Comcast CEO Still Pretending His Company's Horrible Satisfaction Ratings Are Just A Normal Part Of Being So Huge

from the King-Kong-was-simply-misunderstood dept

As we've noted before, Comcast has not only the worst customer satisfaction ratings in the telecom industry, but among the worst customer satisfaction ratings across all industries. The reasons for this are not complicated: the company grew like wildfire through acquisitions, then made a habit of skimping when it came to customer support and subcontracted installation technicians. The result is a never ending parade of ridiculous stories involving poorly trained or under-funded Comcast employees doing something aggressive, pathetic, or downright abusive.

Every six months or so like clockwork Comcast CEO Brian Roberts will come forward with his hat in hand and a puppy-dog look on his face, promising that the company has heard the public's concerns and is doing everything possible to fix things. While the press has fixated on Comcast lately because of the Time Warner Cable merger, this has been going on for most of the last decade.

During one of these episodes about a year ago, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts came forward to insist the company was working really hard on improving customer service, but that the problem was really a matter of scale. To hear Roberts tell it, the company only really sees such a heavy volume of complaints because Comcast itself is just so huge:
"What unfortunately happens is we have about … 350 million interactions with consumers a year, between phone calls and truck calls. It may be over 400 million and that doesn't count any online interactions which I think is over a billion. You get one-tenth of one-percent bad experience, that's a lot of people..."
Fast-forward nearly a year to just last week, and Roberts was once again back in the public eye, professing to be "embarrassed" (he really, really means it this time) about the company's 2014 iteration of its annual customer service scandal:
"At an event in San Francisco, Roberts said that he was “embarrassed” and “disappointed” when he heard the recording. “It was a teachable moment for employees and it was a teachable moment for all of us,” he said...Still, the Comcast CEO maintained that such customer service nightmares are not the norm. “We get 250 million phone calls a year,” he said. “The nature of our business is that we’re going to have these things."
Except again, awful customer service at Comcast is absolutely the norm. These aren't just anecdotal squeaky wheels. Every single customer satisfaction survey, whether its J.D. Power & Associates, Consumer Reports, the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the YouGov Brand Index or the less scientific Consumerist Worst Company in America Awards have made this abundantly clear: Comcast is among the very worst companies in America at customer service. Period. This hasn't changed because Comcast has no meaningful competitive incentive to change, and therefore simply refuses to spend the money necessary to fix the problem.

Continuing to pretend that the problem is a matter of scale simply doesn't cut it as an excuse. Worse, if "these problems happen when you're big" is really the explanation the CEO wants to keep falling back on, what happens when the company's $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable gets approved?

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 5:56am

    If this is not a reason to actually SPLIT Comcast in smaller companies then it is at least a very compelling argument to STOP any future acquisitions (hello, TWC!). Gotta love how these companies are so goddamn spoiled that they think they can get away with any absurd they spew.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 10:30am

      Re:

      Yes, exactly. They're every bit as anticompetitive and abusive as any illegal monopoly that's been split up in the past; isn't it long past time we do the same with Comcast?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Pragmatic, 24 Nov 2014 @ 5:56am

        Re: Re:

        What, you mean actually make the market more free and competitive?

        The "Free market" enthusiasts would shut any attempt do do so down pretty damn quick on the grounds that it's government intervention, choosing winners and losers, etc.

        Assume they're right; how in the world would you trade or boycott your way out of it? You can't.

        We really do need to break up the big players in the telco cartel.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 4:42pm

      Re:

      Exactly what they are saying. They are too big to be useful.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Prashanth (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 6:30am

    Customer serv...ales

    I remember reading on Cracked (http://www.cracked.com/article_21756_5-reasons-working-comcast-worse-than-you-think.html) recently that there is no true customer service, only sales and more sales divisions. Maybe that's what the CEO meant when claiming this is a "normal part of being so huge"...?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy Lyman (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 9:46am

      Re: Customer serv...ales

      Yeah, essentially their business plan is to force 'loyal' customers to call up every so often and harangue someone about paying too much for service, or not getting the service that they are paying for. It's designed to be an unpleasant experience and the person Comcast employs is supposed to extract as much cash from the caller as possible.

      Couple that with the fact that their advertising and website obfuscate true price and products to avoid actually informing customers, and that all business transactions are completed verbally with no written confirmation until the interaction is completed.

      Of course you're going to get tons of people calling who are already pissed off, or will become pissed off when they realize they're getting jerked around because a certain percent of people don't understand their bills and won't call in because it's a hassle.

      There is no incentive for Comcast to improve, only incentive to say that they'll improve in order to get permission to expand.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 19 Nov 2014 @ 6:41am

    Let me show you something else Comcast sucks at

    First, read this piece by Declan McCullagh:

    http://news.cnet.com/2100-1034_3-5218178.html

    Second, note the date on it: May 24, 2004.

    Third, look at this partial ("partial", as in a very tiny fragment of a vastly largely whole) list of Comcast-hosted zombies that are emitting spam in November 2014:

    c-24-125-66-72.hsd1.va.comcast.net [24.125.66.72]
    c-24-128-237-128.hsd1.nh.comcast.net [24.128.237.128]
    c-24-13-111-177.hsd1.il.comcast.net [24.13.111.177]
    c-24-131-110-73.hsd1.pa.comcast.net [24.131.110.73]
    c-24-16-77-131.hsd1.wa.comcast.net [24.16.77.131]
    c-24-2-244-225.hsd1.ma.comcast.net [24.2.244.225]
    c-24-2-4-69.hsd1.mo.comcast.net [24.2.4.69]
    c-24-2-41-10.hsd1.ca.comcast.net [24.2.41.10]
    c-24-21-191-3.hsd1.or.comcast.net [24.21.191.3]
    c-24-98-21-33.hsd1.ga.comcast.net [24.98.21.33]
    c-50-138-91-9.hsd1.fl.comcast.net [50.138.91.9]
    c-50-139-165-165.hsd1.ma.comcast.net [50.139.165.165]
    c-50-142-246-188.hsd1.tn.comcast.net [50.142.246.188]
    c-50-143-74-164.hsd1.fl.comcast.net [50.143.74.164]
    c-50-168-217-85.hsd1.ut.comcast.net [50.168.217.85]
    c-50-181-255-20.hsd1.wa.comcast.net [50.181.255.20]
    c-66-41-226-243.hsd1.mn.comcast.net [66.41.226.243]
    c-67-174-124-191.hsd1.co.comcast.net [67.174.124.191]
    c-67-174-67-65.hsd1.wv.comcast.net [67.174.67.65]
    c-67-174-81-166.hsd1.in.comcast.net [67.174.81.166]


    If you look at those hostnames for a moment, you'll see that they're all in subdomains by state, e.g., the last one is in Indiana. Thus this (and the millions of other entries I've accumulated over the past decade) clearly indicate that this is a systemic problem -- it's not confined to some small portion of Comcast's network. And it's persistent: this isn't some transient issue that only surfaces from time to time.

    10 years. 10 years, and Comcast still hasn't managed to take even rudimentary, first-pass measures to stop their network from being an operational menace to the entire rest of the Internet. Nothing has changed from the day that this was posted:

    http://forums.comcast.com/t5/E-Mail-and-Xfinity-Connect-Help/Comcast-welcome-to-SPEWS/td-p/14 9116

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DeadBolt (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 6:55am

    To change analogies for them: Comcast isn't fat, it's just big-boned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 7:21am

    Anecdotal perhaps, but Cracked had an article the other day from an ex employee describing why the company is so bad at customer service.

    http://www.cracked.com/article_21756_5-reasons-working-comcast-worse-than-you-think.html

    In short, it claims they have high staff turnover rates, poor training that allows inexperienced staff to mess with live customer accounts and a focus on sales over and above solving any customer problems.

    While an irreverent article on a comedy site, it definitely seems to describe some likely scenarios that can't be excused on size alone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 7:26am

    When your customer service is all about selling more product, and your business continues to grow, I can absolutely see the disconnect between the customers and the CEO.
    To him, customer service is doing a damn fine job since they keep making sales.
    The problem here is that nobody has told the CEO what the actual meaning of customer service is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 2:25pm

      Re:

      "The problem here is that nobody has told the CEO what the actual meaning of customer service is."

      Some actually have. Then he fired them. I've seen it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bengie, 19 Nov 2014 @ 7:31am

    City wide

    That doesn't explain how there can be city wide issues that last for years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 7:36am

    Hey, just a reminder that Comcast is so bad that they literally did not allow me to cancel my service.

    Check it out, the only channel you can cancel or downgrade your service through is their phone tree, and that would hang up on me every time I chose that option.

    http://bit.ly/cccustser

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 8:20am

      Re:

      Didn't you consider buying their "stop sending me a cable signal" package? I heard it's very affordable.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ltlw0lf (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 9:25am

        Re: Re:

        Didn't you consider buying their "stop sending me a cable signal" package? I heard it's very affordable.

        Unfortunately, that usually has to be done through a very lengthy and difficult process as well. But once you're done, it is a worthwhile expenditure of time and effort. Just wish I had more than one viable option for internet.

        I am trying to teach as many people as possible that it is a far better expenditure of time and effort to not hit the crack-pipe they call Cable to begin with... I just need to figure out a way to do it with a cute girl, a frying pan, and eggs and I think I've got it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 10:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          For some reason my regaional cable carrier has a conscience. This means I have great service, and even better, genuinely fast broadband (At least 25+ Mbps easy).

          And if their press releases are to be believed, my area will be hooked up with fiber within 3 years. Based on their track record, I'm fortunate to have little to complain about.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            ltlw0lf (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 3:33pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            For some reason my regaional cable carrier has a conscience. This means I have great service, and even better, genuinely fast broadband (At least 25+ Mbps easy).

            Mine isn't *bad*, relatively speaking. I've got friends with TWC that have all sorts of lovely stories that make me count my blessings.

            They say that they upped my bandwidth recently to 100+ Mbps, so I am getting about 12-16 Mbps (yes, Mbps...not MBps,) on average now. Still not even close to their advertised "up-to" limit, but at least now I am getting pretty close to what they promised I was before. With 12-16 Mbps average, I can watch Netflix at SD quality on most days and see no issues. Now if only they raised the cap, I'd be a little happier (but as it is, I only hit their 300GB/mo cap once a quarter now instead of every month.)

            I am happy with my service, but if there was more than one viable competitor, I'd be even happier because it would force them to fix some of the stupid stuff they aren't currently fixing in order to keep customers.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              JBDragon (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 4:35pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I have U-Verse and my download speed is suppose to be 18 Mbps Max, I get around 12. That's more then fast enough to stream HD from Netflix!!! I stream all the time with no issues.

              I cut the cord from Comcast when I got my house a couple years ago and went with U-Verse, though I cut the cord with TV service with Comcast a few months before that.

              I think paying a bunch of money for TV service is dumb!!! Why are channels like ESPN which only a small percentage watch get the most money? Subsidized by everyone else with TV service. When I got my house, the first thing I did was put up a large antenna. When I look around at where I live and don't see any others, I just think SUCKERS!!!

              I get ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW, PBS, etc all in HD and 5.1 surround for FREE Legally!!! I record using my PC and Media Center and can watch all that content on one of my 3 HDTV's with full DVR controls. Start watching in the family room and continue in the Bedroom. Zero monthly fee's!!! The upfront costs of some hardware is paid off in no time flat with all the money you're saving.

              Then there's this thing call the Internet where you can pretty much watch any cable show you want Legally or not, plus Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. I have more to watch now then ever before and not enough hours in the day.

              My brother just moved into another house a few weeks ago and this time he threw up a Antenna also. Finally got his wife on board to stop paying for TV. She likes all those housewives shows. They're kids pretty much watch only Netflix Kids section. They didn't even know what a commercial was for quite some time. They do have Comcast for Internet service. Myself, I like my $35 a month service!!! I used to pay Comcast $170 a month and that was just for some basic stuff.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 7:43am

    ...what happens when the company's $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable gets approved?
    Their customer service reps will no longer be required to speak English.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      DCL, 19 Nov 2014 @ 7:58am

      Re:

      Their customer service reps will no longer be required to speak.

      Fixed that for you.... you had an extra word in your statement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    streetlight (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 8:01am

    Comcast is a monopoly in most places served

    In most of Comcast's service area it is basically a monopoly as far as high speed internet is concerned. For pay TV service there are the two satellite companies and maybe a telephone company, but for high speed internet service it's the only game in town. So why should they spend money on customer service? It's better to recover some or all of that cost by making it a sales organization by turning CSRs into sales reps through their compensation structure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 8:09am

    'Brian Roberts' knows exactly what Comcast's problems are but would rather take all the complaints and criticisms than sort the company out, giving good or better customer service and a good overall service than lose any of the millions in income. the thing with Comcast is the same as with AT&T and Verizon, they think they are too big to fail and cando whatever the hell they like! what is really needed but wont come, is for the gutless fuckers in congress to man up and do whatthey are supposed to, look after the interests of the people, first and foremost, rather than those of industries and, of course, themselves!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Count Mohawk, 19 Nov 2014 @ 8:18am

    Brian Roberts is the real Dread Pirate Roberts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 8:33am

    350 million...

    Occasionally people will upgrade/downgrade/start/stop their service, but for the most part, people won't be contacting a cable company unless something's wrong. Perhaps he should be questioning why people need to be in contact with the company 400 million times a year.

    Most homes are already wired for cable, but I've found cable companies want to send people out for trivial things like setting up a cable modem (i.e., they bring a modem to your house, plug in in, and verify it lights up). One could build a system in which the user buys a modem from whereever, plugs in it, and does an online bill payment with the MAC address in the customer number or memo field to have it activated (and then every following month to keep it active; maybe send them to a web portal when payment or contact details are needed). Any other industry would want signup to be easy, and would give away free samples or even cash to get customers. Cable companies, by contrast, charge you money and waste your time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 3:03pm

      Re: 350 million...

      Where I live, you can purchase the cable modem online, over the phone, or in a number of electronics-related stores. Go home, plug it in, and if you've already got a cable system, it does the rest for you. If you don't already have it switched on, but have the physical cable, you call the company, and they switch it on remotely.

      There's absolutely no reason Comcast couldn't do this as well. They use the exact same modems.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JBDragon (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 4:43pm

      Re: 350 million...

      Where I live it's no problem to buy a Cable modem and start up service!!! In fact I had gotten my Cable modem before they had the service even running yet. I knew it was coming and I got the modem and I wait until they flipped the switch. Once you connect, you go directly to their sign up page, you can't do anything else. Once you're signed up, you're ready to do. Wasn't hard. Signing up for anything is always a snap, it's the canceling. It's NOT easy to do. Yo can't do it online, you have to CAL and talk to a real person, which is why they have these retention departments to try to keep you on their service.

      This is how I got U-Verse to drop my cheap 1 year plan that shot up after the year was up, I just threaten to leave and go with Comcast. It wouldn't have been much more for much faster service. I'd need to run a new wire from outside my house to my Closet where everything else is at, Not a huge deal. I got them back down to $35 a month for another year.

      When the year is up, I'll do it again. If I have to I'll jump to Comcast for Internet Only, Get one of their 6 month to year lower price deals, and do the same thing. if they don't play along I can jump back to U-Verse again.

      If you're dumb enough to just sit there and take high prices year after year after year, that's on you. If people wised up, prices would just drop and we wouldn't have to play these silly games.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Avatar28 (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 11:22am

    Glad I was able to leave them

    So a couple of months ago I was in the AT&T store getting a replacement SIM card for a phone and the rep started talking to me about U-verse. She sold me on it but I decided to give Comcast one last chance to provide me with a similar deal. I called them up to tell them what AT&T was offering me and give them a chance to match it. If they had even been close I probably would have accepted just for the hassle factor. I got through to retentions and the guy on the other end was a complete jerk. He talked down to me, his comments, questions and tone of voice made it pretty clear that he thought I was trying to scam them and they wouldn't even come CLOSE to what AT&T was offering me. Aside from the $300 in Visa gift cards, Comcast wanted about $70 more a month for a package close to what AT&T offered.

    So I said screw it, canceled Comcast by taking everything into the local office and had U-verse installed. I now get more channels by far, my internet is comparable (Comcast was rated for 50 mbps, U-verse for 45). I won't say everything was perfect (it wasn't, I had a few issues caused by the initial installer doing a crap job, a couple of equipment issues and problems at the node up the road) but I've been pretty happy with it outside of those. Most of the people have been very helpful and polite. The onsite techs even gave me their cell numbers and said if I had any more problems in the next 30 days that I could call them directly. It's like they looked at what Comcast is doing and said, "Let's not do that. In fact, let's do the fucking opposite of that."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldGeezer (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 11:44am

    I keep reading articles about how terrible Comcast, Verizon AT&T and others are. One ISP I don't often see mentioned is Cox. I have had them for years and for the most part I have been very satisfied with them. I can usually get a technician out here by the next day and they guarantee they will show up when they say they they will. If they don't you will get a credit on your bill. When there is an complete outage they usually get it back up within a couple of hours. I get the speeds that my plan promises most of the time. On a few occasions I have called to dispute a charge and every time they were quick to correct it. I have cancelled and changed parts of my service and the representatives were always cooperative and polite with me. I was able to get an unlimited plan at a very reasonable price with the only condition that I switch my phone provider. They saved me money over what I was paying to AT&T. I am just curious if others of you that have Cox are as satisfied with them as I am.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Peter, 19 Nov 2014 @ 12:08pm

    ...Comcast has no meaningful competitive incentive to change, and therefore simply refuses to spend the money necessary to fix the problem.

    As a professional in the customer service industry, I think your conclusion is probably wrong. At least insofar as you're assuming it's all about not spending money.

    Here's the thing: it's possible to spend money on customer service efficiently, and it's possible to spend money on customer service inefficiently. If you have bad service but spend the money well, then spending more money is likely to improve the service.

    But if you're spending the money poorly, then spending more won't get you better service, just more bad service.

    The kinds of complaints you see about Comcast have all the hallmarks of money being spent very badly.

    For example, while occasional long hold times can be caused by a surge in calls, it costs money to have very long wait times to reach a customer service rep day in and day out. All those people sitting on hold are tying up phone ports and running up long distance charges. Sure it's fractions of a cent per person per minute, but it adds up. And if those people don't get through today, they're calling back tomorrow.

    And it's very expensive when a customer talks to a rep but doesn't get his problem fixed on the first call, because that customer is calling back and it's going to cost twice as much.

    But even that's nothing compared to the money Comcast wastes when they have to send a truck to the customer's house multiple times for the same problem (or when they send a truck for something the customer could have fixed herself).

    I have no inside information, but my gut tells me that Comcast is actually spending far more on customer service than they should have to. The problem is they are wasting most of the money by delivering the wrong service.

    My guess is that if Comcast got its act together, it could deliver much better service and save a ton of money. But that would require an upfront effort to (a) train agents better, (b) allow support reps to spend more time with each customer to solve the problem on the first call, (c) empower reps to solve customer problems, and (d) allow different parts of the company to coordinate better.

    The irony is that this investment would primarily be in the form of management time and attention, not money. The savings would probably start rolling in pretty quickly.

    So the real problem is not that Comcast doesn't want to spend the money to fix its service. The real problem is that the senior leadership doesn't want to pay enough attention to customer service.

    All IMHO, of course.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 12:10pm

    What unfortunately happens is we have about … 350 million interactions with consumers a year, between phone calls and truck calls. It may be over 400 million and that doesn't count any online interactions which I think is over a billion. You get one-tenth of one-percent bad experience, that's a lot of people..."


    It could work the other way , If they were a great company they would have fantastic satisfaction ratings , but they fail You get one-tenth of one-percent good experience, that's a lot of people... they still fail using this analogy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tony (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 1:14pm

    TOO
    BIG
    TO
    CARE

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    dave blevins (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 6:20pm

    .. and they're terrible in predicting repair times ...

    ... Parts of No. Va. were out today, 11/19/2014, from about 9AM to 6-6:30 PM but on each of 3 phone calls I got the message "we'll be back up in about an hour" from a live person. I game up about 2ish. And at their request, I left a phone number for them to call when it came back up: no call even not 3 hours after restoration !!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.