CLEARWATER BEACH, FL – When was the last time you saw cable-company employees get up in public and talk about their successes and competitive methodologies? During the opening session of this year’s National Cable Television Cooperative Winter Educational Conference, that’s exactly what they did, building on the WEC’s theme “Find The Answers.”

Just so they wouldn’t be blind-sided, a week ago, attendee members were sent an email inviting them to share some of the best practices of their local systems. Some of the success stories were relatively easy things any operator could do, while others were a little more involved. Here are their tips and quips:

  • Peter Smith, representing Wide Open West in St. Louis, said his company needed to improve its customer service. It came up with the one-hour installation window, with most appointments scheduled for mornings. If a tech is backed up, another is sent out to make sure an appointment is kept. So far, the new system has a 98-percent success rate, and customers give the operator a 90-percent approval rating.
  • Michael Hain of Nittany Media Inc. in Pennsylvania provided details regarding how Nittany has decided to beat the competition by “bringing over-the-top into our network” to reduce churn. Experimenting with several different ways of providing on-demand content during the past two years, the operator now has a “TV Everywhere” plan in place where subscribers can get their programming via IPTV.
  • Timothy Hohman of Litestream in St. Augustine, Fla., is giving away a Slingbox to any customer who upgrades service, and he’s assigned a personal customer-service rep to each new Litestream customer for the first three months of a contract. The rep keeps in touch frequently during this period, and Hohman laughingly added that he thinks sometimes customers don’t pick up when they see the Litestream name come up on caller ID.
  • Larry Eby, from Mo.-based NewWave Communications, installed PeerApp to help his company gauge network activity after seeing broadband usage explode during the last six months.
  • Tom Allen of Cass Cable TV Inc., in Illinois, instituted an “awards” program for new customers depending on the kind of package they bought, resulting in $10 vouchers. However, he began getting calls from established customers who wanted the same deal, and there now is a “club” for them.
  • Steve Kimcoe of Wyandotte Municipal Services in Michigan built an in-house studio to produce local programming using hometown people.
  • Kelly Beach of Kansas-based Carson Communications needed something to connect the operator to the community, so it launched a local-programming channel last month in partnership with schools and churches. That channel now ranks in the Top 40 of the 200 channels Carson offers.
  • Bob Ormberg from GCI in Anchorage, Alaska, now is using Microsoft Reveal to gauge which channels are the most popular with customers and to move them into tiers. The operator also uses this information to negotiate pricing with its programmers. “It doesn’t mean you get a reduction but it does take the wind out of their sails,” he says.
  • Steve Boyers of Boycom Cablevision in Missouri says his company “always looks backwards” and tries to do more with less. Boycom has replaced personnel who exhibited “bad business practices,” and current employees “peer ourselves” to make sure the operator is on target with its goals. Boycom, which had experienced some difficulty in the past that caused it to lose market share, now keeps its customers and continues to win back some of the old ones.
  • Steve Ward of NPG Cable in Missouri has been equipping his techs for home certification, and each tech now has a laptop so that they can close out their own work orders.
  • David Waleltzko of Minn.-based Albany Mutual Telephone Association now provides computer help all the way down to the customer’s home. And because of all the viruses that seem to attack home PCs every time there is a school break, he’s looking for a way to provide “filtered” Internet services to curb this problem.
  • One of the best ideas to promote subscriber loyalty and to make such services as on-demand sticky came from the floor: offer customers a 10-cent movie night or a coupon for a free VoD movie – especially on those school-break days or on snow days. This kind of customer appreciation helps improve the buy-in.

– Debra Baker

The Daily

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