Dec 15 2009

Comcast Customer Service People Don’t Suck – But Their Systems Do

Published by at 11:38 am under customer serivice,marketing

Recently I logged in to my Comcast account to print off a copy of my bill.  There was a byzantine labyrinth of new authorizations to go through – apparently they are changing the interface to a “mySignIn” portal-style account information (incidentally, who else’s sign in would I be using?  Why the annoying, redundant nomenclature?).  So, of course, new Terms and Conditions to agree to, then on to the account information screen.

Wait, just one problem: under my account number I had a cryptic message that read, “This account may not be accessed until the owner makes the account secure.”

Uh oh.  How do I make it secure?  The copy was not clickable.

I read through the rest of the page.  I scrolled up and down hoping for a button, icon, or some other wayfinder.  With no expectation of success, I tried their search functionality.  With even less hope, I tried their “Ask Comcast” live chat service.

No dice.

At that point, I didn’t even consider calling their 800-number, and instead went directly to the ComcastCares Twitter account.  Having read countless case studies about how Frank Eliason has made ComcastCares into a personal, human voice for a brand with a terrible customer service reputation, I was hopeful.

Comcast’s Twitter page actively requests that you email them instead of just tweeting.  So, I did.  And, behold!  Within a few hours, I got an email and a phone call from Kim, who would be personally handling this case.  She gave me her email address and her direct phone line.  She asked for 24 hours to research this with the tech team and get back to me.

Well, OK.  I mean, I just want a copy of my bill, but 24 hours is fine.

After 24 hours, Kim called me back!  She didn’t have the problem solved, and had the tech team looking into it.  What was my address, by the way?

I gave her my address.

Oh!  That’s the problem: Kim is in the Philadelphia office, and she doesn’t have access to accounts in Portland, OR.  She knows it’s frustrating that the internal systems can’t access each other, but she’ll have to hand this case off to another rep that has access to my account.

OK, now it’s starting to feel like a bit of a rabbit hole.  But, I’m in deep now.

Later the same day I get a call from Jane, in Portland.  Kim handed the case off to her, and she will have to work with the tech team to determine what’s going on.  Could I give her 24 hours and send her a screenshot?

I could, on both counts.  But all I really need is a print out of my bill.  Is that something that she could email or (gasp) fax?

Oh, sure.  She could fax it right over.

And she did.

Problem *sort of* solved.

Jane called me back a week later to tell me that the reason I was having this problem was because I was logging in with my regular email address, and not a comcast.net address.  Of course, I have no idea what my Comcast.net email address is, and there is no way to fix this until they issue a patch to the login system.  Which will be at least a month from now.

So, let’s review what went right and what went wrong:

-Comcast has some issues around customer-centered thinking if they thought that forcing everyone to use a comcast.net email address was a good idea.  Especially when they could query their database and see exactly how many people this would affect.  And they could have alerted us.

-Comcast’s reps were excellent all the way around.  They were very courteous, took responsibility for my issue personally, and kept me well informed about the process with regular updates when promised.  They also went above and beyond to fax me the paperwork I needed, which stop-gapped the problem.

-Comcast still has major problems routing issues to the right department – even when they have all of my account information.

Also, as I noted previously, when Twitter is used for customer service, you create two tiers of service: one for those who use Twitter, and one for the rest of the world.  So, how does this high-touch approach scale as more people discover this fact, and turn to the path of least resistance more and more?  As always, avoiding the issue in the first place is the best mitigation against customer service disasters.

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