For the last four weeks, customers in Adelphia Communications Corp.'s 1.2 million-home Southern California footprint have received surprise calls from their cable operator, seeking comments on how the company is doing.
It's part of a proactive customer service initiative called the Ambassador Program, and Adelphia said about 20% of approximately 2,700 eligible employees have signed up.
Front-line customer service representatives don't participate: They're already busy enough reacting to customer requests and complaints. Executives don't want to increase call-waiting times or inbound traffic, the company said.
Instead, supervisors do the calls out, as do managers on up to senior vice president.
Volunteering employees agree to make an average of three cold calls a week to subscribers, to ask them if they are satisfied with their service and hear complaints if there are service issues.
Each participating employee is charged with following up on the individual consumer issues they hear about during the calls.
Weekly raffles are held in each office to reward participants. Prizes include store gift certificates, fast-food coupons and passes to Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland.
Participants could get an earful, especially in the city of Los Angeles. There, Adelphia is the perennial leader in complaint statistics, sometimes charting more calls to the Information Technology department than the city's other franchisees Comcast Corp. — Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications Inc. — combined.
Adelphia, with four city franchises, also owns the most systems among the incumbents.
Calls have trended downward over the last year, though, as Adelphia works through its local upgrade.
Still, company officials recently have been grilled by members of the Board of Information Technology Commissioners about past complaints, and current efforts to improve things such as telephone access.
But Bob Gold, a spokesman for the company, said the Ambassador program has nothing to do with the city's criticism. The program has been in the planning stages since the winter and is designed to increase contact with customers and lift satisfaction during the traditionally high-churn summer months.
The contacts give company representatives a chance to intercede with customers who might be considering dropping cable during low-viewing summer months — or reverse a service problem that might leave a viewer considering their satellite-TV options.
Executives have compared churn rates during the campaign to data from a year ago and from three months ago. Based on that, marketers believe they have reduced churn by 6%, Gold said.
Gold said participants have already made 10,000 calls to customers in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura county communities served by the cluster.