Recently, Comcast has received broad media coverage regarding its major customer experience transformation initiative. They have announced a multi-year plan whose key theme is creation of a culture which will be focused on exceeding customer expectations, at all levels of the company (and, presumably, in all functions). As quoted by Neil Smit, Comcast’s President and CEO of the cable division, “We are going to reimagine our whole experience through a customer lens.”
How does Comcast translate this statement into specific actions? To achieve their stated goal, Comcast is adding more than 5,500 customer service jobs over the next few years. In addition,
– Comcast is opening three new customer support centers – in Albuquerque, NM, Spokane, WA, and Tucson, AZ – with a total of 2,000 employees
– Comcast is developing a feature, called Tech Tracker, which enables customers to track the location and arrival of their technician in real time and then rate the experience
– Comcast will require that all employees – from senior execs to frontline staff – participate in additional customer service training every year
– Comcast will triple the size of its social care team, to serve customers more quickly on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media
– Comcast will hire 250 more employees to serve in its Xfinity stores around the country. Also, they are redesigning their stores, and adding new stores
– Comcast has developed new network tools so that their engineers can solve customer issues before the service appointment
– Comcast is hiring hundreds of additional technicians; and, if a tech doesn’t arrive on time for an appointment, the customer will automatically be credited $20
– Comcast is launching a new cloud-based platform to give employees a better view of customer account history
As Smit has concluded: “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. We’re on a mission and everyone is committed to making this happen.”
Okay, but does any of the rhetoric, not to mention the enormous resource investment, address the more fundamental issues of culture at Comcast? As I’ve observed and commented in the past (http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/comcast-is-too-big-fail-but-not-too-big-suck/ and http://customerthink.com/how-customer-centricity-creates-bondingand-rejection-and-anger-yes-boys-and-girls-culture-matters/), improving (and sustaining) the customer experience requires considerably more than just adding staff, making process changes and enhancing employee training. If modifying cultural DNA isn’t a major priority of the ‘transformation’, throwing technology, bodies and training at the key challenges will likely result in little that is perceived by customers as positive experiential movement.
Comcast begins their initiative, which Smit believes is “the right thing to do” with a notable reputation for providing poor customer experiences. In fact, in the Temkin Group Q1 2015 Customer Service Ratings, Comcast was last out of 278 companies; and the company was 291st out of 293 companies in Temkin’s Q1 2015 Experience Ratings. Comcast clearly has a long way to go.
As noted, there’s real question as to whether making quantitative and functional changes, in terms of the number of people, and technology and capability upgrades, will make a difference to customers. For example, a Comcast senior cable executive recently stated that the company has reduced late appointments by 29% in the past year, and they have shown an 18% improvement in how fast phone calls are answered. How is Comcast intending to identify how well, or even if, these methods are working to improve customer perception of key experience components, and the corresponding reputation and image of the enterprise?
Their apparent answer to this array of questions is NPS. As quoted by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts: “We want to see progress on many metrics, but we want to see progress that people will recommend us. It boils down to the whole relationship that the consumer has with us when they are asked the question, ‘Would you recommend us to your friends and colleagues?’”
How will application of NPS scores change the overall Comcast culture, particularly as the metric applies to customer perceptions of service and value? One of the company’s biggest challenges is the level of engagement and ambassadorship of the service employees themselves. In confidential interviews, Comcast front-line staff often pass along stories of internal job demotivation, customer indifference, and poor supervisory capability. As one Comcast customer service representative stated, “We’re grown-ups, but it feels like we’re being treated like children. They monitor your computer screen constantly. If you don’t meet your sales, you get fired. Again, it feels like I’m back in school and it’s very strict – they use a lot of scare tactics, and you’re just so afraid all the time that you’re going to get in trouble for something” Will NPS give Comcast the insights to help make front line staff more engaged and more ambassadorial (http://customerthink.com/do-you-really-wanna-work-here/)?
Next, how will NPS scores influence Comcast management to stay the course? Will senior execs remain committed, be consistent, and have the tools to take targeted action? Recommendation, after all, is a fairly attitudinal and tactical measure and may not offer insights as to the real perceptions of quality and value (http://customerthink.com/how-much-do-product-quality-and-service-quality-influence-customer-behavior/) Also, Will NPS help Comcast senior leaders to be servants of the stakeholders, or will they continue to be focused almost exclusively on driving profits (http://customerthink.com/the-power-of-servant-leadership-to-build-and-sustain-stakeholder-value/)?
Will NPS be able to guide Comcast in not only improving the customer experience, but also in the closely related goal of rebuilding its damaged brand reputation and image? Any research needs to incorporate this important component if only because of its enormous impact on consumer decision-making (http://customerthink.com/corporate_reputation_and_advocacy_linkage/)
What will NPS tell Comcast about making a more emotional connection, and building and sustaining trust, among customers? (http://beyondphilosophy.com/trust-really-emotion/ and http://customerthink.com/other-than-that-mrs-lincoln-how-was-the-play/). Trust and memory, earned through positive emotions and outcomes, are essential in customer experience. Being connected, and assuring that the entire enterprise is aware of exactly what’s working and what’s not working in building and sustaining trust, goes along with these insights.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts seems to care only that the company’s NPS score, somehow, is continually improving. Further,he doesn’t appear very interested in learning how and why it is changing. As he’s stated, “So as long as it is progressing. You start with wherever your baseline is today. As long as we move in the right direction every day, then we are on the right path and the question will be, ‘How fast can we move it?'” And, what will Comcast do, i.e. what is the ‘right direction’, if the NPS metric flatlines (http://beyondphilosophy.com/when-b2b-and-b2c-key-performance-metrics-flatline/)?
For Comcast to change its experience culture, to truly become more customer-centric, taking meaningful, granular and consistent action will be essential. Can learning about what drives recommendation be enough to get Comcast to the promised land? Along with many other customer experience research and consulting pros, I’m a long-time skeptic (and a critic)….but I can offer a suggested prescriptive for consideration: http://customerthink.com/want-or-need-higher-customer-satisfaction-loyalty-and-recommendation-scores-the-real-question-is-why/