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Consumers are often left feeling ‘powerless’ and ‘guilty’ over costs associated with over-the-top (OTT) TV subscription services, which can fuel brand discontent and disconnection, according to an in-depth new report

The findings from Singula Decisions, a specialist in subscriber intelligence, indicate that with a global recession looming, and people’s needs changing post-lockdown, popular streaming brands such as Amazon, Disney+, and Netflix, are set to face a power struggle with subscribers. Respondents said they felt guilty and worried about the costs of keeping ‘luxury’ services, and the paper warns of a ‘saturation slump’ whereby subscribers no longer get the same pleasure from the service.

Consumers also bemoan the fact that brands quickly disappear once they have signed up, only hearing from them when there is a financial issue, such as a price hike or upgrade option. The findings indicate that this is precisely the moment when brands should be listening and engaging with customers. This is particularly true now when OTT subscription services – which assumed ‘necessity status’ during lockdown – may be deemed ‘luxury’ items again as families tighten their belts and resume in-person socialising.

Report author and director of QualiProjects, Jennifer Whittaker, said: “It’s important to consider the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown, where subscribers began seeing OTT TV as a necessity rather than a luxury, as subscriptions were fundamental to experiencing positive feelings in the midst of negativity and uncertainty. How brands behave moving forward will determine whether or not these new attributes stay, and the extent to which the OTT subscription monthly bill will be considered in the same class as the electricity bill. Brands must tune in to what subscribers truly want – financial transparency, better customer experience, more freedom and choice – if they are to support this change in the long-term.”

Commenting on the findings, Bhavesh Vaghela, CEO of Singula Decisions, said: “OTT brands are missing a trick when it comes to building a loyal and passionate fan base at the moment the relationship is ripe with opportunities to grow services and protect revenues. After sign-up, the real challenge of building long-term relationships with customers begins, but brands are often too focused on monetary transactions. There are big opportunities at many key moments in the customer journey for them to demonstrate positive values – an ability to listen, empathise and act – and become more relatable in the eyes of customers.”

Revenue growth

This second in a series of three reports on the ‘Psychology of a Subscriber’, focuses on ways brands can grow their revenue and customer base. The findings, however, highlight how much work OTT brands will have to do to convince customers to remain loyal. The study reveals how TV streaming services continue to exhibit narcissistic traits, displaying an abundance of ‘masculine’ qualities (forward energy – doing, acting, creating), but very little in the way of ‘feminine’ qualities (receptive energy – nurturing, supporting, listening). The report advocates a more balanced approach that seeks to understand customers’ emotional and psychological needs through better customer experience, and ultimately create a connectedness with OTT brands.

The research also explores how brands can:

  • Offer transparency around billing and ensure subscribers always feel in control during difficult times
  • Stay connected to subscribers, listen to concerns, and reward customer loyalty post-pandemic
  • Make upgrade and downgrade options easy and simple, with flexibility to quickly change
  • Keep content original and relevant to assuage feelings of subscriber ‘guilt’ over costs
  • Deliver best-in-class customer experience, from UX and marketing to payment plans and customer service
  • Avoid rigid financial options that push consumers into a ‘child ego’ state, where they feel trapped and powerless, and eventually disconnect from the ‘authoritarian parent’ brand

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