One of the key selling points for Hulu’s forthcoming live TV service – which we’ve now heard will be $39.99 per month to start – is its promise of better, more accessible customer service compared to what’s offered today by traditional cable TV providers. This morning, Hulu announced a development related to those efforts, with news that it’s opening a “Viewer Experience Operations” headquarters in San Antonio, Texas later this year that will bring over 500 jobs to the area by 2018.
There are now a bevy of rival services aiming to replace your cable TV provider – Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV NOW, YouTube TV, and, soon Hulu (not to mention rumored plans from Comcast and Verizon*). Ultimately, these services will end up with roughly comparable channel lineups and pricing. That means consumers opting to forgo cable for live TV via the internet will be making their decisions based on other factors – like the user interface and experience, the premium features (like the cloud DVR or concurrent streams), and more.
For Hulu, it has a few major selling points it’s focused on: rethinking the interface for live TV to feel more modern and mobile – as with its real-time alerts for programming, for example – as well as its ability to offer both a subscription video on-demand library alongside live TV under one roof and price plan.
In addition to this, the company has made customer service a priority for its forthcoming live TV offering. The idea is that dealing with customer support issues shouldn’t be as painful as it is today with traditional providers – like, say Comcast, for example.
Hulu already said it would offer subscribers 24/7 customer service ahead of the launch of its live TV service, it told Reuters last month. The company today has 150 reps who work remotely, Variety reports, and most of these people will move to the new Texas location. The new customer service HQ will grow to include over 300 jobs this year, and will reach 500 the following year, the company says today.
While not necessarily a feature people first think about when choosing a streaming TV provider, the investment in customer service could ultimately help Hulu better convince existing cable or satellite TV subscribers to cut the cord, and it could help retain users who face issues with Hulu’s service.
Many of the live TV services have struggled with glitches at launch as the company adjusts to the onslaught of new users pounding their servers. This can be a frustrating experience.
Sling TV, notably, had crashed repeatedly at inopportune times in its early days back in 2015, though the service has since largely stabilized. More recently, new DirecTV NOW subscribers became so incensed with that service’s glitches, freezes and other bugs, that some even reported its owner AT&T to the FCC, complaining that they were unable to get refunds, despite its lack of usability.
Hulu is looking to head off any similar issues by making quality service a core part of its offering – helping customers with glitches before they start complaining on social media, or worse, just canceling.
“One of our key values at Hulu is putting the viewer first, and vital to that is crafting and delivering an extraordinary customer experience,” said Ben Smith, Head of Experience at Hulu, in a statement. “In addition to building a great product, we’re building an infrastructure that allows us to provide the most personal, responsive and knowledgeable customer support for our viewers,” he added.
The new service center will help Hulu customers with any issues via phone support, email, virtual chat, and social media platforms, Hulu says. It notes this consolidation will result in “superior customer service” and “faster responses.” (“…than cable TV companies’ customer service” is the part of the sentence left unsaid, but clearly implied.)
In addition to handling inbound support requests, the service center’s staff will also conduct outbound customer communication and account analysis, Hulu says.