Diversity Delivers for Customers

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Turn on your television and flip through the channels. Flashing before your eyes: images of dog competitions, advertising executives in the ’60s, lions on the Serengeti, music videos, news pundits and — my personal favorite — comedians imitating those news pundits. From reality shows to sporting events, cable’s programming options are extensive, distinct and expanding at a rapid pace to meet the wide-ranging tastes of customers in all corners of our country.

While diverse programming on-screen is vital to the success of our industry, diversity of ideas behind the scenes is equally important. However, diversity means different things to different people. I think about it in a very comprehensive way, beyond just race and gender. I believe that diversity is more about how individuals with varying backgrounds, cultures, generations, training and education bring different points of view to the table. The heart of employee diversity lies in how differing opinions, experiences and perspectives are encouraged and valued as a means for making our businesses more successful.

At Insight, we see every day how diverse perspectives effectively help us solve problems. When our engineers gather alongside marketers, their different training and ways of thinking bring unique perspectives and a better business result. When our baby boomer employees exchange their thoughts on how to reach out to older and more traditional customers and our generation-X employees share their tactics for influencing millennials, we effectively reach a broader audience. When creative types and pragmatists work out solutions, we see an improved product, and when the management team broadly embraces new ideas from employees, regardless of their position within the company, we become stronger and more vibrant.

Insight has recently found more direct ways to reach the millenials and other groups through newer channels of communications like blogs and text messages. In April of this year, I launched my own blog to interact more effectively with those accustomed to more casual conversation. (The blog is www.MichaelsInsight.com, for those who’ve neglected to visit.) This open exchange with my readers has been a learning experience for both sides. I’ve candidly shared what is happening here at Insight and throughout the industry, while at the same time I’ve learned more about the concerns our customers and others have about our services and cable in general.

In addition, for our biggest sports fans — and we certainly have many excited, ardent fans in the communities we serve — we launched a sports Web site compiling local college and professional sporting events to help guide people’s viewing. This idea was a direct response to customers who called to inquire about specific times and channel numbers so they won’t miss their favorite teams on television. Now, our customers can log onto www.SportsOnInsight.com, check the latest sports listings and sign up for free text messages alerting them when their team will be on. It was the creative ideas from the diverse Insight staff that spurred us to reach people via innovative methods.

Diversity is critical to an evolving industry. We have always been an agile business with a proven ability to adapt to change. With technological advances increasing the rapidity of change and dramatically changing every ones lives, however, customers are expecting more and more from us. And we are delivering. Over the past decade we have expanded our product offering to include high-speed Internet access, phone services, interactive programming guides, on-demand programming and HDTV.

But as our businesses have become more complex, so have our needs, and to effectively meet these needs we have to increase our own diversity efforts. If we don’t seek to continually broaden our thinking through creating cultures of diversity and open-mindedness, we can’t meet the diverse needs of our customers. And, at the end of the day, our business is all about customer service.

So again this September, as much of the cable industry gathers in New York for “Diversity Week,” I hope we can look at how diversity of perspectives and ideas is essential to creating robust businesses. There is much to be shared in how employees think, the ideas they contribute and their feelings toward work and life.

We have come a long way in the past decade, but we can’t declare complete success just yet. I’m confident that we as an industry can continue to embrace the many sides of diversity in our companies. To do so is vital to our employees, our customers and our business.