Charter's Rutledge: Consumers will be happier with cable if they never have to see the cable guy

Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) CEO Tom Rutledge said his company can continue to improve its service reputation by limiting its interaction with customers.

"The inherent problem in all of cable--and it always has been--is you have to schedule a job with a person who doesn't really want you to come to their house, and you have to do work of an indeterminate length of time to get to the next job on time," said Rutledge, speaking at the Guggenheim TMT Symposium in New York. "And all businesses that do it--plumbers, contractors--everybody can't stand them. The more you can take that out of the business, the higher the satisfaction goes."

Charter continues to push its cloud-based Spectrum Guide user interface, which leverages existing installations of legacy set-top equipment and does not require a visit by a technician to deploy. Conversely, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA)--which endures one of the worst customer-service reputations in all of American capitalism--requires a lengthy truck roll for each installation of its advanced X1 video platform. 

"We can do state-of-the-art without a physical transaction," Rutledge said. "We want to put advanced user interfaces in all of our customers' homes, and not just in their homes, but on every outlet that they have a TV connected to and every device that they have that they could watch video on."

That said, Rutledge insisted that Charter doesn't rely on Far Eastern call centers to handle the customer interactions it still has.

"We really believe service is a key element to the business," Rutledge said. "Quality can save you money, so we are believers in hiring people to work for us and not sending calls offshore--hiring actual employees and training and investing in them as opposed to contractors."

A recent American Consumer Satisfaction survey of U.S. cable subscribers found that Charter ranked in the middle of the pay-TV pack in terms of customer satisfaction. However, the company's overall score improved 5 percent during the past year, and it was among the top performers among cable companies. 

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