Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Comcast is criticized for customer service levels

The Washington Post has a major story today (July 23, 2008) in the Business Section, p D1, about the customer service complaints against Comcast. The story is called “Call the Cable Guy, Again: As Comcast Grows, Service Problems Dog Customers,” by Cecilia Kang, link here.

The general problem is that as Comcast has added customers in areas, it has not always maintained the infrastructure and staff necessary to support increased demand that often goes with building new condos or “McMansions” in neighborhoods. In a few cases, customers have had to wait a week or more and endure repeated visits and sometimes technicians fail to notice that neighborbood nodes need to be upgraded or replaced. The problem may be especially serious in the District of Columbia, as around Dupont Circle.

Often, cable installers are hired as independent contractors rather than as employees.

I got Comcast in 2003, high speed Internet and cable. I started having some periods of slow response or dropouts in 2005 or 2006. The problems would be intermittent. The problems improved finally after a technician replaced several splitters. I am told that splitters, exposed to the elements outside, do degrade and that sometimes only certain ranges of channels are affected, or that Internet connections can stall and restart depending on temperature or humidity in the splitter.

There have also been problems when specific users downloading or transferring huge video files, which many complain Comcast interferes with and slows down, to protect the access of other customers when capacity is finite. A solution could be to bill for excess use.

I’ve discovered, in working with ISPs and telecommunications providers, that often individual employees are not well trained and do not respond consistently to the same problem. I worked in supporting a customer service workbench for an insurance company in 2000 and 2001, and found that it is necessary, as a call center employee, to have very elaborate scripts and cookbook rules as to steps to try to resolve a problem. Call center work is not easy. If I went back to work out of retirement, I believe I could help a company like this improve service with better methods of organizing responses to problems.

Back in the 1990s, we had “Media General Cable” in Fairfax County, VA, and occasionally there would be cable outages for twelve hours or more. In Minnesota, I had Time Warner Cable, which had the irritating habit of going down for a while on Sunday afternoons!

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