Cable Companies, Telcos, Have An Epiphany — Their Service Sucks

from the duh dept

If you asked the average American consumer to list off the companies they deal with, but really don’t like too much, there’s a good chance that the local telephone and cable companies will be near the top of the list. Years of operating in situations where competition was basically non-existent made customer service similarly invisible: consistent rate hikes, long hold times on the phone, service call appointments with huge windows they still somehow manage to miss, and so on. Now, with cable companies trying to steal the telcos’ customers with their VoIP services, and the telcos getting into cable TV, they’ve apparently realized that — gasp — maybe they should stop treating customers like crap. It’s not totally clear, though, how much of this is just window dressing — like having technicians wear hospital-style booties over their shoes when they enter peoples’ houses — and how much of it is actual fundamental change, though the companies are making all the right noises. It’s still not clear if they really understand some of the problems, too. For instance, the original article mentions the video of the sleeping Comcast tech that went around the web a few months ago. A Comcast exec says the guy got fired, and the company sent a VP out to fix the customer’s internet connection. The sleeping tech wasn’t exactly the problem, but rather the ridiculous wait time he had to endure with the Comcast call center. Has that bigger issue been fixed? Who knows. But at least they found a fall guy so they can look like they’re taking things seriously.

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Comments on “Cable Companies, Telcos, Have An Epiphany — Their Service Sucks”

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Anonymous of Course says:

I've seen some improvement lately

The line to my house has been intermittant for the

last ten years. It’s not always the same cause.

Could be mice nesting in a pylon, bad card at

the CO or a corroded connection.

I’ve Verizon for service numerous times often over

this ten year period and their customer service is

now much better than it was five years ago.

I don’t even mind talking to Laura Croft when I call

the toll free number, because they have been good

at follow-up with real humans on the phone when


Now if they would only replace their 30 year old

FDM system with something built in this century.

Its Back says:

Re: Call me cynical

Look at the new AT&T, SBC has aquired them and the name, as well as a full set of telecommunications options for a good part of the US. I have also heard a rumor (Keeping Source Confidential) that there is serious consideration of either a very close parnership or flat out purchase of Alcatel and possibly some of IBM’s specific production lines that are used in SFO and VFO facilities.

Ma Bell is back already, she’s just weak like a newborn.

Give Comcast some love says:


I’m 100% serious about this and it really works. Call up comcast and make sure you get to the termination department. You will actually get to them much faster than any other call you make to Crapcast.

Tell them that you want to cancel your internet because you will get a better deal from DSL, heck I didn’t even need to say this. Then tell them you want to downgrade your cable package.

Ok here is the results:

I did this and my cable bill went was lowered by about fifty bucks.

I now have:

Cable Internet $19.99

Hbo, Showtime, starz, cinimax $79

These prices are good for a year but thats still saving a fair amount of money and I suspect that you could do this again at some point, after the deal expires. It only works if you tell them you want to cancel, they have a special, “Please don’t cancel package” for you.

P.S. Verizon is clueless…

I called them up because I needed to get business DSL or FIOS with static IP. They tell me that they don’t have a business sales office that I can call and that I would be called back. What the hell kind of service is that, you can’t even order stuff from them? How good do you think the service will be? It is now four days later and I have not heard from them. I guess my money isn’t any good with Verizon.

On the bright side for comcast they do have a business sales office and in about 5 minutes I had a quote and was on my way.

Joshua McDermott says:


For the last 5 years I have worked for the local cable company and I have seen an real push for customer service. With satellite companies and phone company’s push to improve technology, customers have seemed to come and go with the best deals.

The steps that are being taken by the company that I work for have been to keep customer (whatever the price) by giving them the best service possible. Possible is the key word and for my company that means being available 24 – 7 for phone support and a service call within 24 hours of reporting a problem.

Service has different meanings for every customer and as long as the company knows that an emergency for the old lady down the street who can’t get her VCR to record Murder She Wrote and the business with millions of customers in town lost their internet connection are equally important as far as service goes, they are on the right track.

What the heck is FDM?

JustSomeone says:

Comcast is still horrible

A relative recently went through hell to get a tech out. After waiting 45 mins on hold to get an appt, the soonest was 72 hrs from the time of the call. She waited at home all day for the guy and when he didn’t show she called them only to be told that he had been cancelled, and that their system doesn’t state why or who cancelled it. She was then told that it would be another 4 days before someone could be out to her!

She cancelled her service that day and switched to DSL and DirecTV. I don’t know how soon the changes are supposed to be made, but all of that happened last week.

Anonymous Coward says:

but i don’t want them trashing my house in the meantime. true some drilling and removing of plaster/drywall/carpeting will leave some particles floating about, a tech shouldn’t ahve muddy shoes and pants when entering someone’s house. true they work outside and may have problems, but those vans are larg enough to contain a “changing room” for clean boots/pants.

and my aunt works in a teleco call center, dealing with termination services. and she said yes, if you call to cancel, you can get a cheaper rate.

but the real problem is the comcast tech guy who fell asleep. it’s not that he fell asleep on the job, its the fact that he fell asleep while waiting for INSTRUCTIONS to complete his job. not every technician knows everything about the entire structure of the comcast business. they need to ask for help too, especially if they need confirmation numbers and things of the like. and if the companies own tech installer guy can’t get through, how’s is the paying customer going to?

T.Conner says:

Better yet

If local and cable are near the top I know who is #1 [in more ways than one] Cell providers. I mean come on; at what point did we decide that it is acceptable to pay for a service that at best works 75% of the time? If we go to work part of the time we get part of a pay check, if we get to keep our jobs. *611 is a joke! Endless prompts then a 20min wait (if you don’t drop the call) to have an Indonesian with broken English read a script to you off there web site.

Ahhhhh……. CAN YOUR HEAR ME NOW? ……… NO!

Chris says:

Where size doesnt matter.

Having worked for two seperate small business, dealing with tv and internet service, our service is on an entirely different plain than any big provider. The first place I worked for had one call center with 4 techs, and myself as the sole field tech, servicing mostly our WiFi customers of about 800 (just started offering this service when I was working there). The company had been primarily a dial-up compnay, so maitence wasnt too big of an issue until the WiFi came around. Anyone who’s dealt with a router and trying to explain why it needs to reset every so often understads the amount of service calls you can get offering 802.11 service. The company I’m currently working for services about 4000 customers dealing with TV and internet service. However only have 2 people in our call center and 5 field techs. However, both companies are still able to offer same day service. Go to any telco, cable provider and you’re gonna have to wait 2-3weeks for an available technician. Why? because they schedule more installs to get that new $$ than service calls.

From the other guys working around here, their main greif is usualy being put on hold waiting for their head-end to ever approve of anything. Just like almost any DISH installer will tell you that trying to get boxes authorized will take close to an hour. Most times they setup whats required and let the customer deal with finalizing the install with the call center, as they get paied by the job, not the hour. As with all corporations it’s about pleasing the stock holders, and rasing their shares. So instead of spending profits on hiring more tech staff so that the entire support process can be sped up, they give out kickbacks. The larger companies always know they’ll be the main presence in an area, and just because the names around people will sign up for their service. Once your in their contract you’re screwed, or have to pay a butt load to get out of it. Regardless of how craptastic their customer support is, or their service in general, once you’ve inked the paper you have to shell out the cash.

If you ask me they purposely offer bad services, because it ends up making the customer so frustrated that the’ll shell out the $500 to cancel the contract just to get rid of the hassle of dealing with these companies. And those disconnect fee pays more than your actual contract would if left to expire. So as I see it, dont expect your quality of service to improve anytime soon, if ever.

Mike w/covad says:

I live my life


I worked for Ameritech/SBC for 6 years, now I work for Covad. But I still talk to India everyday, my Hindi is getting better. I think Getting a tech out at a reasonable time is normal, depending on how many trouble tickets we have and goegraphic location.

It may take me 10-15 minutes to complete an installation(New Turn Up) but to verify everything requires a call to India, and I get put on hold and transferred multiple times, I know when I workd for SBC, my DSL customers were shocked to see me walk in and dial the same number they used to get me out there – for tech support/testing. I would like to see IVR options(THAT WORK) implemeted in the future. ($50 says it wont happen.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Okay now, just for the record, not all telecommunications companies stink. I notice that the ones you’re talking about are huge conglomerates: Qwest, SBC, Covad, etc. No matter what, you’re always gonna get left in the dust with those guys, because they’re simply too big to really care about the little guy.

I work for what I would call a medium-sized phone company. We have approx. 500 employees (give or take) throughout 4 or 5 locations around the state. The city where the main offices are the the surrounding small towns can all get residential services (phone Internet, digital TV, etc.), while the more remote locations are used for business services, such as transport, VoIP, etc. I can’t honestly speak for the business services, but I know all the customer service reps for residential phone and Internet support, and I know that we provide excellent and timely customer service. That doesn’t mean everybody likes our company. There are areas that are not as well-equipped, and therefore people tend to side more with the local cable company for TV and Internet and whatnot. Honestly I think it’s good that there’s some healthy competition, because that keeps us motivated to continually upgrade our equipment and improve customer service.

What I really hate is the fact that everybody lumps all the “telcos” into one big pile like we’re all the same. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My employer is NOTHING like those corporate giants that stomp on the little guy. If you wanna talk nasty about the big guys, be my guest, but just don’t lump us all together, because it simply isn’t fair.

Oh, and for the record, our digital TV service is fairly new and isn’t available for my apartment building yet, but I can’t wait for it, because the quality of service from the local cable company does indeed stink.

Aaron G. (user link) says:

I hope cable co's die off.

Quote: “The sleeping tech wasn’t exactly the problem, but rather the ridiculous wait time he had to endure with the Comcast call center. Has that bigger issue been fixed? Who knows. But at least they found a fall guy so they can look like they’re taking things seriously.”

I couldn’t agree more on the “fall guy” statement. Comcast is just like that. They find someone to blame to make them (look) correct…

I hope they lose revenue on that news and continue to do so. Fail just like AT&T Cable did before Comcast bought them out.

I used to work for that sorry ass company. They are a micro-managed, anally retentive company in which they only value money. They have no customer base, and in training for the local call centers they teach them to FAKE being nice to win over the customer.

This is not true customer service. I honestly hope the WORST for Comcast and other Cable companies. A bunch of cookie cutters they are.

Agonizing Fury says:

You'll Love this....

Speaking of horrible customer service, how about this one? I looked at my DSL bill from my local phone company (Coastal Communications) this month and guess what I saw FCC Mandated charges 08/22 – 09/21. Since I have naked DSL, this should have stopped 09/01. So I call up customer service and, after a 25 minute wait on hold, they tell me (an avid techdirt reader) that The FCC took the fee off DSL, but then decided to put it back. I verified that she meant the FCC put the fee back, not Coastal Communications, and she verified it, and refused to take the charges off of my bill. Does anyone know of a good official FCC web page I can send them to to check this out, or a number I can call to complain to the FCC so my phone company can get this right?

TechTrader says:

Competition! Sort of...

I don’t really want to say that the cable co’s have competition from the telcos, but I certainly hope it’s causing them to rethink their customer service paradigm. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to choose between 3 or 4 local phone and cable companies, maybe then prices would’ve gone down over the last 30 years instead of up.

Oops, I’ve got to go…my Skype phone is ringing.

Fiend of Comcast says:


Those baastards don’t need any break!! i live on a old road w/ a comcast cable 1/2 a MILE from my house ( im sorry for cursing) but I have had Dial-up internet ALL MY FREAKIN LIFE!! and they say they can’t extend the cable because of the motherfuckin hicks who are my neigbors don’t want it !!! EVERYTIME I SEE A DAMN COMCAST COMMERCIAL I WANT TO SMASH THE T.V CREEN ARRGH! I DOWNLOAD GAMES…old ones the download speeds a PITYFULL! I
F youbelive in my ideal emai me at the address I will not respond to people dissing me….thanks for listening (sigh)

comcast tech says:

appointment times

everyone is so quick to complain about techs missing appointmens first of all don’t complain until you have done this job yourself. there is alot more to it then most of you realize. not only that but what about the ppl that aren’t home for there appointment and then expect us to wait 20-30 minutes for them to get home when they get a phone call that we are there. this make us fall behind schedule. or the people that put in a trouble call because they can’t take 30 seconds to check and make sure their tv is on the right channel for the digital box to work. everyone wants to blame the tech but we can only control so much. I used to be the same way before i started this job and i can tell you now from first hand experience that there is way more to a tech being late then him not knowing what he is doing or having hold times to the call centers. customers have just as much to do with it as anyone.

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