Cablefax The Magazine - July 2014 - 25

INDEPENDENT CUSTOMER SERVICE AWARD
Ritter Communications
Customer service has been a hallmark
of independent operators for many
years. Clearly that's the case with Ritter
Communications, which began providing
local phone service to communities
in Arkansas in 1906.
Despite its growth-Ritter now provides
leading-edge voice, video and data to
some 50K customers in 57 communities
in northeast and north central Arkansas,
with smaller presences in west Tennessee
and Missouri-an emphasis on providing
the best customer service in the business remains a priority.
And while the goal is a world-class customer-focused
experience, Ritter emphasizes it's a local product, delivered
to customers by employees who are their friends, neighbors
and relatives. For example, its call center, open 24/7, is a local
operation. This emphasis on being local is one reason why the
company's motto, 'Right by You,' is an intentional double entendre.
Not only does Ritter promise to do right by its customers,
providing them with great service and products, but its employees
are local, they're working and living right by customers.
All this sounds great, of course. But how does Jonesborobased
Ritter break through the clutter? After all, its competitors,
including AT&T and the satellite companies, promise
great customer service, too. Again, it gets back to being
local. One way Ritter takes advantage of its proximity to
customers is by inviting them in to break bread.
Periodically throughout its systems, Ritter holds Lunch and
Learn events, inviting folks for a meal and the opportunity to
hear a speaker. Sometimes the speaker is from Ritter, giving
customers the chance to hear about and see demonstrations
of new products. The Ritter CTO spoke recently, explaining
new digital products in laymen's terms. After lunch people
gathered around several stations for hands-on demos. Another
time customers were able to chat with senior management
after lunch. Recent topics have included storage and
protecting your data.
Ritter also brings in speakers from government and academia
to discuss pertinent digital issues. A recent Lunch and
Learn featured a state offi cial discussing the FCC's E-Rate
program, which provides discounts to help schools and libraries
obtain Internet access. " We invited all the local school
administrators, and we had a large turnout, " Christian says.
An upcoming Lunch and Learn will feature a former government
offi cial discussing how businesses can best use the
Healthcare Connect Fund, which helps health care providers
obtain broadband connectivity and advocates for state and
regional broadband health care networks.
Cablefax: The Magazine
July 2014
These events not only provide information to the community,
they allow Ritter to learn more about its customers'
business needs, Christian says. " This is another way to touch
customers, to help us provide solutions to them and help
them remain competitive. It also lets us know our customers
better and strengthens our existing relationships, " says Ritter
VP Susan Christian. " We want to be more than order takers. "
We're also saluting Ritter's Right by You Moments program,
which posts emailed and phoned-in compliments
about employees on Ritter's Web site. The authors range
from businesses-Mr. Dotter of the Marion School District
thanked Natalie Hoggard, while Mr. Young from the AK
State Highway and Transportation Dept. praised Ritter tech
manager Rich Busby-to consumers speaking highly about
techs and customer-service reps.
Other operators do similar things with customer compliments,
but Ritter goes beyond. Without rhyme or reason, years ago
Ritter began calling submitted compliments grapes. When a
front-line employee receives a Right by You compliment, he/she
is given a 'grape' in the form of a chance in a drawing for $500
in cash. The drawing is held during Ritter's annual holiday lunch.
Each year a Ritter employee is chosen secretly to dress up in
a grape costume and emerge during lunch. Needless to say,
Marvin Gaye's rendition of " I Heard It Through the Grapevine " is
played at the appropriate moment. Leave it to Ritter to mix great
customer service with grape expectations.
- Seth Arenstein
Ritter has 260 employees, with headquarters in Jonesboro,
AK, population 70K.
The name of every grape recipient is called during Ritter's
holiday luncheon.
cablefaxmag.com
25
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Cablefax The Magazine - July 2014

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