Cable Backs Customer Service Week

Washington -- The National Cable Television Associationtouted its participation in National Customer Service Week last week (Oct. 4-8), whichcable systems joined for the third year in a row.

The 1999 event was themed "Team 2000: Creating a NewMillenium in Customer Service."

According to the NCTA, industry response to the event wasoverwhelmingly positive, with more than 500 systems and 26 MSOs agreeing to participate byhonoring front-line employees and showing appreciation for their customers.

In New Castle, Del., Adelphia Communications Corp. treatedcustomer-service representatives to lunch and dinner, in addition to awarding them gifts.

AT&T Broadband & Internet Services of East Lansing,Mich., displayed customer-appreciation comments in its office lobby, along with a video ofCSRs explaining what they do to try to surpass expectations. Walk-in customers weretreated to refreshments.

AT&T Broadband's Twin Falls, Ind., system hosted adrawing for a free upgrade to its platinum digital package.

In Kirksville, Mo., Cable One Inc. managers made randomcalls to customers, voicing appreciation for their business.

At Cable One's Phoenix system, the operator set up aphone line for employees who wished to speak directly with the CEO. The company alsopromised to wash employees' cars and treat them to breakfast.

The Charter Communications system in New Roads, La.,decorated its front office with balloons with cards attached to them. Walk-in customerswho chose a balloon were awarded the prizes named on the cards. CSRs were also eligible towin such prizes as movie gift certificates.

In Thibodaux, La., Charter CSRs who answered programmingquestions correctly won prize packages.

Media General Cable of Chantilly, Va., held a weeklongcelebration honoring a different customer-service hero each day. To carry over the theme,the system served its employees a lunch featuring hero sandwiches one day.

In Tampa, Fla., Time Warner Cable planned five different"Back to Basic" themes, one for each day of the weeklong event.

On Monday, the system highlighted proper phone etiquette.Tuesday's emphasis was on billing. Sales and programming highlights were featuredWednesday. Customer gratuities were awarded to walk-in traffic at Time Warner'ssatellite offices Thursday. And Time Warner CSRs were given gifts and"graduation" certificates Friday.

Since Congress proclaimed the national event in 1992,thousands of companies across the country have joined in.

In the face of increasing competition, the cable industryhas beefed up its customer-service efforts dramatically in recent years, with programssuch as the On-Time Guarantee. The efforts could help the industry to move away fromstereotypical images of "the cable guy" as a technician who inevitably shows uplate.

In addition, many operators have gravitated to making CSRsaccessible on a 24-hour-per-day, seven-day-per-week basis.