Cable Operators

Smit Has Eye on Customer Service

8/12/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

Charter Communications Inc.’s new CEO Neil Smit said that he will focus initially on customer service initiatives, building on the work of interim CEO Bob May and the MSO’s board of directors.

The former America Online Inc. Access Business president Smit, who was named to the Charter position Aug. 9, has a lot of experience on the customer service side. One of his first AOL jobs was revamping the Internet service provider’s poor customer-service reputation.

CONSUMER FUNDAMENTALS

“I think Charter’s a great company — strong technology, talented people and solid growth potential,” Smit said. “Out of the box, the first step is I’ll get out in the field and try to understand the opportunities and challenges direct from the people. I plan on continuing the great work that Bob [May] and the board have made over the last year in 'Focus on Excellence.’

“I will focus on the consumer and the fundamentals which I think is very consistent with some of the programs [May] has implemented,” he added. “I’d like to continue to generate improvements in the overall customer experience, from service delivery to customer care, new product offerings. I’d like to get very focused on the customer management capabilities and segment level marketing. I’d like to focus on the execution of some of the growth strategies for new services.”

Although he has no direct cable operations experience, Smit said he has had contact with almost all of the major MSOs and telephone companies.

“I think I’ve got relevant experience and a lot of practical know-how,” Smit said. “I’m involved in a 21-million member subscription business. I’ve managed customer service operations, [I have] a lot of marketing and sales and operations experience. I think the cable industry is evolving into more of a multiproduct organization and I think that some of the experiences at AOL have helped provide me with unique insights into the converging entertainment and communications industries.”

In a joint e-mail to employees, May and Charter chairman Paul Allen praised Smit, adding that his experience in operations, customer service, large subscription businesses, product, programming and sales and marketing are “all areas directly relevant to opportunities and challenges that lay ahead for Charter.”

“With Neil at the helm, Charter will continue to become a formidable player in an industry where technological advances and changing consumer preferences can provide real growth opportunities for our powerful assets,” Allen and May wrote.

EXEC POSTS REMAIN OPEN

Charter still has some other positions to fill — chief financial officer, general counsel and chief marketing officer. Smit would not say when those appointments would be made, but noted he would be involved.

“There are some great candidates in the pipeline, both internal and external,” Smit said. “I think it’s commendable how the bench strength has stepped up. Some of the positions that people have filled internally have really helped deliver some good results in Q1 and Q2. It will be one of my priorities in the early days and I will focus on filling those roles as son as possible, obviously without sacrificing quality.”

Smit said he would relocate his family to St. Louis — Charter’s official headquarters — making him the first Charter CEO to reside in that city since Jerald Kent resigned in 2001.

September