Executive Of The Year: Blogging Connects With Customers Online

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Insight's CEO started his blog, http://www.michaelsinsight.com/, in May 2008 (with his first post, “Why the #*@# Am I Doing This?”) in part to challenge the conventional wisdom that most companies play their cards close to their chests. He has religiously filed his daily musings — and he writes it himself — on everything from customer service issues, Washington regulation and technology to industry initiatives like Tru2way.

“There is a certain group of people — as they say on MSNBC, the Cheeto crowd,” Willner said. “These are guys and gals who are interested in our business from an intellectual point of view; they're computer savvy; they're young, typically. There is a whole world of people communicating through blogs out there that we probably weren't exploiting our capability of communicating with our customers before we did that.”

Willner said that he hasn't gotten much response from other executives in the cable industry on the blog — except for the odd strange look — but said that by now the industry “has come to expect the unexpected from me.”

The blog was part of an effort by the CEO to put a face on Insight's business and a way for customers to access the front office. Customers can also contact Willner via e-mail — his address can be found on the company Web site and his blog.

Willner says he receives between two and five e-mail messages per day from customers — he personally returns every one — on topics ranging from programming, customer-service issues and requests for new channels.

When Insight's Louisville market was hit by Hurricane Ike — high winds knocked out power to 300,000 customers in the city for days — there was a surge into Willner's inbox from customers seeking information.

During the ordeal, Willner said that one blogger criticized Insight for not getting his or his neighbor's service up and running quickly — he had a wireless connection and a laptop — but he changed his tune after receiving an e-mail from Willner.

“I told him what we were actually doing about this power outage, and how people were working 24/7, sleeping in the office, turning around after three hours sleep and going back out again to get service restored,” Willner said. “And then he blogged about the fact that I actually did that. It was a 180-degree turn. Now, we're a great company.”

And then there are the e-mails from customers who just want to touch base with the CEO.

“I got an e-mail from a customer who said he hated us five years ago,” Willner said. “He said 'I don't now what you guys did, but you're the best cable company I've ever dealt with now.' How often do you get an e-mail like that? I don't get them every day.”


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