What would it take to get you to stop hating Comcast? In hopes of repairing its reputation as one of America’s most hated companies, the Philadelphia cable giant said Tuesday it plans to completely revamp its customer service strategy, but some pay-TV customers say they’ve heard this song and dance before. And they’re not buying it.
“It feels like what they’ve been saying for years,” said Dann Furia, a former Comcast customer from suburban Philadelphia, who last year documented months of customer service issues with the company, including being hit with an unreturned equipment bill he said was erroneous. “It’s hard to know whether this is more PR or genuine.”
Comcast’s multiyear plan, announced by company executives at the INTX expo in Chicago, comprises a host of new customer-focused tools, technologies and collaborations -- ranging from a feature that lets customers track cable technicians in real time to a partnership with the UPS Store to make equipment returns easier. Comcast said the initiatives will make the customer experience more seamless, and said it plans to hire 5,500 new customer service employees to bring the plan to fruition.
Neil Smit, president and chief executive of Comcast Cable, said the transformation is about “shifting our mindset” to be completely focused on customers’ needs. “It’s about respecting their time, being more proactive, doing what’s right, and never being satisfied with good enough,” Smit said in a statement. “We’re on a mission and everyone is committed to making this happen.”
The announcement comes less than two weeks after Comcast abandoned its $45 billion takeover bid for Time Warner Cable Inc.
Comcast often ranks at or near the bottom of consumer satisfaction surveys, and last year it was named “Worst Company in America” by Consumerist. Internally, some call center employees have described the company’s corporate culture as being too focused on sales and metrics, with hard-line retention tactics given priority over basic customer needs.
Comcast vows it can change, but its new plan -- perhaps not surprisingly -- facing harsh cynicism on social media. “I just wonder how much this is going to cost me,” one Facebook user said of the announcement. “Every time I turn around, my bill goes up and up and up.”
As part of the overhaul, Comcast also said it will make major changes to the in-store experience, including a redesign of its retail stores and an “intelligent queuing” feature that allows customers to reserve space in line and reduce wait times. Changes in the field include a new policy of crediting customers $20 if a technician doesn’t arrive on time to an appointment.
Comcast executives had previously gone to great lengths to defend the company’s customer service record in the face of public criticism. Last year, for instance, Executive Vice President David Cohen told the New York Times that Comcast did a “great job” on more than 99 percent of the company’s 300 million service calls a year.
Furia said the new revamp speaks to the apparent tone-deafness of such past statements, and reinforces why any promises Comcast makes in regards to customer service should be viewed with suspicion. “I think there’s a contradiction there with these executives,” he said. “Either they have no idea what’s going on or they’re being dishonest.”