They came, they saw, they got their hands dirty and, from
all indications, it looked liked cable executives who hit the road for this year's
"In the Trenches" promotion conquered.
From the appearance of Tele-Communications Inc. president
and chief operating officer Leo J. Hindery Jr. at an Elks Club in Tacoma, Wash., to
Susquehanna Cable Co. president and CEO Peter Brubaker presiding over a
customer-appreciation day in Pearl, Miss., cable's top executives made friends and
apparently influenced people last month.
"It's a sign of how big customer service has
become that this is no longer seen as a public-relations activity that is done once a
year," asserted Torie Clarke, vice president of public affairs for the National Cable
Television Association. The NCTA masterminded the annual promotion, which was designed to
publicize cable's service improvements and its "On-Time Service Guarantee"
Pubic officials in communities where In the Trenches
activities were held agreed.
Darryl Lindberg, mayor of Loves Park, Ill., a town of
19,000 people about 100 miles west of Chicago, said he thought that the visit by Insight
Communications president Michael Willner to break ground and lay fiber optic wire was
"actually useful," and that it cemented the MSO's commitment to provide the
community with high-speed Internet access.
"We're more excited about the Internet
possibilities than anything else, to tell you the truth," Lindberg said.
"Insight has only been here less than a year, and we're happy to be getting this
kind of rebuild, which we really needed."
Lindberg added that the groundbreaking ceremony, while
symbolic, also had a practical value. "It was a good way to let people know
what's coming," he said. "The workers are going to be hitting the
neighborhoods soon, and people are going to see them in their backyards. We'd be
getting an awful lot of calls at City Hall to find out what was going on."
In Charlottesville, Va., Adelphia Communications Corp.
president, chairman and CEO John Rigas attended an employee-appreciation breakfast, made a
customer-service call, went to a luncheon for local politicians and businessmen and helped
to install the company's new "Power Link" Internet connection on a
Again, local politicians were impressed. State Sen. Emily
Couric said she found it "extraordinary" that Rigas would "take the time to
visit the smaller offices of his company" and talk to consumers.
For Mitchell Van Yahres, delegate to the Virginia State
Legislature, the visit underscored the viability of cable's On-Time Guarantee. He
said he "couldn't think" of another service industry that "stood
behind its commitment so clearly."
Rigas and other cable chieftains also reaped plenty of
favorable publicity as a result of their visits. Rigas' customer-service call was
covered by the local NBC TV station and prominently featured on the local evening
newscast. The Adelphia CEO was also interviewed by the local newspaper and a local radio
In Illinois, Willner's fiber optic groundbreaking
earned a banner front-page headline in the Rockford Register-Star, "Cable TV
Launches Upgrade," complete with a front-page picture, a reproduction of
Insight's logo and a question-and-answer interview covering "the impact on local
High-speed Internet connections were a common theme among
the more than 30 In the Trenches events. In Maryland, NCTA president Decker Anstrom joined
Comcast Corp. vice president Jaye Gamble to install a high-speed-modem connection in an
In St. Louis, Barry Babcock, chairman of Charter
Communications Inc., got together with Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) to launch an Internet
connection at a local grammar school. And in Tacoma, Hindery thanked TCI employees for
launching the MSO's @Home Network cable-modem service.