How Comcast’s Xfinity Home is using Analytics and more to Drive Business Decisions

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By: Comcast’s Shuvankar Roy, vice president, Xfinity Home and Neeraj Grover, director of business analytics and reporting, Xfinity Home

Q: Why are analytics right to use to drive business decisions?

A: Analytics can help to identify the actual pain points in many parts of the business, including the customer journey. By using analytics, it’s easy to prioritize initiatives and avoid making decisions based on hypothesis, with no evidence to back up your work. Data offers significant insights into your business and can help you to course correct, as needed. Additionally, data can help you to define goals, make forecasts based on trends, patterns or the season.

To give an example, we here at Comcast are hyper-focused on customer satisfaction. For us, it is imperative to gain insights into our customers’ interactions with our front-line employees, such as technicians and customer service representatives, to help serve them better. Measuring the net promoter score or NPS at all levels including transactional, products, and employees help us to identify pain points that customers may experience from our service and products. Without these insights, we would not be able to improve or change processes and better serve our customers at every level.

Q: What type of analytics are essential?

A: To a large extent it depends on the maturity of the organization. To start with, you need Business Intelligence tools to identify and measure leading and lagging indicators. With this level of analysis, you will be able to understand what is driving an uptick and what may be causing a downward spiral.With Business Intelligence, your organization will be able to start predicting what is happening and provide corrections as needed.

As the organization matures and starts collecting more and better quality data, consider digging deeper beneath the numbers by using machine learning algorithms. These can provide further insights into top factors impacting your KPIs and help come up with a few “if-then” solutions that may help improve your metrics. We recommend testing each solution separately to see if the outcome actually enhances the indicators you want to influence.  The tests help foray from predictive into prescriptive analytics.

A particular type of Analytics can also be used for specific applications. For instance, Artificial Intelligence when paired with chatbots can offer your customers immediate access to assistance, and the text analytics can also help provide insights into areas that may need improvement.

Adoption of technology that leverages analytics to solve issues could become the critical differentiating factor to improve service delivery.

Q: With so much data/analytics that exist within a company, what are some best practices to narrow down the data that matter the most?

A: We see three factors of success for any projects: rely on extensive domain knowledge, be very skeptical of visible past trends and don’t  overanalyze,

Providing enough domain knowledge at each step of the way is key to identifying the most relevant data for any analytics study. The structure that works the best for us is having the analytics and business intelligence teams work carefully (or at times embedded) within the business units. This ensures that there is participation from subject matter experts to provide real-time feedback as insights are provided. The input and validation from SMEs ensure that the right data elements are being considered.

The other factor is to be very skeptical of apparent past trends as market conditions evolve. Lastly, avoid over analysis. In some cases getting 80 percent, accurate data is sufficient to understand directional and correct patterns which can help you make timely decisions. Avoid the pitfall of ensuring 100 percent accuracy as you may miss the opportunity to course correct in time.

Q: What type of business decisions can be made based on analytics?

A: Many decisions can be made based on analytics, but it’s important to look at the whole picture such as market conditions and what’s going on in the world. As you begin to make decisions based on analytics keep in mind these key points:

Analytics may be wrong sometimes as correlation is different from causation so take immediate corrective actions when you realize the change that was implemented is not working. Don’t be afraid to pivot and move on to another solution.

Prioritize analytics initiatives based on business goals. You can get a lot of data, and there may be many areas that need to be fixed, but you can’t do it all so narrow in on the few that will make the most significant impact to your business and go from there.

At times, be sure to complement data with other approaches. Sometimes it’s essential to conduct a few focus groups or review processes to find the triggers leading to the lagging data.

Q: Can you share an example where you made some critical business decisions based on the analytics?

A: Losing customers or churn is a measure that is key to most businesses. A while back our team leveraged decision trees and other machine learning algorithms to predict the type of customers that may have a high propensity to churn, and we identified key factors that led to it. The outcome of the machine learning algorithms identified customer engagement – the lack of activity and usage with the service – as the most impactful predictor of customer churn.

The importance of this factor led our teams to dig deeper into customers’ engagement with their services, their tenure, the services they have subscribed, and their preferred channels of engagement with us. This led to further insights into how our customers engage with each product and what service delivery steps could help drive customers to have a better experience. Ultimately, we found that customers who participate with or used the product(s) regularly led to more satisfaction with their service, which lowered churn.

Xfinity Home touch-screen

As the IoT space expands with more and more devices in a secured and connected home, the value for AI to help further improve customer service will be imperative.  Machine learning supported chatbots will become more sophisticated as they can scan for any system issues or other similar customer issues and quickly help to resolve and respond to customers. This level of customer care and service can be provided at an increased scale and response time will be quicker without adding to the cost of operations –the cost to provide the best customer service may even decrease.

The post How Comcast’s Xfinity Home is using Analytics and more to Drive Business Decisions appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Meet Some of the Women Building Comcast’s Next-Generation IoT Experiences

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    By Ashley Reed, Human Resources for the Digital Home Team at Comcast Cable

    For Internet of Things engineers, there’s a lot to be excited about these days, but one thing that’s been particularly inspiring to me – as a woman who is continuously on the lookout for talented software engineers – is the emergence of so many brilliant, dynamic women who are helping to create the next generation of connected home experiences.

    While we still have plenty of work to do to create more diverse teams in software engineering, the progress we’ve made as a technology community is inspiring.  If you visit one of our IoT centers of excellence in Philadelphia, or Austin or Silicon Valley, you’ll find any number of scrum meetings that are mostly made up of women or are being led by women, or both.

    We know this is critical because diverse teams are more innovative. A 2015 McKinsey & Company study Mckinsey found that more diverse companies perform better financially. And all the evidence we’ve seen – both anecdotal and empirical – reinforces the real-world value of diverse teams.

    We also know that any progress we make has an amplifying effect.

When women engineers come to interview with us, they often ask to talk to other women in the organization. Having so many talented diverse people to refer them to at all levels of our organization helps us attract critical talent.

    There are too many stories to share, but I asked three of my colleagues to tell their stories, and have collected those here.

 

Creating Seamless Connected Home Experiences

Jugnu Gupta is senior director of product management, leading the IoT products and partner ecosystem for Comcast. She focuses on building the technology behind the Xfinity Partner Program, which lets Xfinity customers control a large and growing array of IoT devices like Nest Thermostats, Philips Hue Lights, and August Smart Locks, all from their Xfinity Home hubs.

 

   Jugnu is also a leader on the team that built connected home “scenes” for Xfinity Home.

This lets customers set simple scenes like “Good Morning” or “Leaving” that prompt Xfinity Home to seamlessly perform a number of actions like turning on specific lights, arming or disarming the security system, and adjusting the temperature.

 

For Jugnu, work is driven by a deep passion for the power of IoT to improve people’s lives, and a firm belief that connected home experiences should be for everyone, not just techies, and early adopters. “I work very hard every day to build experiences that are easy to understand, enable and use on an ongoing basis,” Jugnu said. “With relevant recommendations that are personalized to each customer, simple first-time experiences, intuitive controls and automation, our customers can now use IoT products with minimum effort and even limited technical know-how to make their lives better.”

 

Creating Magic Through Simplicity

Tina Kim, a senior product manager on the digital home team, did not start her career at Comcast working on IoT products and experiences. Instead, she managed the powerful Platforms Rules Engine that the digital home engineering team leverages to build connected home products and services. To Tina, who is based in Comcast’s Silicon Valley Office, the IoT group was just one of many tenants using her team’s platform.

 

   As she started working closely with the Xfinity Home team, she became a personal convert to IoT as well, installing IoT devices at home and tinkering with them to find the perfect balance. Now she’s a firm believe both in the potential of IoT, as well as the importance of making it accessible to customers.

 

   “I envision a future where automation lives across virtually all of our devices.  The real magic happens when devices just do what we want them to do with little or no demand on the user,” Tina said. “Imagine leaving your home and your lights turn off, Wi-Fi network locks down, garage opens, and your car starts to warm up based on the temperature outside. That future is now, and what’s coming down the

road is even more exciting.”

 

Creating Peace of Mind with Smarter Cameras

For Sarju Mehta, Senior Manager of Software Development and Engineering on the Xfinity Home team, working in IoT was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. Sarju started her work at Comcast on the team that was building the company’s e-commerce platform. While she thrived on that team which adopted the pace and urgency of a new startup, the appeal of taking on new engineering challenges was too strong when an opportunity opened up in the digital home team.

 

   Sarju works on the video platform team, which focuses on building greater intelligence and functionality into the recently redesigned Xfinity Home security cameras. For Xfinity Home customers cameras play a critical role in providing peace of mind, and Sarju’s team has been working to make them better and smarter. Improvements included AI-powered computer vision and more seamless integration with other Xfinity products including apps and the X1 platform.

 

   “People use our cameras to have peace of mind in terms of their security needs.  My job is to ensure that performance and reliability always stay in the forefront of our minds because they are fundamental to our products’ success,” Sarju said.

 

Looking to the Future

   Working with so many brilliant engineers, both women, and men, it feels greedy to say it, but we still need more.  As we continue to offer dynamic new IoT experiences to customers our need for talented engineers only continues to grow. If you want to work with these great women and more check, out our job listings

Digital Home.

 

The post Meet Some of the Women Building Comcast’s Next-Generation IoT Experiences appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Comcast’s ‘Commitment’ to Net Neutrality Comes Under Scrutiny

As the FCC weighs dismantling net neutrality protections, Comcast’s stance on the issue has come under scrutiny from journalists.

For years, the broadband provider– the nation’s largest– has declared that it is fully committed to net neutrality. On the other hand, Comcast has been supportive of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to eliminate net neutrality rules implemented under the Obama administration, applauding it as a positive “milestone” in a corporate blog post.

Pai has proposed no longer classifying broadband as a public utility and eliminating net neutrality regulations meant to preserve an open Internet by prohibiting companies from throttling or blocking internet content. The rules also prohibit providing “fast lanes” to web companies willing to pay more for priority access to customers. The existence of fast lanes could mean that larger companies like Netflix and Facebook will be forced to pay more to internet providers to provide faster streaming to customers, which may in turn result in higher subscription fees for customers.

Pai’s plan only requires internet providers to be transparent about their net neutrality practices. The proposal is due for an FCC vote on December 14, and it is largely expected to pass, which is why the net neutrality stance of companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon are coming under close scrutiny.

Comcast argues that repealing “ill-advised” and “outdated” Obama-era net neutrality regulations will pave the way for increased broadband investment and innovation, and that Pai’s proposal does not necessarily spell the end of net neutrality. Instead, the company has taken the position that the regulations are unnecessary because it is independently committed to providing net neutrality protections for its customers.

Will Comcast Enact Internet Fast Lanes?

On Monday, Ars Technica warned that the broadband provider, despite these avowed commitments, may have plans to offer paid fast lanes to web companies. While Comcast has previously said it has no plans to enact fast lanes, the article noted that Comcast omitted any promise not to institute paid prioritization in its recent company statement on net neutrality.

On Tuesday, Comcast responded in a statement to CNET by reiterating that it has not and will not enact paid fast lanes. “Comcast hasn’t entered into any paid prioritization agreements. Period,” spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said in an email. “And we have no plans to do so.”

“No matter what the skeptics say, you can’t accurately convert an unequivocal statement that Comcast has no plans to enter into any paid prioritization arrangement into plans for paid prioritization,” Fitzmaurice added. “As we’ve made clear consistently, regardless of how the FCC rules turn out, we will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.”

However, Comcast’s Open Internet promise still has no mention of paid prioritization. And regardless, Comcast is only required to adhere to net neutrality rules until September 2018, a condition it agreed to in exchange for federal approval of its merger with NBC/Universal in 2011.

If Pai’s plan becomes federal policy, Comcast may be free to do as it pleases in less than a year.

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Comcast’s top government guy says Trump won’t stop many mergers

Exec David Cohen also raises some potential concerns with the Sinclair-Tribune deal.

President Donald Trump has previously threatened to break up Comcast* while repeatedly taken aim at one of its rivals, AT&T, as the wireless giant inches closer to purchasing Time Warner.

But Comcast’s leading voice in Washington, D.C. — David Cohen — told Recode that the regulatory climate for big mergers remains as friendly as ever in the nation’s capital, no matter what Trump himself has said.

“Overall, this president and this administration is likely less hostile to horizontal growth or even vertical growth in the telecom space and elsewhere,” Cohen explained during an interview that will air this weekend on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.”

By horizontal, Cohen meant mergers that open companies to new lines of business; with respect to vertical, he was referring to deals that combine two companies that directly compete against each other. “I don’t think that’s a license for ‘anything goes,’” Cohen continued. But, he added there’s “pretty clearly going to be less hostility and a greater willingness to allow the market to work.”

Of course, there’s no shortage of transactions currently awaiting the U.S. government’s approval — deals that will test Cohen’s thesis. For one thing, AT&T is far enough along in its quest to buy Time Warner that regulators studying it at the Justice Department are now weighing whether to apply conditions on the deal, sources have said.

It’s a radical departure from Trump’s promises on the campaign trail to block the merger outright. Other reports even suggested White House aides aimed to use the merger as leverage against CNN, the Time Warner-owned news outlet that’s covered Trump critically.

At the Federal Communications Commission, meanwhile, telecom regulators are still reviewing Sinclair’s $ 3.9 billion bid to buy Tribune Media — a mega deal that could see the combined companies reach as many as 70 percent of American households. And the FCC could have additional work to do in wireless if reports prove true and Sprint and T-Mobile finally try to combine forces.

Sinclair-Tribune and pricing concerns

For now, Cohen said he didn’t want to talk about those deals, including whether Comcast had ever raised any concerns with the DOJ about the combination of AT&T and Time Warner. With Sinclair and Tribune, Cohen said the same before acknowledging that there’s some good and some bad for his company — and consumers — in that broadcasting merger.

“I think having that large a bloc of local broadcast affiliates, it almost inevitably [will] put significant upward pressure on retransmission consent fees, which are the No. 1 driver of increases in cable prices for consumers these days,” Cohen said.

Those fees refer to the rates that cable operators pay broadcasters to carry their signals. And Cohen pointed to a number of “economic studies” filed at the FCC in recent weeks that “highlight the potential anti-consumer implications,” given the effect of higher rates on cable subscribers.

Remember, though, Comcast owns NBCUniversal, and those stations collect retransmission fees, too. That’s probably why Cohen said during the interview that there are some “potential good things for the company, particularly on the NBCUniversal side,” as a result of the Sinclair-Tribune deal. He didn’t further elaborate.

Comcast’s own merger bets

Comcast also might find itself in that M&A mix, particularly as it continues its work to ramp up its efforts in wireless. Earlier this year, it inked a major partnership with rival Charter, a pact that prevents either company from pursuing a wireless deal without the other’s permission. Then, Comcast, Charter and Sprint set themselves a two-month window for exclusive talks about a potential tie-up.

More recently, speculation has swirled that Comcast could find itself lapped into an even larger deal, including perhaps a purchase by Verizon. At the moment, though, Comcast continues to rely on Verizon’s network to deliver its own new wireless offering, called Xfinity Mobile. And Cohen didn’t unveil any new big plans Tuesday.

“We’re not out there saying, ‘Oh my god, to survive we need something else to buy,’” he said. “On the other hand, we have never viewed ourself from being foreclosed from the acquisition marketplace, either domestically or internationally.”

In doing so, Comcast may once again find itself on the receiving end of Trump’s ire — potentially in the form of critical tweets from a president that previously took aim at Comcast for its ownership of NBC.

From the campaign trail to the Oval Office, Trump has also blasted companies like Amazon and threatened scores of others, at times even denting their stock prices. But Cohen said he believes “most of what the president is doing on Twitter is conversation; it’s not policy.”

“It’s certainly a glimpse into the way in which he is thinking. But there are plenty of things that he’s tweeted where, a month later, he has tweeted something else that in a different context is 180 degrees or 160 degrees from what he initially tweeted.”

“Maybe I’m wrong,” he said, “but I’m actually less concerned than a lot of my friends about the president’s tweets.”

* Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.


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Xfinity Mobile is now available across Comcast’s entire nationwide retail network

Back in April, Comcast announced that it was entering the wireless game with Xfinity Mobile. It promised ”a new kind of network” and the plans actually weren’t too bad, with $ 12 per GB, a $ 45 unlimited tariff, and discounts for Xfinity home internet customers paying for the more expensive packages. 18 million Wi-Fi hotspots are also accessible, helping to keep cellular data costs down. Xfinity Mobile has now been rolled out across all of Comcast’s service areas.

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