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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 16, 2014

A Fix for Comcast Customer Service/Satisfaction: Focus First on the Network

By Bob Wallace, Founder, Fast Forward Thinking LLC

With the age-old service outage and interruption problems that have been common with Comcast (News - Alert), the company’s top customer-focused execs might want to first focus on eliminating issues with the underlying network infrastructure.

This approach could improve operations inside the over 50 far-flung call centers in a unit that boasts tens of thousands of customer service employees and technicians. That should, in turn, gradually lift Comcast’s challenged customer interaction ratings.

After all, don’t most customers call when they are having a problem with one or all of their services? Sure, some are attributed to schedule maintenance and upgrades, but they are still outages to the customer that collectively challenge customer service reps that deal with unhappy customers who choose to speak to a live human.

The Bigger Picture

Of course, dealing with service outages are just one item under the larger customer service umbrella, I’m willing to wager that problems processing orders and questions about invoices create a little less angst than being denied the ability to use widely relied on services such as TV and Internet/email.

Comcast recently named rising exec Charlie Herrin to the post of senior vice president, customer experience presumably to address continuing issues that have resulted in low rankings on customer service/satisfaction lists.

We can only hope that he focuses on network and service reliability/quality of experience (QoE) first as this could turn frowns upside down for customers and customer service staff in Comcast call centers.

About Tuesday Night

In the meantime, a software problem in Comcast servers in the operator’s Northeast region – and likely far beyond - cut off customers’ ability to send and receive e-mails for hours on Tuesday evening EST though the operator’s video, Internet and voice were unaffected during the latest service outage.

The exact nature and cause of the email-stopping outage were not known at the time, adding to customer frustration combined with no estimated time to repair during the interruption left users feeling powerless. Call volumes and wait times to reach customer service agents went higher and longer than normal according to a recorded greeting an automated system played to callers.

Email service was restored to some in a matter of hours. Though the outage was said to be reported from all New England states, customers notifying others of e-mail problems with email service online claimed to be from locations in other regions of the U.S. during roughly the same time frame Tuesday night.

Perspective and Context

The task is far tougher for Comcast than other service providers when you consider that some no longer view the corporation as a cable company, terming it instead a media conglomerate. The company’s network, which would expand largely if the $45.2 billion deal for Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable is approved by regulators, is but the foundation upon which countless endeavors are layered.

To recap, Comcast owns content giant NBC Universal (News - Alert), video publishing innovator thePlatform and advertising pioneer Freewheel. That’s in addition to cutting countless content carriage deals, launching new products and services for business and residences via a blended wired and wireless network infrastructure.

That has to be an amazingly heavy load to operate and manage on a day-to-day basis and presenting unique challenges not experienced by other service providers – all while competing with satellite TV providers and newer age, broadband service providers such as AT&T (News - Alert) and Verizon in most markets.

Is Bigger Better?

That’s the question that’s on the minds of most when it comes to larger mergers and acquisitions such as Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV (News - Alert). These are neither the first of their size, nor the last, but simply the latest on the U.S. business landscape.

History is full of mega-deals that didn’t proceed smoothly and some that experienced extra issues on the customer service front during the often-lengthy integration stage of the process.

Regardless, these business deals put extra weight on all departments of which customer service is one of the most outward facing, along with billing. Sales and marketing are often under the gun when priorities for products, services, packages, pricing etc. are determined.

In the Spotlight

In short, Comcast’s customer service czar may have the biggest job in the media conglomerate, tasked with raising the media conglomerate’s low-on-the list rankings in customer service/satisfaction. All eyes will be upon Herrin regardless of the merger outcome.

Here’s to hoping the first focus is in the network and service customer QoE. That should make life in call centers much easier for agents who get hit by unhappy customers when a service is impaired or knocked out but are powerless to literally fix the problem.

Just like the airline reps behind the check-in counter who don’t maintain the planes, handle resource scheduling or calculate logistics.

First things first.

Stay tuned!

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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