Grading Comcast's Home Control Outreach

By Bob Wallace March 07, 2013

Comcast’s new Xfinity Home service is fast becoming known in the market in which I reside – Greater Boston, MA. An early review of the cable giant’s residential outreach efforts reveals some hits and misses on the direct marketing front with a service that represents a new and critical revenue stream for cable operators and telcos nationwide.

Make no mistake, with continued pay-TV subscriber losses, soaring content licensing fees and consumers dropping landlines for cell phones, anything that broadband Internet enables in the near and longer-term future for these operators is essential. Home services such as Xfinity Home hold high value as they offer far more than simply security and remote monitoring. You most have broadband Internet to use these multi-faceted services.

The success or failure of these home services will write the latest chapter in the evolution of cablecos and telcos. Though monitoring of residences is hardly new, and security services have been offered by non-operators for decades, the additional capabilities are designed to provide consumers the control needed to manage their most expensive investment and understand and optimize the costs of operating it.

I’ve strongly suggested operators create and distribute something of a “newbies guide” to home control services that doesn’t assume any knowledge of the offering on the behalf of the consumer. That’s something of a tall task, but Comcast realizes educating and informing potential customers takes more than a single-page direct mail introduction.

Greater Boston is typically among the very first service and product launch markets for Comcast. How the service is received and what the company gleans from its experience in this demographically diverse area will go a very long way to determining Comcast’s future outreach efforts.

First Foray

Having been deluged in direct-mailed marketing pieces, TV spots and with-invoice glossies for years by Comcast and market rival Verizon pitching triple-play bundles and Internet offers, I was blown away when I found my first flyer for Comcast’s Xfinity Home in the mail recently.

While it was not a guidebook per-se, the striking, four-page, visually appealing and illustrated piece went far beyond competitive pricing and special pricing promos I have grown accustomed to in an effort to intro Xfinity Home and explain how the multi-faceted service works.

Well-aware that everything is about money or lack of it these days, the first page reads: “Get over $925 in home security equipment included with Xfinity Home Preferred,” and provides a toll-free number for residences to call for more information and a free estimate. Of equal importance, the top of the page carried the service name, under which was printed: Security- Control – Energy. (See photo) Bull’s-eye!

The first page, printed in bright red with the $925 figure in yellow would have caught the attention of a raging bull at about 30 yards. Nicely done.

Grade- (So far): A-/B+

What’s Inside?

The second page begins with the “core” package and components that are pictured, not written about, in a checklist format that smartly conserves words and focuses on images and simplicity instead. Base components include one touchscreen controller, one motion detector, a wireless keypad and three door/window sensors.

Other steps on this page and the third let interested parties decide what they might want to add. The five-step checklist lays out items that can be added along with more units of the devices in the core package.

Step two adds curtain motion detectors and glass break sensors while step three adds smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and water sensors. Step four covers additional indoor and indoor/outdoor cameras. The fifth and final step covers “Enhanced Control” and covers a keychain remote, wireless keypad, light/appliance controller, a thermostat, remote siren, power line device and Wi-Fi repeater.

Grade-Layout, checklist/worksheet format: A-

What You Get

Much of the mailer’s final page includes bulleted items covering what the service lets you do along with some price points to focus the value proposition. Comcast claims Xfinity Home saves $10 a month as compared to ADT Pulse Advantage can save you up to $20 on your homeowners insurance and up to 10 percent on your energy bill.

This section does a solid job explaining capabilities, but without context, percent savings are clearly on a home by home basis. I can only think of providing a range of dollars saved per time period (month/year), but that may not be realistic this early on. Comcast did put stakes in the ground.

Grade-This section: B/B+

Eligibility, Terms & Price

As you might expect, the bottom-line details are located in the fine print at the bottom of the last page. The service requires Comcast Internet service and a three-year term commitment. I wasn’t clear on whether any “eligibility” applied such as being a new residential or triple play customers – neither of which I am.

Both terms were mentioned in the fine print, so I called Comcast and spoke with a super-helpful sales representative. I was told there are three versions of the service (Basic, Preferred and Premium) with slightly varying prices and added that there aren’t any eligibility requirements.

One of them, Preferred, is mentioned on the first page of the flyer I received.

The representative reminded me that the in-home consult is free, which is a great approach. The monthly pricing can be $29.99 or $39.99 a month depending on which of the three versions you choose, or where in the term agreement you are. If you don’t like the service, you have 30 days to drop out.

The basics on pricing and term commitment are clear. But I’m torn on whether or not to mention (label) all three versions as I’ve emphasized keeping things as simple as possible. One phone call is little to ask people to make for clarification/more information on a new and multi-faceted service. Comcast prompts you to call the number provided for just that twice and prominently.

If consumers receive the same level of care I did from the Comcast sales rep (before and post-sale) things should go quite well for the cable giant. Positive word of mouth is beyond powerful.

After all this is a direct mail flyer not a website. It lists a website that interested parties can visit. The website is equally informative with its tabbed design and mentioned two flavors of the service –Preferred and Premium - with categories listed for comparison purposes. Basic is only mentioned in fine print. There is no mention of having to be a new residential customer as there is on my flyer. The website rocks in design and presentation of information.

It goes far, far beyond what can be optimally presented in a four-page flyer. Check it out at www.xfinity.com/home

Grade-This section: B-/C+.

The grade could rise if Comcast simply adds a sentence saying there are multiple service options. I don’t think this would add confusion and might shorten calls to the company’s sales reps. A little clarity on the eligibility info in the fine print would also help. Neither request would be heavy lifting in my mind. Most importantly, nothing in this section or elsewhere diminished my sincere interest in Xfinity Home.

An important key here is to sync the flyer info with the data from the sales rep and with the website info where it needs to be reconciled. Consistency and uniformity will help, especially in eliminating confusion on fine print items.

Final Flyer Grade-B+ The flyer was head and shoulders above any direct mail piece for a brand new service. I can’t recall any that took this approach and featured four-pages of info in a consumable format.

Radio & TV Ads

To its credit, Comcast has been running radio and TV spots in the Greater Boston market that briefly intro Xfinity Home, along with a monthly price, and prompt listeners/viewers to call or visit the website for more information. They are concise; containing only a few key data points, and urge action.

In my mind, these are optimal spots, especially the radio ones when you consider consumers are more than likely driving (hopefully not too distracted) or eating lunch and only need a quick hit of info with which to take action later.

Grade: A.

The Tough Stuff

Though consumer education and information is a large part of a service offering, service installation, delivery, operation and customer satisfaction determine the success or failure of most any new consumer offering – and not just from cablecos and telcos.

The flyer gets Comcast off to a strong start, one that can be enhanced based on experiences on both ends.

If Comcast can shake off problems with sometimes- frustrating customer service with other products and deliver an offering with aspects in areas it has not dealt with before, it will go a long way to building credibility with consumers and expanding its revenue stream to a broad revenue river at a pivotal time in the evolution of the service provider industry.




Edited by Brooke Neuman

VP of Content

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