The most acute program big companies are struggling with today is: how do I build loyalty with my customer?
The last twenty years of technological growth, digital e-commerce development, and the emergence of myriad lower cost solutions to every problem are pushing these companies to the brink. Even as they rake in ever greater annual profits, the problem of connecting and building real loyalty with their users is becoming existential.
Consider, for example, the case of large media content providers. On a top-line basis, media companies have never made more money than they make now. However, while in the past they could depend on consumers needing to hook into their services whether they liked it or not - either via cable box, broadband connection, or phone line - now, consumers can choose to unplug from the 'mainframe' and still have options. In 2018, a consumer with a android cell phone and low cost provider, Amazon subscription, services, and prime content, and a Moviepass subscription probably has access to more entertainment options than they've ever had, despite being unplugged from the a home phone line, a major cellular provider, and traditional cable.
So, if you're a big media company, what do you do? To get that internal perspective from the corporate point of view at the senior strategic level, I reached out to one of my own portfolio companies, Teckst, which enables companies to communicate directly with their customers via text message in order to boost their loyalty and service experience, and which works with ESPN and several other large media companies as a client. ESPN replied to the query and provided some helpful insight into how they are combating this issue, which gets to the heart of how they can win and retain millennial and Gen Z consumers.
According to Doug Kramon, ESPN's Director of Customer Operations and Fan Support, a major part of the solution lies in actually connecting with fans on their chosen playing field and giving them access to the company's unique content without forcing them to change their methodology.
"We're meeting customers where they are. With ESPN Fan Support (now powered by Teckst) we have been able to drive fans to new live streaming content on mobile devices "in the moment". With ESPN's recent expansion of live authenticated streaming of Monday Night Football on mobile phones, our support agents now provide "watch now" texts to fans, driving engagement, direct from the text. It's a mobile first world more now than ever and we need to be there for them in the moment, available to help them on their terms."
Will this work in the long term? It's impossible to say, and these companies recognize the difficulty of the challenge. But meeting customers on their turf and respecting their digital age freedom are good places to start.