Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013 - 27

2013 Top Ops Awards
INDEPENDENT CUSTOMER SERVICE AWARD
Atlantic Telephone
Membership Cooperative
Go beyond the subscriber numbers, and only one thing
distinguishes small and medium-size cable providers from
large MSOs: customer service. For small ops, good customer
care is a matter of survival, and that's certainly the case with
Atlantic Telephone Membership Cooperative.
" As a small cable TV operator, we face a dificult challenge of
keeping up with the bells and whistles offered by the national
companies, " says ATMC CEO Allen Russ, citing that as ATMC's
biggest hurdle in the years ahead. " We also face tough challenges
in offering the deep discount promotions because we
pay more for our programming and equipment, " he adds. " But
where we can excel is service. We stress to our employees
that our local service advantage is the most important one. No
other provider lives here. No other provider can do more for the
people who live in our community. We live here, we are friends
and neighbors with our customers, and we're going to treat
them like friends and neighbors. That is our difference. "
ATMC does customer service well, and we're not the only
ones to notice. The Brunswick Beacon, the county's largest
newspaper, solicits its readers to compile an annual Best of
Brunswick Awards. Since the Best of program began in 2008,
ATMC has topped the list for customer service every single year.
Far more impressive, the customer service award is not limited
to cable and telephone providers. ATMC's customer service has
been named best in the county against businesses in all sectors.
Want more? ATMC revamped its customer service in 2005,
so it was just three years old when it claimed its irst top ranking
in the Beacon. " That's incredible; to win it once is great, but six
times in a row is unbelievable, " says ACA VP/COO Rob Shema.
" And we're not talking about a little, hidden place. "
Founded in 1955 as a telephone cooperative, ATMC added
cable in 1983 and now faces off against huge entities Time
Warner Cable, DirecTV and DISH. With just fewer than 200 fulltime
employees, it serves 27,000 cable subs in southeastern
North Carolina, midway between Wilmington, NC, and Myrtle
Beach, SC. ATMC's service area is both a bedroom community
for Wilmington and Myrtle Beach as well as a hot spot for
retirees and golf and beach enthusiasts. " We have overbuilt
Time Warner Cable in some communities already, " Russ says.
" We believe our success in those areas has been due to our
quality local service. " Time Warner Cable has yet to build
signiicantly in ATMC's territory, but Russ expects that to occur
when the housing market recovers.
Excellent customer service was not always the case, however.
" In the early part of the decade, our customer service
was lacking, " Russ admits. " Customers had a dificult time
reaching us, and we didn't have some of the processes in
CableFAX: The Magazine
July 2013
place to eficiently support their needs. " Things changed in
2005 when ATMC started revamping its management team,
developing its own CRM system-those on the market didn't
it our needs, Russ says-and " most importantly, challenged
every employee to make satisfying our customers their number
one priority. " To make it easier for customers, ATMC also
opened several retail locations. " The nearest local ofice for
one of our competitors is 50 miles away, " he says.
More recent developments include regular CSR training
that stresses greeting customers " with a smile on our face
or in our voice. " There's also training to hone listening skills.
" We also make sure that our customers don't have to wade
through a myriad of obstacles to speak with a live person or
wait on hold for more than 30 seconds, " Russ says.
In addition, an ATMC customer can easily take a complaint
to any level of management, even CEO Russ. " If we mess up,
we admit it, we apologize and we mean it, " he says. And if a
customer reports a problem by 4 pm, ATMC responds to the
problem that day. " This has been very big in setting us apart
from the national providers who normally schedule repair
calls 3 to 4 days out, " Russ says.
- Seth Arenstein
* 85% of ATMC's nearly 200 full-time employees live within
its cable TV footprint, underlining the provider's claim to be
a local company. Its advertising tagline says it well: " Local
Company. Local Priorities. "
* ATMC offers more than 80 HD channels and VOD. It is moving
into the TV Everywhere space, offering 30 TVE channels.
* Keeping CSRs and Field Techs updated on new products
and technology " is the most difficult challenge we face
today, " Russ says. ATMC offers weekly training
and incents them through individual
and team exercises that " challenge
them and add an element of friendly
competition. " Outstanding achievers
each month are recognized in an
employee newsletter, and several
awards are made yearly.
cablefaxmag.com
27
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