Need Help in Pasadena? Call Norm


Norm! Can ya help me with my remote?"It's not a greeting at the bar from Cheers,
but a request you might hear in the halls of the Pasadena, Calif., Senior Center.

Charter Communications Inc. has decided the best way to communicate with the seniors there is through a peer.

Enter Norm Rogers, a retired engineer from IBM Corp. Charter drafted him to serve as liaison to other senior citizens, answering their questions about such things as those pesky remotes.

"Some folks have trouble manipulating things. It takes them awhile, doing things over and over, to get the hang of it. I find that in my computer classes, too," said Rogers, who also serves as a volunteer instructor.

The senior liaison gig was the suggestion of the senior center's director Ben Green. Charter met earlier this year with city officials to determine ways to best serve the community and Green suggested the senior outreach.

"Television is a lifeline to a lot of people," he said. "The homebound watch and enjoy The Weather Channel, even when they don't get out, he said. They like to check on what's going on in their former hometowns."

It's about retention

Charter spokeswomen Sandra Magana called the liaison position just one part of the company's retention strategy.

The operator recently completed its digital upgrade throughout the community. For seniors with premium services, that meant old familiar set-tops and remotes were swapped out for new hardware with different buttons and new features. Such changes always cause confusion and concern.

At the same time, Charter is in a pitched battle to keep each customer in the face of strong competition from Altrio Communications Inc. The overbuilder is in the process of building out the community and is offering bundled telephone, cable and high-speed data service at a price lower than each of the services if bought from separately from the local telephone company and Charter.

Charter supports ongoing outreach programs by the center, so the liaison just seemed a natural extension of the relationship, Green said.

Magana said Rogers will get special training from the operator to help him answer questions about digital service and high-speed data, equipment operation and billing issues. The company also will supply him with sales materials and expects him to keep a record any complaints he hears to relate to the company.

But Rogers said, "I'm not here to sell stuff. I'm just here to help."