May 19, 2015 Bryan O'Connor

Comcast has made some long-awaited strides in improving their service, exhibiting signs of customer-centricity. Last year, they introduced a new Uber-like app allowing customers to track the technician’s travel to their house; a benefit to many customers waiting for assistance at home for hours and days. This year they introduced a delivery promise:  the customer receives $20 if a company technician arrives even one minute late for an appointment. The really big move is their plan to add hundreds of new technicians and 5,500 new customer representatives over the next three years. Sounds good so far but is it enough?

Their intentions are clear:

“This transformation is about shifting our mindset to be completely focused on the customer. It’s about respecting their time, being more proactive, doing what’s right, and never being satisfied with good enough,” said Neil Smit, President and CEO, Comcast Cable.
IB Times

You can read the article here.

How did the company ever get so far out of touch that they need to make such a massive injection of 5500 service employees? Its poor customer service reputation is well known, and evidence of chronic under-investment. In the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, Comcast had the lowest customer satisfaction of pay-TV companies. Comcast’s rating fell 5% to 60, reaching the lowest score to date in the index, considered the most comprehensive customer satisfaction survey in the nation.

Complacency due to having few competitors in their service areas is a key reason why service providers throughout North America have failed to be customer friendly in the past. Canadian cable and telephone companies operate in similar environments but are generally moving to address important issues. According to the CCTS, Rogers had 37% fewer complaints in 2013-2014. Cogeco complaints were down by 13%.

Now with potential rivals on the horizon, how long can it be until there are alternatives for the customer? Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse,  and CenturyLink Prism Internet players (IPTV network) are making gains at the expense of the cable companies. Lower cost, on-demand programming is a big headache for the incumbent cable television industry. Heading into competitive storms with poor customer service, and a significant base of dissatisfied customers, can make management nervous. Comcast and other cable companies face a growing share of cord cutters. In one survey, 53 percent of current customers indicated they were willing to leave their cable company if an alternative existed. The company’s customer base is vulnerable to a new entry into the space or an existing competitor that changes the business model. That explains why spending $300 million for new service representatives can be inexpensive insurance and an essential move.

Comcast is facing up to the issues and saying the right things.

  • Improving the customer experience will be a company-wide focus.
  • There’s investment:  huge investment in customer service staff coming over three years.
  • One individual has been placed in charge of transforming customer experience:  Comcast Senior VP, Charlie Herrin.
  • Introducing new initiatives and technologies to drive seamless customer experience across multiple touchpoints including in-store.

Rock-bottom satisfaction ratings are earned by not delivering on the promises made to customers.  How will the new strategies help deliver the promise? Can they deliver the right type of customer interactions to rebuild loyalty, and attract new customers? What activities, processes, policies and technologies will shape those interactions and transform customer service?

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Bryan O'Connor

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