‘Unsung Heroes’ In the Ranks11/08/2010 12:01 AM Eastern
There is little question that an executive team
is responsible for the tone, temperament and
culture of a company. But it’s the rank-and-file workers who ensure that the business runs
efficiently and effectively. Cablevision Systems’
top brass, including chairman Charles
Dolan, CEO James Dolan and chief operating officer Tom
Rutledge, set the course and maintain a tight ship. But
the company’s employees make sure the vessel stays on
course, remains steady during squalls and avoids running
aground. These are profi les of some of the “unsung heroes”
at Cablevision that make it one of the strongest operators
in the business.
Vice President, Law, Cable And
Advertising And Sales
No press release, ad campaign or marketing piece goes
out Cablevision’s doors without the blessing of Jessica
Gutteridge and her team of attorneys.
“I touch on everything that is consumer-facing,” Gutteridge
said. “We make sure that we’re accurate in everything
we say and do.”
Gutteridge is often looped in at the conception of an
advertising campaign. That way, all the i’s are dotted and
the t’s crossed at the outset. It requires Gutteridge know a
great deal about a number of different things.
“I have learned a lot about the company and the cable
industry since coming to Cablevision,” she said. “We have
some very good resources and one of the best things about
working here is that we talk to each other. We’re all in the
same building, and it’s easy to walk down the hall and ask
questions or bounce things off other people.”
Gutteridge and her team closely examine the messages
that Cablevision makes, but they also monitor the messages,
ad campaigns and promises made by its competitors.
In addition, Gutteridge keeps a close eye on the company’s
trademarks, to make sure there is no infringement.
When Gutteridge joined Cablevision five years ago, the
MSO was already facing a burst of competition from satellite-
TV firms, as well as Verizon Communications’ FiOS
TV and Internet services, so Gutteridge never knew what
it was like to work for a company with a virtual lock on
“We’re always looking to see what other companies are
saying about their products and services and what they are
saying about our products and services,” she said.
If Gutteridge and her team find something that doesn’t
sit right, it’s up to her to determine the next course of action.
It could be a quick, informal call to the other company,
or it could end up in litigation. That doesn’t happen
often, but it is a last-resort option.
After graduating from law school, Gutteridge went to
work for a corporate trademark/litigation firm. She felt her
skills were better spent as an in-house counsel and worked
for another company before joining Cablevision in 2005.
“This was the perfect place for me,” she said. “I could
use my marketing, operations and trademark skills. I love
working for Cablevision.”
The best part of her day, Gutteridge said, “is sitting down
and working through an issue with the person in charge
of that particular project. We work together to fi nd a solution
to their needs. I like those projects that make me feel
like we’re doing them together, rather than just checking
off on a project.”
There are plenty of assignments to keep her busy all day
and that can be challenging. But she noted that the mostchallenging
projects are often the ones that are also the
most interesting and satisfying.
“This is a terrific job,” Gutteridge said. “It’s never the
same day twice.”
Senior Vice President,
As head of field operations, Chris Coffey oversees almost
5,000 field technicians and installers. Cablevision prides
itself on its ability to serve its customers and has won numerous
customer-satisfaction awards over the years.
In October, J.D. Power & Associates placed Cablevision
in the No. 1 spot in the East Region for its Optimum Online
cable-modem service, which ranked highest with a score
of 659. Th e company’s business and residential voice service
has been singled out more than once as well by the
customer-satisfaction survey company.
Cablevision customers receive a phone call the night
before a service or installation job is scheduled, reminding
them of their appointment. Customers can change or
cancel their service calls at that time, Coffey said. Technicians
will also make personal calls when they are headed
to their next appointment to make sure the customer
knows they are on the way. But that’s not all. Every customer
gets a follow-up phone call to make sure everything
was handled properly and to the customer’s satisfaction,
All of Coffey’s techs are cross-trained to handle installations,
disconnects, upgrades and trouble calls. Depending
on the task, a tech can typically handle from five to eight
service calls a day. Of course, Cablevision’s concentrated
footprint makes that a little easier than in less densely
populated areas. Still, the company works to make sure it’s
as efficient as possible, which is critical for both the company
and the customer, he said.
All technicians receive regular training on a weekly basis,
Coffey said. New hires go through an extensive training
period before they are sent out on service calls and existing employees receive weekly updates on new products
and features, as well as technical reminders about the
plant and how it works.
Technicians are also offered a structured plan for their
career path that can go in several different directions, Coffey
said. They can take a path that leads toward a leadership
role, such as supervisor or manager, or they can make
inter-department moves. For instance, a field tech could
decide he or she would rather work in a headend or at a
network operations center, he noted.
Coffey understands the benefit of a clear career path. He
started his cable career as a field tech for Comcast in 1982,
leaving that company in 2006 to join Cablevision.
“I worked in all the positions I oversee today,” Coffey
said, and that has helped him become a better manager.
His biggest challenge is the volume of service calls his staff
must complete around the clock.
“To achieve both our productivity goals and our customer-
satisfaction expectations is a fine balance,” he said.
“It’s one thing to do a lot of work and it’s another to do a
lot of work well. Finding ways to improve established procedures
or processes is very satisfying for me. It’s the best
part of my day.
“This environment is very conducive to change and
speed to change. We are always striving for perfection.”
Director, VOD Acquisition
Mandy Orzo spends her days at Cablevision acquiring
video-on-demand product from a variety of producers and
distributors. She and her team get pitched daily on programming
for Cablevision’s on-demand service. Some of
the content is supplemental to a network’s linear lineup and
sometimes it’s designed specifically for VOD viewing.
“The challenge is to have a mix of VOD programming
that’s easily identifi able,” Orzo said. In an environment
where thousands of hours of programming are available
on-demand, making sure Cablevision has the right mix to
meet the company’s needs is paramount, she said.
“We want to make sure we have different programming
and we want our customers to be able to time-shift existing
programming,” Orzo said. “We want to offer what our
customers want to watch.”
In addition to the time-shifting capabilities that VOD offers
customers, Orzo has cut deals with program distributors
that are not in the mainstream, but popular enough to
be carried on the company’s VOD platform. Recently added
programming includes shows from Shalom TV, The Ski
Channel and Martha Stewart Productions.
Still, Cablevision doesn’t want to throw everything
against the wall and see what sticks. Orzo and her team
carefully scrutinize each VOD pitch to make sure it fits
the MSO’s standards of quality and customer desirability.
“We have thousands of VOD titles available, but we don’t
want it to be cumbersome for our customers,” Orzo said.
“It has to be easy for them to identify and find.”
Orzo works closely with Cablevision’s product-management
group to make sure the content meets that criteria. She
cuts the carriage deals and then maintains the relationships
with the program providers.
Orzo has been with Cablevision for about two years now.
She had always worked on the programming side of the business
acquiring programming for Versus and MTV Networks,
among other programmers. When she heard that Cablevision
was looking for a director of VOD programming acquisition,
she jumped at the opportunity to work on the operations
side of the house. She believes her experience as a programmer
has helped her in her current position, because she has
the knowledge to craft deals that are good for both parties.
“I have a good understanding of [programmers’] goals
and that helps me understand where they are coming from
so everyone comes out a winner,” she said. “Th is is a great
job. I love the people I work with. They are all very smart
and I learn something every day.”
Vice President, Business and
Voice Product Management
After successfully rolling out residential telephone service
in its footprint, Cablevision began aiming its sights on the
small- and medium-sized business arena in its footprint in
2005. The company repeatedly ranked No. 1 with residential
phone customers and took many of those lessons and
applied them to its commercial offerings, said Joe Varello,
vice president of business and voice product management.
It worked: Cablevision’s SMB Optimum offering received
J.D. Power & Associates’ highest ranking in the East Region
last year, surpassing all other providers in the market.
“Once we hit our stride with the residential side of the
market, we began focusing on the multi-line business,”
Varello said. The company started by luring what it calls
extra-small businesses, those requiring only a couple of
lines of service. After tweaking some things including
fi re alarm support certifi cation requirements, which differ
from residential requirements, Cablevision went after
larger operations that require more lines and are more
complex to service, Varello said.
Varello spent 15 years working at the regional Bell operating
companies. He left Verizon Communications in 1999 to
help form Everest Broadband Networks and was lured away
a short time later by Connecticut Edison to run its newly
formed fiber company. He came to Cablevision in 2004 to
oversee the firm’s residential telephony rollout.
“We had to develop a few things we didn’t have in the
residential area, like toll-free calling and multi-line rollover
services,” Varello said. Morever, the business portal
had to have diff erent functionalities. For instance, businesses
needed the ability to delineate between employees
with some getting more access than others to back-office
“But really, the vast majority of features were similar to
our residential phone offering,” Varello said. “The reliability
is the same, even if the reliability expectations are different.
We use the same plant, switch and gateway. In our
business modems, we do provide online battery backup
as a standard feature. Residential customers can get it but
it’s optional as a residential offering.”
When Cablevision went after the small businesses in
its service territory, the company consciously decided to
price the product the same as its residential service, which
turned out to be a good marketing tactic against the incumbent
provider, Varello said.
“We saw that as a big differentiator for us with our competition,”
Varello said, “because we knew the business
customers we were going after were already likely already
our residential customers and they already understood
the product and what we charged.” The move energized
its SMB business and growth skyrocketed.
Now that Cablevision has significantly penetrated the
very small and small business market, Varello said the
company is luring larger companies that have as many as
100 phones and desktops.