Mea Culpa

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“We’re working on it.”

I’ve heard this phrase so many times in the last two weeks that I hear it in my sleep.

And it’s not from a cable company. Our Webdevelopment department has reserved this refrain for virtually every issue we’ve pleaded with them to fix on our website as we grope our way through a new back-end software transition.

Anyone who has visited our website can see by now that we’re struggling with a new (and improved!) software package that allows dead ends and broken links. Frustrating is not the word.

But for a fleeting moment, I felt a pang of empathy with the folks we cover — the cable operators and distributors responsible for answering to outages, fuzzy pictures and online glitches that would make a priest curse a blue streak.

It’s a tough sell to customers (and readers) to beg their loyalty when the most inconsequential and momentary issues become daily roadblocks to enjoying the service you know you can deliver. Even the tiniest issues — mud on the carpet from installers, tardy appointments or brief online outages — are enough to send customers running the other way.

And yet the product most operators are selling is the most sophisticated lineup of sports and entertainment in the world. The product — what people are actually buying — I started to realize, means nothing if the service surrounding it is inferior, even by a little bit. The feeling associated with these seemingly disregarded details from a customer’s point of view kills the very loyalty that is so desired.

That’s one big lesson that Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge has brought to a company sorely in need of a detail man. Charter’s latest efforts in marketing and customer service are big reasons why editors here chose the company as Operator of the Year.

Staff outside my office window have heard me yelling alone behind closed doors when I’ve come to a dead end link or seen a photo on the site that’s so distorted it looks like subject is in a funhouse mirror. But I’ve also had to politely respond to the calls and email inquiries about the site, then, almost in the same breath, I sheepishly beg readers to come back.

When former Insight Communications CEO Michael Willner (who recently joined Penthera Partners as CEO) called me last week to ask about the site’s fitful behavior, I was left with only one thing to say: “We’re working on it."