Independent customer service award
To the public it might seem simple—a cable, voice and Internet provider changes its billing system from one it has used for 25-plus years to a state-of-the-art product called SingleView. A large independent operator with systems in 42 markets, Cable ONE made the switch so smoothly last year it seemed effortless to its 700K customers. That’s how it should appear to the public, our Cablefax judges decided as they honored Cable ONE with this year’s Customer Service Award. But like a Hitchcock film, things aren’t always as they appear.
What looked like a simple conversion involved 12 months of planning and juggling, especially by Cable ONE’s customer-service representatives (CSRs).
And unlike services such as water, heat/air conditioning etc., which are interrupted for a period of time while they are checked and/or repaired, that wasn’t going to happen at Cable ONE. As director of public relations Trish Niemann says, “The key from an operations perspective was separating the conversions from running business as usual. Business as usual could not stop or suffer.”
The heavy lifting in preparation for the conversion involved “migrating data out of our old billing system and into the new,” Niemann says. “While much of this could be done automatically, large portions required manual intervention, such as old packages, adjustments because of new processes in SingleView and, of course, backlog.” Just as it sounds, manual intervention called for CSRs to do this project “off the side of their desks,” she says, while they continued doing their normal job—helping customers. “Our associates rose to the challenge,” Niemann says.
Aside from data migration, converting to SingleView included reporting, dual operations, rate code mapping and account provisioning. Again, appearances were deceptive—what looked like one large task in fact involved coordinating nearly every Cable ONE employee. That required workers to receive clear, concise communications. “We delineated who owned each portion [of the job] and strove to find the sweet spot in our communication—not too much or too little—making sure it was appropriate to the group for which it was intended,” Niemann says. There also were communication and education efforts aimed at customers. Before the conversion, subscribers received a letter, email and messages in their bills. There also was material on Cable ONE’s website.
Prior to the conversion, Cable ONE soft-launched SingleView to friends and family in its smallest system. That “proved invaluable in terms of understanding what system modifications were absolute necessities vs what were wishlist items,” Niemann says.
It worked. With about 80% of Cable ONE systems converted, only minimal customer disruptions have occurred, the company says. CSRs report SingleView makes them more efficient—they see on one screen what previously required opening several screens. It’s also more intuitive and adaptive and customers receive a bill that’s cleaner, easier to read. Not everything worked, of course, yet Cable ONE has responded quickly, communicating to customers “while the car is moving,” Niemann says.
That the SingleView conversion has seemed seamless is hardly a surprise. Cable ONE switched to all-digital earlier this year. This month came another change—as Cable ONE went public. As Cable ONE President & COO Julie Laulis says, “We believe our associates are the best at what they do… our associates have taken these changes in stride and with grace while continuing to provide world-class service to our customers.”
– Seth Arenstein
– Fast Facts
– Cable ONE is among the top-10-largest cable companies in the U.S. Previously it was a subsidiary of The Washington Post Co.
– Cable ONE has nearly 700K subs in 19 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, South Dakota and Washington.