How has Tata Sky stood to differentiate its services from competitors?
We have had a very satisfying year with our target for ending 2007 with 1.5 million subscribers well on it way. In a business, where no one has any exclusive content to boast about, it is only customer service that differentiates us from competitors.
As a result, we have increased our call centre strength to 1,100 employees this year, besides there are around 250 engineers who manage the back-end software and hardware issues.
Does having an army of call centre executives ensure that customer service is best in the line?
No, and that is why almost 500 Tata Sky executives, which included myself, trained the call centre employees (during the soft launch phase). Right from issues like how many phone rings before did the call centre respond to, making appointment with the customers, to adhering to time of the appointment were discussed and drilled into our customer support staff.
They were trained to handle the common technical and hardware issues that customers usually seek help for. Tata Sky as well as customer service associates are trained to answer queries in 11 Indian languages. BskyB, the UK-based British Sky Broadcasting Group's direct-to-home business, helped us in training our back-end support staff in all the requisite skills.
According to the AC Nielson customer satisfaction index, Tata Sky beat several telecom and consumer electronics companies to score a satisfaction rate of 88 out of 100.
What happens when customers still want to leave Tata Sky?
Such cases, which have been around 50 in number, are brought to my notice and I personally address the customer issues.
We go by the thumb rule that in the pay television market, there is nothing more important than customer satisfaction and engaging services that are directly targeted for the individual customer.
How have the interactive services helped Tata Sky in retaining customers?
Interactive services are a "pull" medium for our customers, best described as premium services that Tata Sky gives to its customers over the cable television.
We are now developing our "Actve" platform for advertisers to target customers directly. Whirlpool has invested close to Rs 20 lakh in developing the "Actve" platform for advertising its household products. Going forward, this should be another money spinner for us.
The three new interactive services - Actve Darshan, Actve Learning and Actve Stories - now extend the umbrella to include elderly and school children. Two new interactive services - Actve Cooking and Actve Astrology - complete the bouquet and take the product offering to over 140 channels.
We have also added 15 SUN channels, general entertainment channels like 9X, regional language channels like Mi Marathi, Star Majha Kalaignar TV, Life style channels like NDTV Good Times, UTV Bindass, Neo Sports and Neo Sports Plus.
Satellite reception grew 70 per cent last year, but prices have tumbled, says a Screen Digest report. Would Tata Sky be a part of the price war?
There are another 71 million potential DTH households and we have a lot of work to do. We are in talks with the government to allow us partial exclusivity when it comes to content, reduce the heavy taxation - which is as high as 58 per cent - to give the DTH players room to breathe.
We would like to go cheaper in the near future, but first give us a level-playing field against CAS and cable operators.