MSOs On-Time Pledge Gives Them Edge

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Chicago -- Cable operators from Chattanooga, Tenn., to
Bend, Ore., are using the On-Time Guarantee to increase consumer awareness and improve
cable's image, giving them an edge in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

"Fortunately, we don't have to reinvent the
wheel. It's up to us to use what we already have," Comcast Corp.'s Comcast
of Chattanooga director of government affairs/community relations Jeanne Flint told
attendees at a National Show panel here last week.

Berge Ayvazian, executive vice president of communications
at market-researcher The Yankee Group, set the table with a description of the challenges
facing cable from every direction.

One of the greatest challenges is making sure that customer
service not only doesn't suffer as cable companies roll out more services to compete
with other communications providers, but that it actually improves.

"It's so easy to fall on your sword,"
Ayvazian said. "You must enhance customer service in order to win in the new
broadband millennium."

The OTG initiatives described during the session showed
that some MSOs are getting the message.

The Eastern Pennsylvania division of Time Warner Cable used
its campaign to push consumer satisfaction up 14 percent in one year, explained Karen
Baxter, vice president, government and public affairs. The division was recently swapped
to AT&T Broadband & Internet Services.

Awareness of the guarantee jumped, too, especially after a
commercial that showed a series of employees repeating the mantra, "On Time:
Guaranteed." Onlookers at the Christmas parade even called out the phrase when the
MSO's float passed by. The message was part of every communications piece.

Consumers proved to be easier targets than employees, who
resisted the campaign at first because it highlighted failure, rather than success, Baxter
said. Internally, the focus shifted to the success rate as part of the push to win over
employees. Employee rallies helped, too.

Bend Cable Communications felt pretty good about its
reputation with consumers -- until a 1996 study showed that four out of 10 customers would
consider switching if a cable competitor was in the picture, said Amy C. Tykeson,
president of the central Oregon MSO. Only 20 percent were even aware of the OTG.

Bend started with the National Cable Television
Association's materials, but it also developed its own media, including a television
spot showing a technician dodging all kinds of trouble to make it to the customer's
front door. The witty commercial drew laughter from the National Show audience.

OTG awareness among Bend subscribers jumped to 60 percent,
while the propensity to switch declined 20 percent and the percentage of highly satisfied
customers rose 10 percent, Tykeson said.