Cablefax The Magazine - September 2021 - 7
" The cellular business is a mature business, " Bickham
says. " And it has high prices. It's a little like
the landline business. When we got into that in the
early 2000s, the average bill-I'll never forget looking
at it-on Long Island was $55 for a landline.
I bet nobody pays $55 anymore, even if you don't
have cell service and insist on a landline. " He's
hoping to get customers to take a closer look at
their mobile bills, with Charter putting a calculator
online to show consumers how much they can save
by switching to Spectrum's offering, which uses a
Verizon MVNO. " We're not in any line of business
where we don't intend to win, " Bickham says.
It's that sort of competitive fire that's made
Bickham the right-hand man to Charter CEO Rutledge for decades.
" We've worked together for 30 years at Time Warner Cable, Cablevision
and now Charter. He is a brilliant operator and it has been a
really great experience working with him all these years, " says
Rutledge. Similarly, Bickham has worked with many on his team
for years, spanning various companies. " We have very talented
executives who have worked with John, and learned from him, and
because of that the company is well positioned for continued success
for years to come, " Rutledge adds.
Bickham credits company leadership-the supervisors, managers,
directors, vice presidents-for rising to the challenges the past
18 months have brought. One of those leaders is Anabel Chavez,
Charter's VP of customer service, overseeing its McAllen, Texas, call
center. Call centers play a huge part in Charter's strategy, with the
company fulfilling a 2016 merger commitment to bring all of Time
Warner Cable's offshore call centers back to the States. The McAllen
center is a cornerstone of that promise, with the state-of-the art,
bilingual facility opening its doors in 2017. It started with 250 employees,
but has grown to nearly 900 today, all of whom are bilingual.
" Our focus is really on providing an effortless customer experience
in the language that our customers prefer, " says Chavez.
Charter has continued to build out its network and provide broadband internet access to unserved and underserved
areas. Currently that work continues at a rate of 1,500 new homes and businesses passed each day.
Data usage and traffic on Charter's network continues to grow 20% per year, with
nearly 450 million IP devices connected to the network.
Charter has committed $22 million to assist minority-owned businesses within its footprint. In 2020,
it launched the Spectrum Community Investment Loan Fund to invest in community development financial
institutions, and with national partners, to provide low-cost loans to diverse-owned small businesses.
In April 2020, Charter announced a commitment to a $20 an hour minimum starting wage in 2022. Front-line
workers received permanent $1.50 an hour raises in 2020 (retroactive to March 2020) and in March 2021 as the
company raised its minimum starting wage from $15 to $16.50 and then $18, on its way to $20 in 2022.
Cablefax: The Magazine
Stopping the outsourcing of call centers is just the beginning. " We
also recently announced plans for a customer chat hub in El Paso
with more than 500 representatives, and with more chat team members
in additional locations, " she says. " One hundred percent of our
customer chats are actually handled in the U.S. today, with a goal of
bringing all customer chat in-house by mid-2022. " This is important,
with Charter reporting that more than 60% of customers by 2Q21
are engaging exclusively via digital means when they have a service
question or issue.
While there are stories nationwide about staffing shortages, Chavez
feels her department is in a good place, helped by Charter's minimum
wage increase, benefits and a strong employee progression plan. In
McAllen, 98% of promotions are within the site. A new call center rep
can progress from Rep 1 status to Rep 2 in nine months, and then
receive another promotion to Rep 3 in another three to six months.
" I feel that [call centers] are undervalued in terms of their growth
opportunities...Representatives can develop into a lead a supervisor
or manager, a director, " says Chavez, who started working in a
call center while studying to be an attorney. She fell in love with the
fast-paced environment and constant change, opting to abandon law
school. " When we have new hire employees join us, I enjoy sharing
my story and how much career growth is available to them within a
call center. "
There's plenty ahead for Charter, including a plan over the next few
years to execute an inside-out strategy with small cells attached
to existing network using unlicensed and licensed spectrum. The
company recently purchased 210 CBRS priority access licenses
in 106 counties across all its key DMAs. And that's the stuff that's
planned for... Given COVID-19, everyone's learned to be ready for
" Life keeps going, and things keep changing. You just have to adapt, "
says Bickham. " You have to keep your priorities right and your
employees top of mind. When you have a committed employee base,
you have a good chance of being successful in stressful times. "
- Amy Maclean
Cablefax The Magazine - September 2021
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Cablefax The Magazine - September 2021
Cablefax The Magazine - September 2021 - 1
Cablefax The Magazine - September 2021 - 2
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