Comcast is making customer experience its best product

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Last week I had the privilege of traveling to Philadelphia to visit the newly-opened Comcast Technology Center where I was joined by a cast of customer experience (CX) influencers: Jay BaerChip BellJeanne BlissJoey ColemanJohn DijuliusMatt DixonMoira DorseyShep HykenScott McKainAdam ToporekBill Quiseng, and Jeannie Walters. We were given an exclusive peek behind the curtain into Comcast’s products, services, support, and culture. Together, we toured, listened, shared, asked questions, and engaged with the company’s top CX executives.

As the day unfurled, I detected an emphasis on organizational purpose as opposed to strategy, tactics, or the daily yeoman work required to run a $160B company.

This was unique because while most organizations are very effective at equipping employees with the knowledge and skills to become competent, few seem to give much thought to organizational purpose. As a result, typical companies produce a lot of capable – if uninspired – employees who adhere to protocol while processing customers, each one like the previous one, until the end of another routine and monotonous shift. Employees at such companies may know WHAT to do and HOW to do it, but they have no idea WHY they are doing it.

It is rare to encounter an organization that has embraced organizational purpose to the extent Comcast has in 2018. To be clear: Comcast is not a client and this blog post is not intended to be a PSA on the company’s renewed commitment to customer service. I’ve heard from many company executives across industries at conferences and in other, more intimate, settings and left disaffected by their hyperbole.

Many companies boast corporate values and lofty mission statements. My litmus test to determine the degree to which an organization is actually attuned to purpose is whether or not it has addressed, contemplated, and clearly answered each of these four questions:

Q1. Who are we? (What are our values?)

Q2. Why do we exist? (What is our purpose?)

Q3. Who do we serve? (Who are our customers?)

Q4. What do we aspire toward? (What is our goal?)

An organization that has invested the time and energy to thoughtfully respond to these questions has clarified its values, purpose, customers, and aspirational goal in alignment with the organization’s True North – the ideal state that it continually strives toward.

In reviewing my notes, I was able to find answers to each of the questions:

Q1. (Values) Service, Learning, Contribution, Accessibility, Empowerment, Inclusion, Diversity, Sustainability, and Innovation

Q2. (Purpose) Use the power of connection to make the world a better place.

Q3. (Customers) Subscribers, employees, partners, contractors, vendors, and the community

Q4. (Aspirational goal) Make customer experience our best product.

Finding answers to these questions is important but insufficient if merely trumpeted on the corporate website or in the annual report. It needs to be actuated: modeled by leadership, embedded in the hiring and onboarding processes, and integrated into its performance management system. Comcast employees’ daily job responsibilities must be connected to an enduring set of organizational values and purpose. Doing so propels the culture to manifest itself.

Here are some ways Comcast is actuating its corporate ideals:

Accessibility: Comcast is committed to making its products, services, and experiences accessible to the widest possible audience, and opening new doors to independence to people with disabilities. During the tour, I tried on a set of impairment goggles that are used to obscure one’s vision. Engineers use these to design accessible menus and features for visually impaired users. I also witnessed special gloves intended to simulate diminished dexterity. These can facilitate the design of remote controls, for example, that can be accessed by customers with impaired hand function.

Empowerment: I learned of a frontline Comcast call center employee in St. Paul, MN whose suggestion to increase support for first responders and customers during Hurricane Harvey was escalated, evaluated, and implemented within 24 hours. Further, the suggestion was then incorporated into the process and executed days later during Hurricane Irma in Florida.

Contribution: I heard about a Comcast Cares Day project at Provo High School in Utah. There were 800 volunteers organized for the effort to beautify and make improvements to the school facility. In addition, Comcast ordered 20 construction trash dumpsters to aid in the cleanup and made a financial contribution to the high school in the form of a grant for each volunteer.

Inclusion: Since 2011, Comcast’s Internet Essentials has connected more than six million low-income Americans to low-cost, high-speed Internet at home in an effort to bridge the digital divide. And this program was recently expanded to include low-income veterans.

Learning: Comcast developed an internal cadre to cascade customer experience training to 80,000 employees.

Service: Comcast evaluates its performance through 11 million Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys each year. Since 2016, Comcast has seen a 20-point increase in its NPS score.

Contribution/Sustainability: There is a companywide goal of dedicating at least 500,000 volunteer hours to improving the environment by 2020.

Sustainability: Even the new Comcast Technology Center headquarters building affirms the organization’s values and purpose by achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification – saving energy, water, resources, while reducing waste and supporting human health.

Each of the above examples illustrates the alignment between Comcast’s stated priorities and what it actually does. Creating a culture that perpetuates corporate ideals – where employees detect a higher calling – requires managers and leaders to be genuinely connected to their organization’s purpose. Company leaders who do not know the answers to the four questions are disconnected from their organization’s purpose. And if they are aloof from the organization’s purpose, then so too are their employees.

While many organizations give their employees assignments to work on, Comcast has given its employees a purpose to work toward. Bravo!

20 COMMENTS

  1. Since I was at this same event, I can affirm the accuracy of Steve’s blog. Comcast has a long way to go to rebuild customer confidence but their plans and progress are truly impressive. All who attended this amazing event in Philadelphia were impressed by their leader humility and obvious zeal to transform a company not known for a good customer experience. We eagerly watch their progress and applaud their deep commitment to cultural transformation.

  2. Over the past few years (actually, since 2014), Comcast has worked to reframe the company and employees in thinking and measuring through a customer’s eyes. Bringing in CX thought leaders to view, firsthand, strides in technological and cultural areas is, from a PR standpoint, very wise on Comcast’s part; and, the evidence presented in this post is certainly compelling (as, I’d expect, Comcast would have hoped it would be)..

    Here’s the central question for Comcast: Does the quantitative, dimensional CX result, as perceived and assessed by customers, match the investment re corporate ideals? From the quantitative evidence, I’d suggest there has been only marginal improvement. For instance, Comcast’s NPS score, the gauge they use (along with eNPS) to evaluate performance, was -9 in 2017. In 2018, it is -5.

    And, the claimed 20 point NPS improvement since 2016 has accuracy challenges. As in all things, facts matter. In 2016, their NPS score was -17, so the increase is actually 12 points, but Comcast should be given credit by getting more positive scores, given where the company was two years ago. https://www.retently.com/blog/companies-low-nps/

    The Temkin Experience score and ranking, which is a more rigorous set of CX results, showed Comcast at 47% in 2017, with a ranking of 329 out of 331 companies measured. Verizon, by comparison, had an experience score of 57% and was ranked 314. In 2018, Comcast had an experience score of 49% and was ranked 314 out of 318 companies; however, Comcast lost ground to Verizon, which had a score of 59% and a ranking of 279.

  3. Steve or Chip, what does Comcast mean by “customer experience”? Customer service?

    I understand that leadership/cultural changes take time, and it would be great to see a true turnaround story. They are rare indeed.

    However, I’m curious what customers will see/feel that’s different from the current Comcast. As a result of the “CX” improvements. Can you elaborate?

    Thanks,
    Bob

  4. When you Google Comcast Leadership the first person and photo you see is Charlie Herrin, Chief Customer Experience Officer. That communicates a lot about their executive leadership commitment to this transformation. One stat that stood out for me was the fact that they have over 400 call center operators solely dedicated to social media. While they are working to improve the arithmetic of customer service, their primary quest is to enrich the emotional connection of the customer with Comcast.

    https://corporate.comcast.com/company/leadership

  5. Good intentions and increased staff are not necessarily enough to move the advocacy needle. Judged on ACSI scores, Comcast ISP improved between 2015 and 2016 (56 to 59), but has flatlined since then: https://mashable.com/2018/05/28/comcast-netflix-acsi-report-customer-satisfaction/#QnZkK2BFKmqZ Comcast’s ACSI score for Cable was 54 in 2015, improved to 62 in 2016, and then declined to 58 and 57, respectively, in 2017 and 2018. So, on a four year net basis, Comcast’s ACSI Cable score increased by just 3 points and its ISP score increased by just 4 points over the same period. So, per Chip’s point that Comcast’s Holy Grail quest has been to enrich the emotional connection with their customers, seems like they’ve had about as much success as King Arthur and his merry Round Table knights in Spamalot.

  6. I think one of the best ways to corroborate what a company says about its employee relations is to examine 1) what employees say about the company, and 2) to cross-foot its stated customer policies against its hiring criteria and incentive plan. Ideally, the three should be in accord, and should also manifest itself in positive customer sentiment. Anecdotally, I’ve found this happens rarely.

    According to the company’s job posting on Indeed for Comcast Customer Experience representatives (please see https://events.indeed.com/event/4715/?from=sj&vjs=3), new hires begin with a low hourly base salary ($12.25) and “uncapped commission,” which suggests that internally there is high pressure to achieve revenue targets. When coupled with a large percentage of variable employee pay (i.e. pay at risk), that dynamic often spells problems for CX.

    Employee reviews for Comcast are mixed, and the pressure to make quota percolates through the Indeed comment stream. One comment dated 8/26/18 states, “Limited growth opportunities within the department, Commision based in the department makes job more stressful.”

    I admire Comcast’s stated intentions and written vision. I hope they can connect the requisite organizational gears and resources.

  7. In response to Michael’s question about the accuracy of Comcast’s NPS, I would like to clarify that Comcast partnered with Bain & Company to administer its NPS survey. The actual NPS scores are propriety – and not shared publicly. Retently does its best to calculate a directionally accurate NPS based on publicly available sources using, for example, a company’s Facebook social post behavior. According the its website, Retently’s Index NPS “aggregates the last 100 social posts of a company and extracts each social post behavior, such as ‘Like’, Angry, Sad, Happy. Based on the social data, we create an NPS score which is based more on social data rather than survey data.” This may explain the discrepancy between Retently’s estimated NPS data and Bain’s actual NPS data.

  8. In response to Bob’s question about the timeframe for Comcast’s improvements to be reflected in industry benchmarks, when Comcast began this CX work it was at bottom of JD Power and is now solidly in the middle. Comcast has shown vast improvement over the last three years and continues to improve at a faster pace than others tracked in the survey. Comcast’s CX transformation journey is definitely not complete (as all Comcast executives repeated during the Philly meeting) but it has seen improvement across the board in its own metrics as well as industry surveys – and are continuing to work on improving the things that need to be improved.

  9. Bob, I don’t want to embellish Comcast’s definitions of CX and customer service with my own bias – so rather than manufacture a definition from my notes, I have posed the question to my contact at Comcast. After I hear back from her, I will copy/paste her response in this discussion.

  10. Steve, thanks for your response. I look forward to learning more about how Comcast is focusing its CX efforts. What they are *doing* is actually much more important to me than how they define CX or customer service.

    For example, does their CX improvement include product innovations? Price reductions? Both of these could theoretically be part of CX. I’m curious whether Comcast is addressing these core value issues or are they working on customer service improvements and other non-product/price issues.

    I don’t use Comcast, but have friends that do who complain about constantly raising prices to the point they are considering cutting cable. (Which I just did with Spectrum for similar reason.)

    I’m encouraged to hear of the effort and applaud the commitment, wherever it’s focused. However, I’ll admit to being a bit surprised — maybe skeptical is a better word — of the “vast improvement” you’re reporting. A quick search found this article (https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/dish-directv-customer-satisfaction-jd-power-1202959664/) which says:

    “AT&T/DirecTV also improved overall on the J.D. Power customer-satisfaction index, to an average score of 751 (up 2.7% from 731 a year ago). The U.S.’s two biggest cable operators — Comcast and Charter Communications — boosted their average pay-TV customer-sat scores but remained below the industry average of 731, with Comcast Xfinity at 717 and Charter’s Spectrum at 713.”

    And ACSI benchmarks show Comcast has gotten worse from 2016 to 2018, rated near the bottom with a score of 57. https://www.theacsi.org/?option=com_content&view=article&id=149&catid=&Itemid=214&c=Comcast&i=Subscription+Television+Service

    Any chance you have a link to the JD Power research you mentioned?

  11. Bob, Comcast is not a client but allowed me and others access to its top CX executives for a day on Oct. 18. My blog post and comments are based on my notes and follow-up questions from that event. I’m not sure (because the Comcast rep did not reference a source other than “J.D. Power” regarding the “solidly in the middle” and “vast improvement” comments), but she may have been referring to this 2018 study: https://www.jdpower.com/business/ratings/study/U.S.-Residential-Television-Service-Provider-Satisfaction-Study-by-Region/4990ENG/South/1511 It’s not astonishing but the step between “The Rest” and “Better Than Most” is “About Average.” At least it’s a step in the right direction.

  12. I’ve not questioned the accuracy of Comcast’s NPS score, only whether the claimed multi-year improvement levels are accurate. By the way, NPS Benchmarks, provided b y CustomerGauge, shows the most recent Comcast/Xfinity Net Promoter Score at -9.

  13. Bob, as a Comcast customer myself utilizing Internet, Video, Phone, and Security, I have noticed differences such as service appointment windows being reduced from 4 hrs. to 2 hrs., with updates from the tech via phone call or text regarding exact arrival time. And when I have engaged @ComcastCares via Twitter, responsiveness and resolution has been surprisingly quick. While in Philly, I learned that Comcast has increased its social media reps from 13 in 2015 to 408 today. More than anything else, in 2018 I’ve noticed my teenagers rarely commenting on sluggish WiFi speeds when playing Fortnite. (And teenagers can be critics!) I’m personally running fewer SpeedTests and resetting the modem less frequently in response to connection lapses. I don’t know the technical details though Comcast has a focus on not just being good when the customer calls to report a service issue, but to avoid the call entirely by utilizing technology to identify and resolve the issue before the customer is aware of it.

    And here’s that J.D. Power link you requested: https://www.jdpower.com/business/press-releases/2018-us-residential-wireline-studies

    Again this year, according to the J.D. Power study, Comcast increased its customer satisfaction results by double-digits across all three areas: Internet, Video, and Phone Satisfaction. Comcast also improved its industry positioning, jumping up in rankings across each area (Internet, Video, and Phone) and closing the gap toward the industry average. J.D. Power attributes Comcast’s customer satisfaction score improvements in large part to performance gains in reliability and customer service, with customer service scores increasing by double-digits across each area (Internet, Video, and Phone).

  14. I just spent 20-25 minutes trying to get through that goofy “computerized customer experience” you’re talking about. What a load of BS. As more and more firms lose the human touch and use computers, self check outs, and other “alternatives” to humans customer experience and customer service will continue to fail.

  15. I asked Harley Manning, VP and Research Director of Forrester’s CX practice, for reaction to the Comcast improvements and inconsistent benchmarks.

    First he sees the commentary so far as consistent with what Forrester is seeing. However:
    “Companies are fixing fundamental problems slowly over time and their customers are for the most part yawning. Sure, the companies are less bad. That’s definitely a good thing but not cause to get gleeful.”

    Regarding benchmark differences:
    “[T]he ACSI shows a slight decline in absolute score, whereas the CX Index results we published show a slight rise in industry rank. We don’t publish the scores but I just looked at them and as an ISP Comcast was flat YoY; as a TV services provider they were up by a statistically insignificant amount. So my educated guess is that if we factor in sample sizes together with the difference in the two methodologies, the ACSI and CX Index agree fairly well. ”

    Is Comcast trying to get better? Yes. Harley agrees based on his own interactions with Comcast people that they are sincere in their efforts. But the changes will take time to kick in:
    “[Y]ou don’t reverse decades of decisions made under a business strategy that depended on exploiting a monopoly position to maximize margins in a few months or even a few years. ”

    Will CX improvements be enough?
    “Meanwhile, customer expectations are rising and those customers now have other ways to compare to cable operators (e.g., they can compare them to the OTT services).”

    I wrote an article about the cable industry earlier this year. How to Fix Cable: Better CX, More Innovation, or Lower Prices?
    Conclusion: High prices is the big driver of defections, not CX issues.
    Despite improvements in quality, service calls, and programming, price increases continue to foster the impression that the value of all the stuff consumers get is not worth the bill they have to pay. One study found high/increasing prices a factor in 87% of cord-cutters, and 83% of dissatisfied subscribers.

    I’m glad to see Comcast making improvements. But it probably won’t change the overall dynamic of consumers leaving for OTT alternatives like Hulu, Sling TV, and HBO Now. My former cable provider was Spectrum, which also made CX improvements like Comcast. But the monthly bill was out of whack with value received, so I recently canceled and now happily use Hulu.

  16. I’m in agreement with Bob and Harley. Getting CX influencers in to Philly HQ to view (and hopefully write about) its recent technological enhancements doesn’t mean very much where Comcast’s overall perception is concerned. A ‘less bad” reputation, telling the public that, in essence, ‘we aren’t quite as lousy as we used to be’ vis-a-vis value delivery, won’t effectively attract new customers. Neither, when high pricing and an array of available alternatives are also factors, will it stimulate exit-minded current customers to stay or encourage former customers to return, despite short-term financial incentives. Unfortunately, this has been Comcast corporate ethos for years and years and years:
    https://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/comcast-is-too-big-fail-but-not-too-big-suck/all/

    Also…..will Comcast ever be able to shake the highly visible Internet long tail of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYUvpYE99vg?

  17. Bob,
    I heard from Charlie Herrin at Comcast this morning regarding your most recent comment (above):

    “Bob’s not entirely wrong. These things do take time and expectations are rising. The #1 thing we preach is that what we think is good CX now, is tablestakes tomorrow. So acknowledgement is step #1.
    Step #2 I think is addressing areas where technology can help close the gaps on “dropped balls”, being proactive, etc. That is the phase we’re in now and have already seen some tremendous non-linear improvements as a result.
    And step #3 is underway. Stay tuned…”

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