Seven ways Sky can increase (my) customer satisfaction

16 March 2015

Mike Curl

Mike Curl

Head of Finance, Services & Media

I’m a long term Sky customer and have, over the years, bought just about every package and add-on available. During this time there have been many improvements to its packages and hardware, Sky’s content has become richer, and it has embraced on-demand.

That said, as with anything, there’s always room for improvement. Competition is definitely hotter than ever in the UK, and Sky’s pricing is top-of-the-range. Sky therefore needs to ensure that customersremain at the centre of its thinking and roadmap.

So here are some ideas and suggestions for Sky which, I believe could go some way to increasing customer satisfaction.

1. Introduce individual family member profiles

My children pretty much consider the Sky boxes to be theirs. Consequentially, trying to find my downloads and content amongst theirs isn’t fun!

What would be great, would be to have individual profiles for the different family members. The different profiles could hold (remember) different preferences, and content could be filtered.

This would also be a good way to enforce security policies – time limits, age restricted materials etc.

2. More subtitles please

Whilst Sky does meet the regulatory requirements, it doesn’t go that much further. Additionally, these requirements don’t seem to apply to on-demand or time-shifted content. Improving this isn’t just to the benefit of customers, it’s also a win for Sky.

Let me put this into perspective. According to Action on Hearing Loss, there are 10 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Sky has just over 10 million subscribers. So based on an average UK household size of 2.3, Sky’s potential reach is 23 million. This means that the probability of someone being hard of hearing, and a Sky customer, is about 6% of the UK population.  

For the deaf and hard of hearing, subtitles are really important. They are also extremely useful for those for whom English is not their first language. My wife is French and although her English is great, we rule out watching quite a lot of things together as they are devoid of sub-titles. She just finds it much easier to follow complicated plots, slang and accented dialog when there are subtitles.

Even many paid rentals don’t have subtitles whereas a high proportion of UK DVDs do, and often in many languages - and this isn’t even a regulatory requirement!

3. Strike a balance when it comes to advertisements

It’s clear that Sky is commercially very dependent upon advertising, whereas rivals such as Netflix aren’t. Sky therefore may need to be cautious not to put customers off with too many ads. Synchronised advertisements are one example (although admittedly, I’m quite impressed by how Sky manages this scheduling feat).

Whilst I’m a self-confessed serial channel surfer, I have no interest in flicking from one ad to another. So I find it quite frustrating when I’m watching a programme and hit a commercial break, only to find that the other channels are playing ads in parallel. So what do I do? I usually live pause, do something else for about 10 minutes, come back and then fast forward through the advertisements. And I suspect I’m not alone in doing this.

Watching a movie on the Sky Go app is even more frustrating as viewers have to watch a number of advertisements, each lasting up to 2 minutes, without the ability to fast forward them.

The reality is - and I do understand it - ads aren’t going anywhere! So perhaps Sky could consider more tailored advertising. Sky has (or should have by now) enough data about me to have built up a pretty comprehensive profile about my viewing habits. So tailored advertisements must be within its grasp so that content is more of interest and relevant. After all I’m not adverse to voluntarily spending time watching product reviews or gathering information about things I’m interested in. This would be even easier with individual profiles (See point 1 above!).

4. Reward loyal customers

I’m always being dangled introductory offers from other players like Netflix, BT and Virgin Media.

It would be nice touch if, once in a while, Sky rewarded loyal customers a free download or perhaps even a new remote control to replace the one that is now so worn you have to operate it from memory.

Looking after existing customers before they churn, or threaten to churn, is always a good investment.

5. Improve the Electronic Programming Guide (EPG)

The EPG is the user interface that sits between you and Sky’s content. It has recently seen numerous improvements and is pretty slick. Here are some suggestions to make it even better:

  • Allow multiple downloads to be re-prioritised
  • Suggested content based on viewing habits
  • Automatically link to the next episode of a series or box set.

6. Stabilise and improve the Sky Go mobile app

Whilst this has improved over the years, there is still some way to go. This is evidenced by its current Apple app store rating of 2½ stars and Playstore rating of 3.

I’ve used the app on iPhones, iPads and the Nexus 7 Android tablet – and its buggy across all. There are frequent crashes, inconsistencies between portrait and landscape modes and lots of buffering issues. Stabilising, and then improving, the app should be a priority for Sky, especially if Sky wants to grow a loyal use-base amongst today’s youth. And we all know that today’s youth have higher expectations when it comes to technology and how it works.

The download option is great and Netflix doesn’t have this yet, but it can be very temperamental. On a recent holiday, none of the content I’d thoughtfully downloaded would play on my Android tablet. And being aboard I wasn’t allowed to try again (despite being a loyal customer) due to the location and roaming restrictions.

Streaming to Chromecast would also be great but I don’t see this happening.

7. Take Sky boxes to the next level

Sky boxes are pretty good. By comparison to BT and Virgin Media, Sky is definitely ahead of the pack. I’m sure the next generation of Sky boxes are in research and development, here’s my wish list:

  • Improve disk size/storage space. My son records a lot of sport in HD and it very quickly eats up the available space
  • The ability to share content across networked Sky boxes
  • The option to store and play personal video content from phones, GoPros etc. Watching stuff like this with everyone crowded around a pc just isn’t the same family experience as comfortably sitting around the television. Sky could then offer Cloud-based hosting and back-up services and the Sky box could become the family media hub.

So that’s my seven suggestions to Sky. If you’re a Sky customer, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. And if anyone from Sky is reading this, please let me know what you think of these ideas - updates and comments would be very welcome.

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About the author

Mike Curl

Head of Finance, Services & Media

My interest in technology started in 1981 when a friend’s father built a Sinclair ZX81 and then relied on the two of us to program it. I soon moved on to my own BBC “B” computer (thanks dad!) and amused the family with some very rudimentary INPUT and PRINT statements…

My passion continues but on a much bigger scale than I could have ever imagined.  Today, I advise business and IT teams at some of the largest organisations in the world, helping them design, implement and exploit the latest technology in support of their business priorities and challenges.

I co-founded Bluefin in 2002 after spending many years in the consulting industry, having started at Andersen Consulting in 1994.  With Bluefin, I have been fortunate enough to be involved with some truly ground-breaking projects and technologies over the years.

What I really enjoy is finding the business value of new technology and leading the pioneering engagements to implement it successfully for the first time. Barclays, a client I lead at Bluefin, has won several industry and partner (SAP) awards for the innovative work we did with them around enterprise mobility. At another client we’ve also been doing some truly amazing work with SAP HANA that has the potential to disrupt established business models.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race