Vanguard Awards: Cable Operations Management: Customer-Service Advocate

TIME WARNER CABLE’S BILL GOETZ IS HAPPIEST ON THE FRONT LINES
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William R. Goetz Jr. got in on the ground floor of cable operations, hired by Comcast in February 1981 to be the controller for the new cable system in Trenton, N.J., not far from the company’s Philadelphia hometown. He had a master’s degree in accounting from Syracuse University and then worked at a small firm that represented independent telephone companies, among other clients. A friend told him to apply for the Comcast job.

Goetz ended up staying 19 years at Comcast. He became general manager in Trenton, then managed in Flint, Mich., before overseeing creation of the Philadelphia system, a lengthy, highly politicized project closely attended to by company co-founders Dan Aaron, Julian Brodsky and Ralph Roberts. “Absolutely four of the most bizarre years of my life,” Goetz said.

“He turned out to be terrific,” Brodsky said last week. “He had enormous talent. He put his accounting and finance background to good use. And he really had a feel for the business, a feel for customers, a feel for the employees, an understanding of the product. More than anything else, he could put the numbers up as an operator. When he had a budget, you could bank on it. And literally, in those days, we spent a lot of time banking on it. We borrowed a lot of money on his operations.”

FROM JERSEY TO JUPITER

He rose to area vice president in New Jersey, then in 1989 become regional VP in the Southeast, where Comcast had acquired properties in Florida and Alabama.

The New York native had always pictured Florida as hot and bug-infested, but “I fell in love with the place and did that for 10 years or so.” He and Beth (married 31 years) moved to Jupiter, Fla., when their oldest, Andy, was 2 years old. Their three other children (Molly, Emily and Timmy) arrived in the Sunshine State.

In 2002, the second major stage of his career began when he came to Time Warner Cable, hired as one of six executive vice presidents of operations.

Goetz said he didn’t realize it at the time, but CEO Glenn Britt had done something unusual by bringing in an operational EVP from another company, rather than solely promoting from within.

“Thank goodness Glenn decided to push the edge of the envelope a little bit,” the soft-spoken 58-year-old said in an interview in his office near Columbus Circle in New York.

At Time Warner Cable, his performance has led him to, this past January, being named EVP and chief operating officer for all of the company’s $18 billion (annual revenue) in residential services. His key colleagues in the new role are John Keib, EVP and chief care & technical operations officer, residential services, and Jeffrey Hirsch, chief marketing & sales officer, residential services, who share a passion for excellence in customer service, Goetz said.

“I couldn’t be more pleased that Bill has been selected as a 2013 Vanguard Award winner,” Rob Marcus, TWC’s president and chief operating officer, said. “He’s contributed so meaningfully to our industry during the course of his career. And, most recently, he’s done a really terrific job leading our residential business during a time of tremendous change in the industry. Bill is a seasoned operator with a broad perspective on our business, great judgment and a real understanding of the executional details required to deliver a great customer experience.”

After 32 years in the cable trade, Goetz said he still has the most fun when he gets out of the office and visits system employees.

The company’s Carolina operations had never reported to him before the most recent promotion, he said. “So, I got on a plane and went to Charlotte and Raleigh and Greensboro. I have not been to Columbia yet, but that’s my next trip. Just sitting around, wherever people are hanging.”

After hearing an overview from local managers, he likes to meet in small groups with technicians and callcenter employees to get their take on things.

EYE ON THE FRONT LINE

Goetz’s responsibilities have grown from running projects — such as the Trenton build or integrating the systems TWC acquired from Adelphia Communications and Comcast in late 2005 — to operating and expanding existing businesses.

“Through it all, my biggest goal has always been to make sure we get the absolute best people in the jobs. And that we absolutely take care of our front-line employees the most — they are the people that define what kind of service we deliver.”

He’s convinced Time Warner Cable will continue to grow and thrive as long as it focuses on keeping customers happy and fixing any problems that arise the first time, so that customers aren’t seduced whenever a competitor comes along with an $89 offer.

The January reorganization, he said, will help in that regard by having “narrowed us, made us go deeper into what we do, and I think we’re going to get better.”

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