June 05, 2007
Comcast: We hope we don't suck

I've been dealing with a dead high-speed Net connection all day today, so this strikes a chord with me.

Comcast Corp. is taking steps to improve customer service -- long a point of criticism for the cable industry -- as it prepares to put its name on the local operation.

A review of complaints to the Better Business Bureau since Comcast took control of Time Warner Cable in Houston and surrounding areas on Jan. 1 shows little change in the level of complaints. It does show customers fed up with waiting all day for technicians who never showed up, sales staff who didn't apply credits correctly and customer service representatives who promised one thing and did another.

Comcast, which is rebranding the service under its own name on June 19, is vowing to do better by making service calls more convenient for customers, monitoring its network to spot problems before customers do and providing new channels customers have requested.

"We are investing more than $200 million this year in the Houston market to upgrade our network, enhance our customer service and launch our products and services," said Tony Speller, Comcast's senior vice president for the Houston region, which includes 750,000 customers in Houston and more than 60 surrounding communities.


In an effort to limit the number of customers who say goodbye to Comcast, the company is trying to eliminate the friction points, Speller said.
A common complaint in the BBB records was customers' having to wait around an entire day for an installer to show up. Under Time Warner -- and currently under Comcast -- service windows have run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Speller said Comcast will narrow service windows to no more than four hours, and customers will be able to ask for two- or three-hour windows. Comcast technicians will make service calls seven days a week. There is no timetable to implement the changes, Comcast spokesman Ray Purser said.

Sometimes, according to the BBB records, a salesperson on the phone promised the customer would get a call when the technician was 30 minutes from the home. When no call came, the customer missed the technician and had to reschedule, sometimes days later.

Under the company's new courtesy-call policy, if a customer asks for it, a company representative will phone 30 minutes before a technician arrives.

Comcast also said it will hire more call center employees and increase pay for new workers. It declined to reveal specific wages, citing competitive concerns.

You know what would make me happy today? Have enough roving technicians so that when your home Internet service craps out, you don't have to wait two full days for a repair person to make a visit. I was going to be doing some work at home this week and next so Tiffany can take care of some stuff at her office, and let me tell you, this was beyond inconvenient. The good news is that it belatedly appears the problem was a system outage, and not merely my connection - I'm waiting on confirmation of that. All I know is that if I'd been running a business from home and had this happen, and then been told I had to lose two whole days waiting for a technician to fix it, I'd be really pissed.

(If we had citywide WiFi in place today, I'd at least have a backup option for when this sort of thing happen. Someday, someday...)

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 05, 2007 to Technology, science, and math

Last time I had to call TW because the internet was out, I made the appointment, and asked, "Can you call me on my cell phone when the tech is on his way?" My thought was that I'd go down the street to MWK's and get work done until they were ready to show up.

The answer: "No. We can only call the main number associated with the account."

Why? Because. No other reason.

That was followed by about three long outages (neighborhood wide) in two days, which is when I got DSL from AT&T. It's slower. It also seems to be much more reliable (which was also my experience when I had it before switching to TW for better speed).

I'll take slower but reliable, thank you. Good luck with your Comcastic new provider.

Posted by: John on June 5, 2007 3:24 PM

So Comcast's focus will be not on improving up-time, but on finding more customers, offering new features and upgrading downtime warmfuzzies.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on June 5, 2007 8:07 PM

We're considering switching back to DSL. We're very likely to jump on the fiber optic whenever that goes live.

Also considering seeking retention package from cable company and using the "savings" to pay for DSL until they turn on the fiber.

Any other suggestions? We've got two people working from home here.

Posted by: Justin on June 7, 2007 10:53 AM