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William Sievers VP, Customer Care Bright House Networks Central Florida Division

Bright House Networks’ Central Florida Division was recently singled out by J.D. Power and Associates for delivering outstanding customer care to its phone-service subscribers. In an e-mail exchange with Focus on Customer Care, vice president of customer care William Sievers discussed those high grades and Bright House’s customer-care operations. An edited transcript follows:

Q: What are some of the major initiatives you are working on in the cause of improved customer service?

A: We are always focused on continuous improvement on every aspect of our customer touch points. With the rapid rollout of new products and services, paying attention to the details of process improvement and training can now be laid on top of the customer-care platform that we have been building over the past two years. We are blessed with a great ownership group that had the vision to make an investment a long time ago that would lead to today’s success.

Q: Obviously, customers like what they are seeing and getting when it comes to telephone customer service, as is evidenced by J.D. Power and Associates’ recent ranking of phone providers. What is Bright House doing differently from the telcos, in terms of telephone delivery and customer service?

A: We truly believe that ‘first-call resolution’ is the key to success, as the recent J.D. Power ratings reflect. It’s just as important to the customer how a problem is addressed as it is not having the problem at all. Our customer-facing employees have done a great job believing in and implementing many of the changes necessary to drive great customer satisfaction. I would note that since we installed universal agents, our transfer rates at our call centers have been reduced by 75%.

We constantly hear from our customers that they are amazed at the convenience of dealing with one employee who can both sell and service all of our product lines, including our digital telephone product. Additionally, we offer one phone number to contact us 24/7, as well as the ease of our bundled products.

Q: Why is it that video customer service tends to lag behind phone customer service in customers’ minds?

A: At times, some of our customers feel they don’t have a choice of providers and this is the No. 1 reason for the misperception about satellite service. I must say we have made great progress in our J.D. Power ratings from prior years on the video side, while the satellite providers have recently faltered. That tells me that our customers are understanding the power of the services we provide. There’s no reason to think that our momentum won’t continue.

Q: How do you measure whether you’re doing a good job? What kind of metrics do you use to measure success?

A: Every day, we conduct call monitoring; we look at repeat service-call rates; we survey every customer that’s installed with our services to get real-time customer feelings about how they were treated. There are thousands of metrics that we look at including the availability of our service windows, availability of call centers to handle a myriad of issues … the list goes on.

Q: What qualities are the most sought after when it comes to finding good customer-service representatives?

A: We have an excellent training program and a real commitment to expending the resources necessary to support our employees. With that focus, we are able to identify employees who have the ‘will’ to work and learn. We can find people who can be molded and trained, according to the Bright House Networks culture of paying utmost attention to customer care.

Q: Where are you finding them?

A: We find these people within our communities that we service. They seek us out, in part because of our positive image in the community, as well as the excellent benefit package. We also supplement some of our customer service through excellent outsourcers and contractors.

We look to them as partners and do everything possible to support them as we do our own employees. That’s another key to our success. We have propensity testing, which increases our chances of finding employees with the will versus the skill. We can teach skills. But it’s a person’s will that contributes to providing our customers with what they need, when they need it.

Q: How do the new products and services (phone, high speed Internet, DVRs, home networking, etc.) affect the role of call centers and your customer-care operations?

A: Our call center’s strength comes from our focus on ‘One Touch, One Feel’ for all customer experiences, no matter what that customer is calling about. Universal agents that have the ‘will’ to serve, excellent training and support, combined with a sincere commitment and investment in call-center technology, have contributed to our utmost priority of achieving success for the customer, which translates to success for us.

Q: For some operators, every call into a call center is a sales opportunity. Do you agree? Why or why not?

A: Our first commitment to the customer is to resolve whatever question or concern they have. After that, all of our call-center employees are graded on their call-monitoring program on transitional sales. We believe this philosophy has created extra value for our customers and company alike.