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Open Mic: Customer experience drives future innovation

Wed, 10/16/2013 - 12:42am
Kevin Hart Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Cox Communications

All of this innovation essentially amounts to a redefinition of who we are as cable providers.

In the last two years, we’ve spent a significant amount of time to break down traditional organization silos and to create an environment where a steady cadence of infrastructure and product enhancements and innovative, collaborate thinking are prevalent. We’ve dramatically slashed development cycles, shifting timelines that included years to rapid processes measured in days and weeks. We’ve established quarterly software upgrades that enable us to dynamically address the shifting needs of customers and improve our products.

This same shift is occurring in the broader cable industry and we will all benefit from it. CableLabs, SCTE and the engineers within our businesses continue to push the limits of cable’s broadband assets to support existing and future products.

I’m extremely proud of the work happening on my team at Cox and in the industry at large. While it is easy for us to get excited about the technical milestones we are surpassing to keep pace with the exponentially change, we must remember the one constant that guides and sustains us: understanding and exceeding the needs of our customers.

Customers are engaging via multiplatform viewing when it is convenient for them, marching towards the promise of a TV Everywhere experience. Personal recommendations, sophisticated and intuitive tablet interfaces and integrated third party content across multiple screens are no longer future state.

In 2012, cable operators spent $13 billion in infrastructure upgrades and joint efforts such as Cable WiFi and Connect2Compete are helping more customers connect to the powerful network in new ways. While we have plenty to be proud of, we work in a highly competitive space and our customers are what drive the business.

Alternative providers are fighting hard each day to attract the same new subscribers we seek and to lure existing ones away. We must continue to anticipate the needs of the market and remain committed to investment and innovation.

That investment includes recruiting, equipping and training the brightest minds to optimize existing assets and build new ones to meet the needs of the customers of tomorrow.

We must embrace programs internally and at organizations such as SCTE that help prepare the amazing talent within our ranks to become the technology leaders of the future. As we rally around a comprehensive view of the customer experience, we have to break away from thinking in voice, video, and data silos and move towards a unified view of the converged network and the services we offer. As we equip our workforce to deliver these services, we must create the holistic cable expert, familiar with all transported media.

While new technologies are coming to the market faster than ever, we are remaining not only relevant, but vital, by anticipating trends with forward-looking applications, services, and in-home and mobile technologies that engage and delight them. Here at Cox, for example, we recently unveiled Contour, our new personalized TV experience that leverages our latest interactive guide, iPad app, VOD, DVR and personalized recommendations to reshape video for our customers.

We are seeing this type of innovation among our peers, who are also using leading-edge technologies to enable next-generation video and IP services – all designed to enhance the customer experience.

All of this innovation essentially amounts to a redefinition of who we are as cable providers, one of the reasons Cox has developed a new sub brand for its personal video experience: Contour, indicative of how the service can be shaped to individual needs.

Of course, delighting our customers with a personalized experience requires our products to be simple, user friendly, and easy to install and configure – and that entails progressive approaches to applications and protocols such as Ethernet, MoCA, Wi-Fi and DOCSIS. It involves new innovations with IP video and more personalized second screens, recommendation engines and next generation user interfaces. And it includes pushing Wi-Fi faster and deeper into our networks both in the home and throughout the community.

To remain vital to our customers into the next generation, we must leverage our network and extend it into the future with technologies such as DOCSIS 3.1, the exciting new platform that will enable us to deliver the data speeds our customers want, the bandwidth to sustain new products and services and the ability to transition to IP video.

It’s important that we not lose sight of what’s brought us here: the HFC plant. It’s our lifeblood, and there’s plenty of life left in it. Our challenge is to continue to push the limits and extend our HFC technologies as our bandwidth needs continue to rapidly increase.

Customers are embracing new applications and consuming content at a rapid pace and together we can led the way and deliver the communications experience they desire.

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