Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013 - 19

2013 Top Ops Awards
INDEPENDENT MARKETER OF THE YEAR
Joe Lorah
Blue Ridge Communications
Joe Lorah's a hybrid of sorts. We're lauding him for his
marketing work, but his creative thinking and savvy in
breaking down silos really put him over the top.
Six years ago, ex-Comcaster Lorah approached then-VP
of Operations Mark Masenheimer with what many would
consider a radical idea. Then-Director of Marketing Lorah
wanted control of call centers. Blue Ridge serves 168,000
subscribers in northeastern Pennsylvania, including the
Poconos, and the towns of Hershey and Jim Thorpe.
Masenheimer thought about Lorah's proposal and made a
decision quickly. " That's a good idea, " he said.
" Ultimately my job [as a marketer] is to make the
phones ring, " Lorah says. " Marketing could create the
best piece in the world, but if the potential customer
calls and has to wait for 20 minutes on hold or the CSR
responds with 'I don't know what postcard you are
talking about,' you lose the sale, " he says. " My position
was that there has always been internal fighting in
companies between marketing and call centers. 'Marketing
didn't tell us' or the 'call center representatives
should know that,' etc. I wanted to create a culture
where the two work together and break down the communication
silos. A good CSR can be a marketer's best
friend. " And to be sure, Lorah knew it wouldn't be easy
to integrate marketing into customer service-and vice
versa. " I knew it would be a lot more work and I realized
most marketers don't want to touch customer service, "
he said. " You're getting 5,000 to 6,000 transactions per
day. If 1% of them go wrong, that's 50 to 60 per day
that have to be handled on the backend. Still, I felt for
some reason it would make the company work better. "
It has. Blue Ridge's churn is down and installs are up.
Many marketers say they " touch " their customers.
Lorah, now Corporate Director of Marketing and Customer
Service, actually talks to them. Last year, he took
a call from a female customer threatening to go with a
cheaper DSL offer. " We don't get into price wars, " Lorah
says, " so I emphasized our local edge. I asked her if
she'd ever had to call for service in her 7 years with us.
She hadn't. I reminded her that if she ever needed service,
we would be there the same day, within a 2-hour
window. The satellite companies can't do that. I told
her I thought that was worth $9 more per month. She
agreed and stayed with us. "
CableFAX: The Magazine
July 2013
Yet the challenges remain as Blue Ridge faces off
against much larger competitors. " It's not a secret that
[DISH and DirecTV] are heavily advertising their great introductory
offers, and so price is a big challenge for us, "
he says. " We do our best to continue to educate customers
so they see there is value in our service. " Great service
also helps. " Customers really appreciate our sameday
trouble calls and 2-hour appointment windows. "
Another hurdle is technology. " The satellite companies
advertise their latest technologies, so we need to make
sure we are offering the latest and greatest. "
- Seth Arenstein
* Blue Ridge Communications' service area in northeastern
PA is about 90 minutes' drive from Philadelphia. It's
among the oldest cable systems in the country.
* Pencor, which owns Blue Ridge, is the largest
employer in Carbon County (population
65K). It also owns an Internet radio station,
a daily newspaper, a concert venue,
a printing business, a restaurant and an
ice cream store, among other things.
*Blue Ridge was one of the
first to offer HBO GO, VOD
and Internet.
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19
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Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013

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Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013 - Cover1
Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013 - Cover2
Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013 - Contents
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