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Creating a tradition: SCTC's Seventh Annual Customer Appreciation Day draws crowd.

When cows number more than houses, you're out in the country for sure. Houses might be few and far between, but telephone service is not, thanks to Scott County Telephone Cooperative (SCTC), serving southwest Virginia for the past 50 years. SCTC provides excellent customer service and family fun too, in the form of an annual customer appreciation day, held the first Saturday of August each year.

It began seven years ago, when the board of directors and managers decided to show their customers how much they are appreciated. With the community widely dispersed throughout the coverage area, this wasn't going to be an easy task to coordinate. A picnic at the local park would not suffice. Instead, SCTC planned an all-day event to gather everyone for some fun in the sun and a bit of old fashioned picnicking. "We cater a meal by a local church, have games for the kids, swim, play horseshoes and just connect with each other," said Bill Franklin, CEO of SCTC. "Our goal for the day is to let our customers know we appreciate them."

"It's a wonderful all-day get-together--family oriented with swimming, entertainment and lots of fun," said Greg Hood, marketing and member relations director for SCTC. "We also help with any problems our customers might be having, but we really want to show them our appreciation, make it a day for them to relax and get together with friends."

Hood, who is in charge of the event, said his favorite part is watching people interact. "I like to see people sitting around and talking, just chatting away;" he said, "and I like to see the kids too, running around all over the place, riding the rides and swimming."

The event required a venue large enough to hold the number of people expected to attend, but also impressive enough to attract customers who would have to travel great distances to get there. The organizing committee chose Natural Tunnel State Park, located in SCTC's service area. "It's advertised as the eighth wonder of the world, where this great big rock has been worn away for millions of years by a river, and now a train runs through it," Hood said. "It's really quite neat." The natural wonder is great for attracting customers to the event, and the entertainment line-up, including the World's Worst Farmer, Lewis Baumgartner, does the same.

Baumgartner, the comedic relief, owns a farm but admittedly is not very good at farming. He now makes tours around the country at events such as SCTC's, spouting his comedy act purely to make people laugh, mostly by identifying with his audience through "been there, done that" jokes. On his Web site, which features some of Baumgartner's original poetry that he wrote while perched on his tractor, the World's Worst Farmer says his main goal "is to make 'em laugh!"

Over the past seven years, as speakers and schedules change, many of the same faces return while new ones arrive. Approximately 2,500 to 3,000 customers will take part in the festivities, meet up with old friends and enjoy the views of the park along with the entertainment. "Some make it a yearly event, mark it on their calendars," said Hood. "Certain people come back year after year ... but we get lots of new faces, too. It's great to bring the new customers and the old customers together."

Held on August 5 this year, the event ran from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and included door prizes, face painting, chair lift rides and of course, food.

The Seventh Annual Customer Appreciation Day is only one way SCTC shows its commitment to its customers. "Providing our customers with new services is one of the things we are working on right now; it's our main goal," Hood said. "We're really spread out, with only about eight customers per square mile, and we're working hard to get these people video and other new technologies that people in the big cities already have. It's our number one priority."

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By Linda Misiura, NTCA Communications Intern
COPYRIGHT 2006 National Telephone Cooperative Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Misiura, Linda
Publication:The Exchange
Date:Oct 1, 2006
Words:681
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