can hear from some of the leaders within the room, things that they’re doing, and also react to some of the findings. And then we’ll end with a lunch. So it should be a really nice, easy half-day for any marketer who’s interested to join us.

Andy Johns: And if there are any bosses looking or listening here, it’ll be a very hard working day, a lot of work done and very vital for your marketing folks to go attend. So not just busy day in Fort Lauderdale.

Naylor Gray: I think the benefits will be tangible. Participants will literally be listed as co-authors of an e-book that we will author coming out of the event. The e-book will seek to define the subscriber experience, how to measure it, what the best practices are. And the reason that’s important is the e-book will provide some basic standards so that marketers all over the country can adopt some similar practices, and they can literally use that to grow faster, learn faster, implement best practices faster. So any boss that’s looking to grow their bottom line, increase marketing ROI or increase their effectiveness overall, this is a great place to start.

Andy Johns: So you go for free. There’s breakfast. There’s Seth Godin, and you get to be co-author of a book. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Naylor Gray: There’s no downside to this. There’s no downside.

Andy Johns: I like it. I like it. Well, there’s no downside to inviting you to be on a podcast. So I appreciate that and thanks for running through that. It sounds like an interesting thing. I’ll be there. We’ll have a couple of other folks from our team there as well. I’m hoping there’s a good crew there to help define that term. And maybe when the e-book comes out, we’ll get back together on another episode and kind of rehash and see what you learned.

Naylor Gray: I would love to do that. I’m looking forward to it.

Andy Johns: Naylor, thanks so much for joining me.

Naylor Gray: Thanks for having me.

Andy Johns: He is Naylor Gray, the AVP of Product Marketing over at Calix. And I’m your host, Andy Johns, with WordSouth and Pioneer. Until we could talk again, keep telling your story.

Outro: StoryConnect is produced by WordSouth and Pioneer Utility Resources. Both companies are built to share your story. Our associate producer is Sarah Wootten. StoryConnect is engineered by Lucas Smith of Lucky Sound Studio.