By Robert Pietranton
Special to TelevisionWeek
When Comcast Corp. completed its purchase of AT&T Broadband in 2002 and became the largest cable operator in the United States, the responsibility for keeping the company’s nearly 22 million subscribers satisfied in the face of increased competition from satellite providers and rising costs for digital cable and broadband Internet services fell to a former energy company executive who, at the time, had less than three years of experience in the television business.
Fortunately, that executive was Suzanne Keenan, senior VP of customer service, who joined the company in 1999. Ms. Keenan, who is based at Comcast’s Philadelphia headquarters, oversees customer service operations for the company and is responsible for developing and promoting national customer service initiatives.
David Cohen, executive VP of Comcast Corp., said Ms. Keenan is “one of the top customer service professionals in the country, in any industry,” and her colleagues in the cable business agree.
In recognition of her achievements at Comcast, Ms. Keenan, 40, will receive the 2004 Woman to Watch Accolade from Women in Cable & Telecommunications, the oldest and largest organization serving women professionals in the cable and telecommunications industries.
The Woman to Watch award is given each year to a woman at the middle- to senior-management level who “exhibits job excellence” and “a strong dedication to the industry.” Each candidate must be a current WICT member who demonstrates leadership and motivational qualities, successfully contributes to her organization’s success, inspires others and serves as a mentor to junior executives.
For Ms. Keenan, who joined WICT in 1999 upon entering the cable business, the recognition is testament to her entire customer service organization at Comcast.
“Being selected [Woman to Watch] is obviously an incredible honor, but this award is really a reflection of my team,” she said. “One thing that I’ll take complete credit for being good at is selecting talented people. I have an incredible group around me, and I’m so grateful for the work they do. I’m convinced they’re the reason I have the chance to accept this wonderful award.”
Mr. Cohen praised Ms. Keenan’s strategic leadership capabilities. “Suzanne is extraordinary, a thoroughly decent person in addition to being an outstanding executive,” he said. “Customer service is a complicated task to direct at any company, but at a place like Comcast, with 200,000 customer contacts a year, having someone of Suzanne’s temperament and leadership ability is absolutely essential.”
Her abilities were tested in the period after the AT&T Broadband purchase.
“Our focus was on the successful integration of AT&T into the Comcast customer service operation,” Mr. Cohen said. “The Comcast customer service philosophy is built upon the idea of having 100 percent of our inbound service calls handled by our own employees. We think the most important calls are our video customers calling in for help, and our goal is to have all of those calls answered by a Comcast employee who lives in or near the local community where that customer is calling from.
“Suzanne led the herculean effort of creating eight new call centers and supervising the expansion of seven others, essentially creating 15 new call centers to ensure that we could handle all of our inbound video calls in-house,” Mr. Cohen said.
In recent months Ms. Keenan, who lives with her husband and two children in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., has spearheaded an internal companywide customer service initiative called “Think Customer First.” The goal: Make every employee think about every activity and its ramifications for the customer. The company completes 10,000 surveys per month to monitor its progress, with results posted monthly and incentives offered for improving the customer experience.
“We interact with our customers one transaction at a time, and our challenge is to make sure that every time we have an opportunity to interact with them, we leave them with a great experience of Comcast,” Ms. Keenan said.
Before joining Comcast, Ms. Keenan served in a variety of management roles at PECO Energy, including VP of customer and marketing services, general manager of customer service and director of field services.
One member of her customer service team at PECO, Tina Waters, followed her boss to Comcast and now serves as Comcast Cable’s VP of customer service operations. “I made the choice to join Suzanne here [at Comcast], and she’s a major reason why I’m still here,” said Ms. Waters. “As a leader, she’s an incredible mentor for all of her direct reports, and other people outside the customer service group have come to her to ask for mentoring.
“She inspires my thinking and creates an environment where creativity is encouraged,” Ms. Waters said. “She also encourages us to participate in outside organizations like WICT and to take advantage of learning and development opportunities that allow us to build our skills.”
Mr. Cohen said he believes Ms. Keenan’s future is limitless. “Suzanne is the ultimate leader by example, and we look at her as a future senior leader at this company,” he said. “The continuation of her multiple contributions to Comcast should make her a woman to watch, not only here but in the cable industry as a whole.”