Comcast’s Inside-Out Business Process Means A Poor Customer Experience


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I’ve been having my typical Internet, Cable Television
and Comcast Digital Voice outages this weekend. Every time the season changes,
and the temperatures with it, most of my neighborhood experiences outages. It’s
really a simple problem. Comcast’s infrastructure stinks, at least in my area.
Their inside-out business process stinks even worse.

I’m getting really tired of this, but I don’t have a lot of options. This highly
regulated, anti-competitive industry is a perfect case study for costly and
ineffective service — ultimately leading to customer dissatisfaction and lack
of loyalty. I’d throw in customer defection, but as most of you are aware, there
is seldom a choice when it comes to Cable service; at least out in the less
suburban areas like mine. I thought the FCC had voted to ban long term contracts
with cable companies, but I have not seen anything to suggest that it’s working.

Today, I was fortunate enough to get some information on Comcast’s “inside-out”
business process from Monty, my customer service representative. He was nice
enough. I’m sure you need a thick skin to shrug off the sorts of criticism that
surely gets thrown their direction. But, the customer face of Comcast clearly
exposes how little importance they place on the customer. Let’s run down a few
know facts about their service:

  1. The service is grossly overpriced – especially when you take into
    account the level of service provided (see below).

  2. They always assume it’s a problem in your house
  3. They can never schedule a service call until some time in the middle of
    next week (when you’re at work).

  4. It takes at least 4 calls from neighbors on your street (not just your
    neighborhood) to escalate it to “an emergency”

Here’s what was going on yesterday. I woke up to find no Internet, Phone or
Television service in my house. The Cable modem only had the power light on. I
called Comcast and the young lady I spoke with confirmed that there was an
outage in the area, and that the problem was being worked on. Within an hour or
so, it appeared the service was back up.

I then began a GoToMeeting session with a colleague to review a business
intelligence project he was working on. Halfway through the call, the meeting
and the audio went offline. We never did not get our service back after that.
Eventually, I called into Comcast and they confirmed there was an outage (again)
and gave me some acronyms like 5500 and something else. I think they do this to
confuse us because I don’t know what the hell they were talking about. I just
want my damn service back on!

Last night, my wife and I were forced to spend the evening watching some movies
I had DVR’d last year. Thankfully, Comcast’s outages don’t to affect the
. I simply couldn’t be certain of that given the quality of their service. Maybe the
DVR has to check in with “dear leader” at headquarters or something. Eventually
I drifted off into never-never land…thinking about “dear leader” and his vocal
support for escalating anti-competitiveness in yet another industry (guy should
be fixing his cable company!)

This morning I woke up only to find that the service was still down. Of course,
I called in on my handy cell phone (since they provide my phone service)
report it and check on the status. I was told there was no outage in my area

Wait a minute! They confirmed the outage yesterday, and now they’re saying there
is no outage. Hmm. What’s going on here? He told me they could get someone out
at 8 am.” Today”, I asked? No, he meant Monday, when no one would be here. I
reminded him it was not inside the house, since none our services were working.

I decided not to pursue the matter with the gentleman on the phone at that time
because I was getting just a little bit hot under the collar. However, after an
hour passed of watching DVR’d episodes of Jungle Junction and Little Einsteins,
I decided that I simply couldn’t take this anymore. So I decided to call in
every hour until I got the situation resolved.

So, I called in. Monty confirmed that there was no signal to my house. He then
did a “proximity check” and confirmed that a number of houses on the street
behind me were out, and that a truck was “rolling” to look at their problem. He
also mentioned that there was one other call on my street. So, I asked him at
what point this was going to get classified as an outage.

His response was revealing. He told me that 4 customers needed to call to get
the engineers on the case (I wonder how many of these customers rely on Comcast
Digital Voice to make this call – which was down!
). I quickly did some math. I called,
else on my street called. So that’s two. He mentioned that 4 homes on the street
behind me had problems and that a truck was rolling so I’m guessing all 4 had
called or the truck wouldn’t be “rolling.” That’s 6.

Apparently, you have to get 4 immediate neighbors to call for it to be an
outage. That seems like an odd way to define “service outage”. No doubt a
brilliant middle manager came up with that one. Anyway,  I can see the houses behind me. Sure, they’re a few hundred yards away,
but they’re in my neighborhood. So, I asked Monty why yesterday’s confirmed
outage was not still considered an outage since I had never gotten my service back. I
figured that as a customer, looking for a good experience and wanting to remain
loyal, it was a fair question.

I was told that when the engineers “feel” they’ve solved the problem, the outage
is considered over. I asked if their process was to verify that service was
indeed restored to the customers that had reported it. He responded “we can’t call millions of
customers.” Mmmmm.  I asked him if they
confirmed the fix with the customers who had called to report the outage.
Even if it was scores of customers, can’t they call a random sample of them?
Apparently, they don’t “feel” they need to do that.

An inside-out, company centric, process is when the process is designed to satisfy
the company (or lazy middle managers that need strokes and think they know
everything), not the customer. In the front office, customer facing world,  this
simply doesn’t work.

Don’t let the fact that Comcast has a Twitter team fool you, either. They just want to
squelch anything that comes up. And don’t let the fact that they have an option
to take a customer survey after your wasted call  fool you. If they
actually listened to what was said, things
would be different. They don’t have to listen, and they know it. These surveys
and Twitter responses mean nothing and simply demonstrates how companies like
this will abuse social media kind of like spammers have made the email
experience so awful. Comcast does not believe in customer intimacy
because loyalty is not a factor for them like it is for other retail
products or services.

I really wish I could go Satellite, but I live 400′ down in the heart of the
deep dark forest. There is no clear path through the trees to get a signal. My
Internet options are also limited because of my distance from whatever node they
need to deliver the service.
And satellite doesn’t solve all of my problems anyway. Only another cable
company can, and they don’t exist here.

I am a very disloyal Comcast customer, but I can’t do what disloyal customers do,
walk – because there is no available competitor waiting to take me.

I hope you all can see why inside-out business process cannot work
in situations where there is customer involvement. Customers simply won’t accept
having no voice. They also can’t accept experiences that they deem to be below

In most business situations a competitor using an outside-in business
will provide the customer with a better, streamlined experience
that reduces friction between the company and the customer. Customers can figure
out that this company is listening to them and designing process from their
point of view, and they are definitely going to show their loyalty for it.

Unfortunately, we are living in times where there is a struggle between central
control (whether a business or the government) and the voice of the customer.
Where it’s going to end up, I really don’t know. All I can do as a CRM
consultant is help my clients discover how loyalty and value creation work
together and hope that they decide to move in that direction. If the voice of
the customer (or the people) is loud enough, maybe more companies (private or
government owned/run) will see the light. Personally, I don’t hold out hope for
Comcast or any cable companies. They’re in control for the time being.

Feel free to agree, disagree or digress.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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