Millions of households subscribe to cable company services for television, internet, and phone services. Ensuring efficient business operations is key, with preservation of precious capital as the highest priority. Many companies in the cable industry are faced with a recurring business challenge – how to retrieve cable equipment from customers who no longer subscribe to the company’s services.
Subscribers who have discontinued their cable service – whether voluntarily or involuntarily due to lack of payment – are required to return their equipment (cable boxes, modems, DVRs, phone filters, cable wiring, etc.) to a nearby service provider location. Unfortunately, the “nearest” location might be miles from the former subscriber’s home or in an inconvenient location. Other challenges for cable providers include customer inertia and the idea that, while the equipment’s return may be a high priority for the company, it is a low priority for many customers.
Additionally, cable providers have uncovered an increasing percentage of its valuable equipment assets are not in its possession or generating revenue, costing providers significant expense every year. An asset retrieval solution with even a modest, double-digit return on investment (ROI) would create significant savings, but a solution that can deliver an ROI of up to 500 percent and more?
A Dynamic Recovery System
A large cable service provider contracted with RevSpring needed an asset retrieval system that would facilitate greater returns of its cable equipment. As a result, RevSpring, a leader in data management, printing and mailing technology and online solutions, developed a dynamic recovery system for the cable service provider. The service is designed to recover the cable provider’s assets at far higher rates than current levels, generating significant cost savings for the company.
The dynamic recovery system primarily focuses on increased customer convenience: the cable company’s subscribers will respond more willingly and promptly to a request for the return of the equipment if they don’t have to leave their homes – and there is no cost to them.
The recovery process begins with the cable service company providing RevSpring with a file of the names and addresses of customers who have disconnected or downgraded their service. RevSpring then ships the appropriate equipment recovery kit – either a specially designed bubble-wrap Tyvek® envelope or ready-to-assemble box – to each customer. Both recovery formats are postage paid and come with return instructions and return labels. The recovery kit includes enough envelopes or boxes to accommodate all of the subscriber’s equipment. The easy-to-understand instructions provide customers with the information they need in order to safely package the equipment and prepare the envelope or box for return shipment. For convenience, the customer can leave the equipment in or near their mailbox or take the package to any USPS facility. The USPS then delivers the packages to the appropriate local cable provider warehouse.
While there would appear to be a reasonable risk of equipment breakage in asking customers to package and ship cable boxes and other equipment, this cable company reports that damage resulting from shipment has been minimal. Both the bubble-wrapped and boxed recovery kits have been highly effective in protecting the returned equipment.
Package Tracking Simplifies the Recovery Process
Barcodes on the delivery label to the customer and a return label on the recovery bag or box enables RevSpring to electronically capture the in-transit and delivery status of each out-bound (shipment to the customer) and in-bound (equipment return) package. With this information, RevSpring provides three daily data files, in electronic format, to the cable provider location or a 3rd party partner for additional action as follows:
- Shipment File: This file includes a delivery confirmation number for outbound packages and the appropriate number of return merchandise order numbers for inbound packages, based upon the amount of bags or boxes that were requested to be sent to the customer. The report ties the confirmation number and return merchandise numbers to the appropriate customer account number so that future barcode scans can link the information to a specific customer.
- Delivery Confirmation File: This file provides proof of delivery of the equipment recovery kit to the customer.
- In-transit File: This file tracks shipment status of returned packages scanned by the USPS.
RevSpring maintains data and corresponding billing by each cable provider location in order to appropriately allocate the cost of the program. Each location is only invoiced for the recovery kits sent to its customers. Returned equipment is sent back to the local warehouse through a post office box maintained and managed by RevSpring, which eliminates the need for any daily action by the local cable company office.
On a monthly basis, RevSpring provides a detailed account activity report identifying outbound and return shipments by permit code (i.e., the cable company’s warehouse location) and organized by region.
RevSpring has streamlined the dynamic recovery system process to facilitate quick acceptance and easy implementation by each cable company’s locations. The only requirements for start up are the warehouse address for returned equipment and a test file in a pre-determined format. In addition, RevSpring assists each provider location register for a permit with a local USPS office to handle the returned equipment.
Value-added Solutions Improve Address Accuracy
One of the biggest challenges for the dynamic recovery system is outdated and inaccurate customer addresses. RevSpring’s RevData is a suite of address scrubbing tools that provide address correction and demographic verification. RevSpring runs each address file through a National Change of Address process to provide forwarding addresses, if available. RevData also cleanses, confirms and standardizes database information, enabling the cable provider to reduce postage costs and mail delivery time while ensuring recovery kits reach former subscribers on the first attempt. For kits that are still undeliverable, RevSpring processes outdated addresses through advanced proprietary algorithms, which sort billions of pieces of information from national and state databases to find and correct addresses and other crucial customer data.
As an additional option, RevSpring also offers with Reverse Logistics services to seamlessly incorporate other touch points in the recovery process. For example, phone calls are placed to former subscribers who have received the recovery kits to “verify” the former subscriber has received the recovery kit, answer questions they may have about returning the equipment and inquire as to when the equipment will be returned. RevSpring also shares package delivery status information with the cable service provider so that action “triggers” are timed to coincide with the recovery kit’s current status.
An Impressive ROI
RevSpring estimates that its dynamic recovery system has resulted in at least a five percent incremental equipment recovery rate. The increased equipment returns have represented to date an estimated incremental recovery value of $300,000 per month compared to what would be expected without the recovery system. The company has calculated an ROI in excess of 500 percent for the bubble-wrapped envelope equipment returns and 270 percent for the box returns.