MI-Connection cracking down on ‘unauthorized’ customers
by Staff Writer
by Frank DeLoache
DAVIDSON – Alan Hall’s job is to make MI-Connection profitable, and he can’t do that if people are taking cable TV, Internet or phone services without paying for them.
Two teams of auditors in brightly branded vans are about to start a street-by-street check of MI-Connection’s territory to ferret out any “unauthorized” customers.
When he first took the job of general manager 18 months ago, Hall had his staff take a sample audit of neighborhoods served by MI-Connection. The staff found that 8 percent – almost 1 in 10 customers – were not paying for the service. He told the MI-Connection board last week he has no reason to believe that proportion has shrunk.
Notice, Hall doesn’t say those folks stole the service. When Adelphia went bankrupt, Time Warner operated the service for a while before Mooresville and Davidson bought the company. So a customer’s disconnect order might have been lost in the transition, Hall said. “Someone may have made a mistake.”
He’d much rather keep the customers and just move them from the “unauthorized” to the “paying” category.
But the company is getting serious about those who don’t want to pay. In the past six months, as MI-Connection crews have happened upon homes that shouldn’t have service, MI-Connection officials either get a payment for continuing service or disconnect the account, Hall said. Then, they come back in 30 days to make sure the customer hasn’t reconnected the service.
If they find the service restored, they call police.
MI-Connection has filed theft charges in eight cases in Cornelius and Mooresville. None in Davidson, so far.
Customers can get a fine of up to $500 for stealing the services, Hall told MI-Connection directors. Some of those cases remain active, Hall told the Herald later, and in some cases, MI-Connection has agreed to drop a charge if customers will pay for two or three months of back service.
Hall believes the auditors will pay for themselves with no problem. The vans didn’t cost extra, either. MI-Connection is using vans the company already had that are too small to carry all the equipment a regular crew needs.
More sales people, too
MI-Connection is also hiring three people to work door-to-door sales.
Combined with an in-house telemarketing sales team, MI-Connection plans to ratchet up its marketing, particularly its top-of-the line, revenue-producing services such as fiber-optic cable, with extra bandwidth for data services, and multi-channel cable TV offerings.
At the July 28 board meeting, Chairman John Venzon asked David Auger, a former Time-Warner executive who is consulting with MI-Connection, if the company needs to always offer the lowest price in the market,
That low price point only serves as a “beacon price” that attracts customers, Auger said, “and the rest is upselling,”
Dish Network has perfected the technique, Auger said, and he believes MI-Connection can take away Dish Network customers by offering superior products and service. Price is not always the determining factor for customers, Auger said. He recommends MI-Connection gather marketing information on non-subscribers and competitors’ customers, especially those using Dish Network.