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Ad Exec Chastises Cable 'Operators'

Cable operators are obsessed with taking on the phone companies, but their biggest problem is another kind of cable operator: The one that answers the telephone when a subscriber or potential subscriber calls.

That's from Shelly Lazarus, CEO of ad agency Ogilvy & Mayer, who opened the annual CTAM conference Monday by speaking to cable marketing executives about the importance of brands.

Cable operators love to define themselves through the advanced technology they've deployed, but their images are still being tarnished by a failure to get the basics down correctly, she said. 

"All the advertising in the world cannot make up for a lousy customer experience," Lazarus told the 3,100 cable executives attending the conference in Philadelphia.

"If I were going to do one thing right now I would do something with everybody who answers the telephone for you," Lazarus said. A customer of Time Warner Cable in New York and Comcast in Vail, Lazarus says that every time she calls an operator "I feel as if I'm imposing."

Lazarus says that cable companies should retrain customer service reps, emphasizing that: "They are your future, they write your paycheck."

She noted that years ago, American Express stopped using all the typical measures of telephone reps' efficiency, such as how quickly they can get the caller off the phone, how quickly the phone is answered. Instead, Amex's sole measure of success was whether the customer is satisfied once they get off the phone.

CTAM had a bunch of its own satisfied customers for a Q&A with rocker Jon Bon Jovi who, among other things, owns the Philadelphia Soul arena football team.

Bon Jovi didn't have much to say about cable, but had women in the audience hustling for seats in the front row nevertheless.