CTAM Committee Homes in on Customer Care


Top marketing executives at Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable are leading a new industry committee tasked with addressing customer-care issues.

The committee, hatched by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, is headed by Time Warner Cable executive vice president and chief marketing officer Chuck Ellis and Comcast Cable executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer service David Watson.

CTAM CEO Char Beales said the association also plans to host a one-day conference on customer relationship management in October.

With cable operators gearing up for increased direct-broadcast satellite competition following News Corp.'s acquisition of DirecTV Inc. — likely to close early in 2004 — the committee will look to help cable operators use thousands of customer-service representatives at systems nationwide to compete against DBS.

"As a strategic premise, we've always felt that cable's localness is a strength, and leveraging our local call centers, our local install folks and selling and service, we think, is a huge advantage for the cable industry and Comcast," Watson said. "And so it's appropriate to have a level of focus at this time in this area."

Customer service is becoming a bigger challenge for cable operators as they roll out new products such as digital video recorders, telephony and high-speed data services, and the committee will look at how cable operators can train their CSRs to pitch multiple products to subscribers.

"That's clearly been a strength of the industry for some time that our customer-service reps have always done a good job of selling our product. I think there's always room for improvement, but that will clearly be one of the areas that we will focus on," Watson said.

CTAM has focused more in recent years on customer-service issues, and it ran a track at July's CTAM Summit in Seattle on customer-relationship management. The theme of the track was: "Get your current customers to love you forever. Get them to buy more. And attract new subscribers."

With the demise of the California Cable & Telecommunications Association's Western Show, some industry executives have considered whether there are opportunities for a new conference that could run in the fall.

The customer-relationship management conference CTAM is developing for October may attract many executives who attended the Western Show, but Beales said the conference wouldn't be an industry-wide event.

"This is more a meeting for people who are specialists in the area. We aren't anticipating that it would be a broad draw," said Beales, who noted that the conference would be designed for marketing and customer-service executives.