Dish Network launches empathy campaign to try to stem huge customer losses

Dish Network satellite dishes on rooftop
Dish said it is trying to address a fundamental disconnect with customers that is endemic to the broader pay-TV business.

After losing nearly a million customers over the last year, Dish Network has launched a new ad campaign focused on subscriber empathy.

The new “Tuned In To You” campaign features national TV spots, starring an unknown character actor as the “Spokeslistener,” a salt-and-pepper-tinged caring nurturer who traverses the country listening to the woes of pay-TV subscribers. 

The first spot introduces the Spokeslistener, who proclaims that “When we’ve gotten it right—really right—it was because we were listening.”

The second spot features the Spokeslistener counseling a bereaved football fan, lamenting not only the end of the season, but the fact that he has to pay for sports channels during the ensuing fallow months. 

(Dish won't reveal the name of the actor. "Dish is focusing on what the Spokeslistener represents: the embodiment of Dish's customer-first mentality, and the bridge we are creating between customers’ pain points and Dish’s solutions," a company rep told FierceCable.)

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Trumpeting its new campaign, Dish said it addresses a fundamental disconnect with customers that is endemic to the broader pay-TV business, which has experienced across-the-board poor results on customer satisfaction surveys. 

“Customers just want to be heard in an industry that has forsaken its ability to listen,” said Erik Carlson, Dish president and chief operating officer, in a statement. “‘Tuned In To You’ is more than a marketing slogan. It’s a company-wide rallying cry and a long-term business philosophy. Dish has a history of putting our customers first and taking bold steps to make TV better. We are at our best when we listen to and fight for what our customers want.”

For its part, however, Dish is really addressing its own issues. Even factoring in the growth of its IP-based Sling TV platform, Dish lost around 420,000 customers through the first three quarters of 2016.

MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett estimates the company lost around 949,000 users of its core satellite service from September 2015 through September 2016. Comcast, meanwhile, reported the addition of 160,000 video customers for 2016.

Dish officials said the ad campaign is an outgrowth of the “Base Camp” initiative it launched last year, putting executives in front-line customer service roles for a short period of time. 

“Base Camp was one of the most eye-opening and educational experiences I’ve had during my tenure at Dish,” added Warren Schlichting, Dish executive VP of media sales, marketing and programming. “One by one, Base Camp is instilling into the members of our headquarters team a ‘Tuned In To You’ mentality and a sense of urgency to improve our customer experience."