The following article appeared Monday's Advertising Age, in response to my blog posts and long essay chronicling my Comcast Must Die jihad. I have taken the liberty of italicizing the passages in which Comcast admits chronic ineptitude. I've also boldfaced the parts where the company equivocates and deflects blame.
Just to make a point that should be obvious to everyone, Comcast included: when you are getting it wrong millions of times a year, nobody gives a rat's ass how often you're getting it right. You can't win in court telling the judge how many 7-Elevens you didn't rob.
As for the details of all Comcast is doing to improve its customer service, well, bravo. We applaud them. But it is not enough. What we need from Comcast is a public vow to do the following:
1) empower frontline service employees with the tools and authority to solve problems on the first call.
2) give a CS employees direct communications with techs in the field
3) get rid of incentives for CS reps and techs in the field to value handling more calls versus getting each call handled right
4) embrace consumers by integrating Mr. Germano's listening tour into an ongoing process -- online and off -- so that the customer has a genuine voice in the company's operations across the board. That means, among other things, hosting a corporate website or blog that takes on the role now performed by comcastmustdie.com.
COMCAST WILL LIVE
By Rick Germano
There has been a great deal written by Bob Garfield in Ad Age over the past couple of months about Comcast. I want to make clear that his experience is certainly not the experience we aim to provide, nor is it the general rule.
Without question, Mr. Garfield did not have a good customer service experience with Comcast. His columns and blog posts make that point emphatically. But as Mr. Garfield and others have vividly recounted, sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t. We have personal interactions with about 1 million customers every day, which adds up to 365 million interactions each year, the vast majority of which are positive.
We’re well aware that some customers find it frustrating to deal with us and we are trying to address that. Our customers have let us know loud and clear that while they love our products, they don’t always love having to do business with us. As the new head of Customer Service at Comcast, I recently began a cross-country listening tour to meet with customers and employees and to listen to what they have to say about Comcast.
I have already met with customers in Philadelphia and Baltimore/Washington D.C., and will go to Miami, Atlanta, Houston, San Francisco and Chicago within the next few months. In separate meetings with customers and employees, I’m getting plenty of straight talk about our need to do a better job. I am also hearing about the many times our customers have received terrific customer service. This reality of good customer service that we provide is often overshadowed by the loud voices of online posts.
What we have heard from our customers is they don’t want to be put on hold for long periods, and they don’t want to have to contact us several times to fix a simple problem. When they need to find critical information, or a person to talk to, they don’t want to get lost on our websites. Most of all, they want us to show up when we say we will and get the job done right the first time.
We get that. Our goal is to provide a consistent level of superior service with each customer interaction. This is our highest priority.
That’s an easy promise to make. Keeping it is more difficult – especially as real world developments – even positive ones – can keep a company from meeting all the standards it sets for itself. For instance, in just the last five years, we’ve gone from being the fourth largest cable provider with eight million customers to the largest with more than 24 million customers. Comcast is also the largest residential provider of high-speed Internet with 12.9 million customers, and the fourth largest phone service provider with more than three million customers.
We’re addressing our service issues head on by investing a tremendous amount of resources into making it easier and more convenient to do business with Comcast. For example:
Our technicians work Saturday and Sunday, early mornings and late evenings so customers can schedule appointments when it’s convenient for them
We’re offering shorter appointment windows and have more two- and three-hour appointments available because we recognize how valuable our customers’ time is
We’ve hired 12,000 new customer service agents and technicians in the past two years alone
We opened six new call centers this year, with two more set to open next year, and added customer service agents to the 11 call centers we already had
We continue to improve our training and development programs
We are giving technicians laptops and handheld devices to improve on-time reliability
We are providing more self-help options for customers over the phone or via the Web
And we are exploring a host of ways to make it easier and more seamless for consumers to provide us with all forms of feedback.
Importantly, we have spent the last two years making investments knowing they’re part of a multi-year commitment to improve customer service for every customer every time. It will take time, but we intend to meet that goal for all our customers.
We have 90,000 employees who work hard every day to reach this goal. They install new services, work overnight in our call centers to answer questions 24 hours a day, and learn new technologies daily so they can provide better service. We may not always get it right but we certainly are trying hard to do better.
Mr. Germano is Comcast’s senior vice president for customer operations.