Cox Communications Transforms the Customer Journey — One Test at a Time

Image source: Adobe Stock / tawanlubfa.

by Nicolas Wu

posted on 09-17-2018

In 2015, when David Parker was offered the role of manager of online optimization and personalization at major telecommunications provider Cox Communications, he was fairly new to the optimization space. But the job description sounded too challenging and interesting to pass up, so he signed on. “I’ve been heads down ever since. I’ve learned a lot from many different companies — researching who is doing optimization and personalization well, and seeing how it could be applied to our space. I’ve also attended conferences like Adobe Summit and professional groups related to this space to network and expand my knowledge.”

David figured out something early on — few people had significant expertise and experience in this field. If he was going to excel in his job, he’d need to learn quickly and build that knowledge base. And that’s exactly what he’s been doing, which is why we wanted to share his experiences, and how he has taken the Online Optimization and Personalization program at Cox Communications so far in just a few years.

Picking up the baton

David was fortunate to have taken this job at a fairly ideal time. A former colleague had just laid a solid foundation for the program in the company’s business unit that supplies residential customers with TV, internet, home phone, and home automation and security services. Not only was the technology in place, but early wins with Adobe Target had shown the potential business value that testing and personalizing could offer. Getting buy-in for the program was not a barrier. In fact, this early work transitioned optimization from being something done on the side by someone with other key responsibilities, to being recognized as requiring the full-time dedicated role that David was hired to fulfill.

When David started, the program at Cox Communications was fairly new. His colleague had run about 10 activities the first year they were live with Adobe Target. These were mostly proof of concept-type tests like button color, image swaps, and copy changes, which David describes as “Optimization 101.” Over the course of his first year, David increased the number of tests to about 20, but they remained at that simpler level. The next year, while the number of tests run remained about the same, their complexity ramped up. He began testing things like full-page restructuring, current customer audience targeting, and conversion paths.

Then, in 2017, the company approved hiring a front-end developer to David’s team. This was a game changer. Now the developer could implement the more complex activities in Adobe Target, resulting in greater testing velocity and reduced development time, while David could run the simpler ones and carve out enough time for proper test analysis. As a result, the number of activities nearly quadrupled. It was this year that David submitted his story of an optimization initiative to what has now become our annual Experience Business Excellence (ExBE) Awards contest.

From button color and copy changes, to customer journey optimization

Because the company’s call center was so effective at closing sales, in this optimization initiative they wanted to replicate that call center experience online. Realizing that this was a huge undertaking, David teamed up with a digital consultant known for optimizing online customer journeys. The initiative started off with analyzing calls made to the call center to better understand the talk track they used. Armed with those insights, the consultant created a process and structure for the customer journey. David then filled in that structure with all the functional pieces that would guide the visitors who landed on key landing pages through an experience that mimicked the call center experience.

David first analyzed the existing conversions and paths to establish a baseline. The ultimate goal was to zero in on the experience that guided customers through the steps to learn about and subsequently purchase services online, with order rate being the main KPI. A second goal for this initiative was to approximately double sales of the company’s video service, so David tracked and optimized for this metric as well.****

Test, learn, iterate

David says that early on, they knew they would not be running standalone tests on individual pages. As a customer journey, the experience had to span multiple pages and keep the customer in the same experience the whole way. At first, they just wanted to test to discover if customers were following the path they had laid out while monitoring key performance indicators to validate that they weren’t “breaking” anything. To do this, they launched the test to a smaller test market. Once validated, they turned the test on nationwide.

Next, they examined trouble spots along that customer journey. Where were people falling out or experiencing friction? Specifically, what might be keeping them from converting? So they tested, learned, and applied some of those early learnings in the second iteration, adding copy and clarity and tweaking the customer journey path. They approached the third iteration the same way, simply further refining the experience based on additional learnings.

David recalls that the pace of all this was fairly fast. One day they might be testing a few small changes they’d made, and the next day they might simply revamp the test and kick it off again. Learnings and iterations happened extremely quickly. The results were even bigger than anticipated. Online sales that year were the highest they had ever been, and the company’s video sell-in rate was nearly double the original goal.

Pearls of wisdom

David says that as soon as he got into the field of optimization and personalization, he knew that this was for him. He is always eager to learn from those who are at their “doctorate level” in this work — those who have gone well beyond the 101 level tests. He also enjoys assisting those who wish to expand their programs beyond those early proof-of-concept tests and into full-fledged optimization programs. If he’s not already there, he’s rapidly approaching that doctorate level.

When asked what pieces of advice he’d give to others just entering the field as he did just over three years ago, David said this:

“First of all, there’s no such thing as a silver bullet. The perfect experience has yet to be invented. That’s why you test, learn, and iterate. Also, in testing there’s no such thing as a loser. There’s always a winner. Even if an activity yields a negative outcome, you caught it and didn’t release it. So everything we do, we quantify in a positive manner. For example, from a revenue standpoint we would say we found $500K a year through optimization, or we saved $500K by not releasing a change we tested first. Finally, just as you shouldn’t fall in love with a house before it’s under contract, don’t fall in love with a test before you execute it. Being biased with a test can lead you down a bad testing path. Let the results speak for themselves.”

Share your story

If you liked this story and want us to highlight your work as an optimization and personalization professional who uses Adobe Target, submit your story to the upcoming ExBE Awards contest when the contest begins in the months leading up to Adobe Summit. By the way, we also feature these stories in our monthly newsletter, the Adobe Target Insider. If you don’t already receive this information-packed resource, consider signing up for it today.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Personalization

Products: Target