Why Does The Press Have To Keep Fixing All Of Comcast's Screw Ups?

from the sisyphean dept

By now you probably know the drill: Comcast will do something incredibly stupid, and a customer that has been struggling to get the company to fix it for a year (or longer) will have absolutely no luck getting the issue resolved. They'll subsequently contact the media out of frustration and (especially if the screw up goes viral) Comcast will finally resolve the problem -- usually within a day. The company then trots out claims that this is simply an "anecdotal" experience and not representative of the great care and skill with which it manages its beloved customers. Rinse, wash, repeat.

The latest story of this type comes from a Comcast customer of eight years who was incorrectly over-billed for service by the cable company. Not recognizing its own error, the company also sent collection agencies after the customer to obtain money never actually owed them. And, as always, the user attempted for eighteen months to get Comcast to realize its screw up to no avail:
"I called Comcast a total of 10 times beginning 5/31/2014 and wasted at least 10 hours of my life trying to fix a problem that they created,” Mueller told Ars. “In making those calls I was hung up on, transferred, and dismissively told to just wait it out.” The problem was seemingly fixed in November 2014, yet almost exactly one year later Mueller got a letter from another collection agency. More calls to Comcast this month didn’t fix the problem immediately, and Mueller contacted Ars out of frustration."
A problem that never should have happened in the first place? Check. Apathetic and incompetent support? Check. Being forced to contact the press in the hopes somebody can light a fire under Comcast's ass? Check. It's not hyperbole to state that this sort of thing happens weekly in news outlets all over the country, and the negative public sentiment and press generated by this incompetence lambada was a big reason regulators scrapped the company's attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Even magician and top Comcast lobbyist David Cohen couldn't fix what was broken.

Of course, as the story always goes, once the press was contacted it was a trivial problem for Comcast to fix:
"It blows me away that the burden is on me to fix their mistake and that it is taking so much of my resources,” Mueller told us. “I really would like to bill them for my time.” Mueller was also worried the collection agencies' involvement would harm his credit rating. After talking to Mueller, we reached out to our contacts in Comcast’s public relations group on Thursday last week. A Comcast spokesperson researched the issue, and the very next day someone else from Comcast called Mueller to tell him that the problem was fixed for good."
Why, after a decade of stories like this, is the press still responsible for fixing Comcast's screw ups? Because Comcast customers are either too lazy to switch, or don't have an adequate TV or broadband service to switch to. And as the industry continues to consolidate into just a handful of players (AT&T buys DirecTV, Charter buys Time Warner Cable and Bright House), the incentive to compete on both fronts decreases further as geographic dominance grows. These giant, publicly traded companies then usually look to customer service budget cuts first when trying to please Wall Street with relentlessly better quarter over quarter results.

To be fair, after the merger fracas Comcast is trying some new support tricks, though whether they'll ever materialize as wholesale improvements is uncertain. In Portland Comcast is experimenting with a pilot program that tries to reach out to customers before problems are even detected by them. This is all being spearheaded by a "Customer Experience" VP who was hired last year with one, full-time purpose: to stop Comcast from sucking.

The problem is, no matter how many times this pattern has repeated over the last decade, Comcast never seems to get any better at its job. Claims that it recognizes its own dysfunction and promises to improve are now a yearly phenomenon for Comcast, yet customer satisfaction studies never budge. It's pathetic that it takes press intervention to routinely fix fairly basic mistakes that balloon into legendary annoyance; if Comcast can't get its household in order perhaps it can start paying those folks (be it Reddit users or the media) who keep having to play the middle man.

Filed Under: broadband, customer service, press coverage
Companies: comcast

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2015 @ 9:45am

    Re: Techdirt Inaccuracy, Again

    Well, since we're being pedantic (not to imply that's a bad thing)...

    The phrase *I've* always heard is "lather, rinse, repeat".

    My Alex Trebek deed for the day. Can I go home now?

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