Thomas Watson is perhaps best known as Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant, but few are aware that he left a communications legacy of his own.

Founded by Watson in 1892, Braintree Electric Light Department established itself as one of the country’s first public electric utilities, and in the 21st century, its subsidiary BELD Broadband has become a customer-service stalwart among small cable operators.

For BELD Broadband manager Jack Orpen, customer service in the township of Braintree, Mass., (population 34K) has been a priority since his first day with the company in the late 1990s. That’s when he overheard a walkie-talkie call requesting that an electrician change a hard-to-reach lightbulb for an elderly resident — a not uncommon request, and one that led to a visit from a technician. A decade later, the personal touch still resonates with the community.

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"What strikes home for us is our typical small operator customer service," says Orpen. "The bigger MSOs, with their larger call centers, sometimes they lose that connection with customers."

Aside from providing "standard" services — a dedicated field staff and free hardware servicing — BELD Broadband keeps customers in the know with Bright Ideas, a monthly newsletter. Although it promotes new offers and includes BELD-related news, Bright Ideas is more than a marketing flier. It offers recommendations for TV buyers, Internet safety advice and energy saving tips for homeowners. An overview of community events is included in every issue, serving as a veritable bulletin board for Braintree residents.

But the heart of BELD Broadband’s customer service experience is its Help Desk, which not only operates evenings and weekends but, according to Orpen, is often on a first-name basis with the company’s 5,000 customers. "When customers call our Help Desk, they aren’t getting a clueless first-tier person who is reading from a script. All of our folks are third-tier, the best that can be found, and they don’t need a script." Quite simply, it’s a call Mr. Watson would be confident in making.

Fast Facts

  • BELD holds monthly commission meetings that are open to the public.

  • Although its customers can pay their bills online, many still deposit their payments in the Town Hall drop box.

  • Watson was on the receiving end of the first-ever phone call.

 

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