Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013 - 6

2013 Top Ops Awards
MSO OF THE YEAR
Cox Communications
Cox Communications as the MSO of the
Year? What a conundrum... Do we praise
its customer service, which consistently
ranks the best among all cable based on
multiple J.D. Power surveys? Or laud its
commitment to diversity, with a president
who heads the Diversity Council and
recently made a senior exec the highest
ranking woman in cable operations by some measures? Do
we single out its innovative products and technology, such
as this year's bold launch of a new " personal video experience "
with Cisco? Or do we point to executive leadership so
consistently good that much of the same senior team remains
in place from before Cox went private nearly a decade ago?
We're still not sure how to break it all down. We just know
that Cox means quiet competence, a commitment to customers
and unwavering support to the larger cable community.
This is a company that knows what's important. " We really
like to treat customers as we would want to be treated " says
Cox President Pat Esser (pictured). " It's really that fundamentally
simple. " And that sense of responsibility to the people
who pay those bills and keep Cox in business lows directly
through the company's 20,000 employees, who make it all
happen in the trenches at every customer touch point in 18
states. " If you could see how well people are working together
behind the curtain, turning out the products and services, the
performance, the execution, " says Esser, trailing off as if almost
in awe of the workforce. " From the chair I sit in, it's been
magical watching it come together. "
And come together it has. Not only does Cox thrive without
access to public markets, but it's a medium-sized operator
in a business that increasingly favors scale. With 6 million
* Cox is a founding member of Cable in the Classroom,
providing commercial-free content and online resources to
81,000 public and private schools.
* Pres Pat Esser co-chaired the 2013 Cable Show in D.C.
* Based on subs, COO Jill Campbell is widely considered the
highest ranking female MSO executive in cable.
* Not only was Cox the first cable operator to
recognize the potential of commercial
services more than a decade ago, but
in June Cox Business received the
highest ranking in J.D. Power's 2013
U.S. Business Wireline Satisfaction
Study in the small/medium
business segment.
6
cablefaxmag.com
residential and business customers across the country, Cox
is about half the size of Time Warner Cable and dwarfed by
cable kingpin Comcast. In addition, national competitors
DirecTV and DISH loom over Cox in every market. AT&T is a
constant threat as well.
Of course, Esser doesn't exactly wake up in a cold sweat
every night. Instead he focuses on employee training, customer
service and innovation. " I think in a lot of ways it's not
any more complex than that, " he says. " You hire good people,
develop good people and empower your people, invest in your
network, keep working with and listening to your customers to
hear what they want. No matter what your size, you will have
business. Now that doesn't make up for scale... But those
have been the pillars of our success. " Cox's efforts over the
last two years to overhaul its entire video product stem from
customer requests for more personalization, a better user
interface, a better DVR and a more integrated 2nd-screen experience.
" Four themes that just screamed out of research for
us and said if you invest in these four areas, your acquisition
will improve and your retention will improve, " recalls Esser.
Cox also takes an almost surgical approach to the competition,
depending on small teams of employees who specialize
on speciic foes. Says Cox COO Jill Campbell: " We have
a team that for the company that creates the playbook for
how we're going to market and how we're competing from a
centralized perspective. We have another team that focuses
on FiOS. We have another team on AT&T. One on DBS. And
we're inding that the collaboration between the ield folks
and corporate strategic folks here really helps us to be a lot
more nimble in market... than if we did a one-size-its-all. "
Once Cox's frontline employees have the info, it's all about
giving them the tools. " We are big-time believers in irst-call
resolution, " notes Campbell. " That's the ownership. You own
the customer. Don't hand that off to somebody else. It's so
ingrained in our culture, I think it's second nature to us. " In addition,
Cox emphasizes a diverse and upwardly mobile workforce
with extensive mentoring programs and other ways to spot
up and comers. Campbell constantly travels to Cox systems
around the country looking for new talent, with each general
manager graded on diversity efforts and responsible for inding
" emerging leaders " of all races, genders and ages. " And we
have plans for each and every one of them, " she says. " I ask
let's ind the two or three people who we should start grooming
to be COO. We look that far ahead. It could even be a director in
the organization somewhere. But we're very committed to that. "
For Esser, all of Cox's efforts revolve around understanding
customers. " You almost need to be an anthropologist to understand
what makes them happy and what gives them joy, "
he says. " But it is spreading throughout the company. People
are getting it. It's part of our DNA. "
- Michael Grebb
July 2013
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Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013

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