Back in July, I got tired of the rising rates at AT&T for Uverse Internet service, and they had no enticing deals to make me stay. With that in mind, I shopped the competition. Of the deals out there, Comcast’s Xfinity broadband service had a $29.95 deal for 25Mbps Internet. Pretty good, and it was a one-year offer.
Thing is, I’d had bad experiences with Comcast in the past, including trying to send me to collections for a Comcast-owned modem which I had returned right to their office. It took the intervention of the MPSC to smack them down and get them to credit my account.
Still, I was willing to take the chance. Maybe I’ll give them a chance again.
With that in mind, choice made, I clicked on “Checkout” on their site. And that started a nearly six week ordeal.
First, I had gone through checkout, and placed my order. I’d locked in the $29.95 rate, with no installation fee, and while I was not fond on what they called an “installation kit” for $10, I figured it had some sort of activation code I needed to enter in order to get my home hooked up to their network.
Now with most deals like this, you get a courtesy phone call a day or so later, with the premise of setting an appointment for someone to come out and hook up their service to your building. So I waited. And waited. Maybe 10 days later, nothing. The installation kit did arrive (more on that below), but the short version is, nobody ever called to set up an appointment.
Arguably, one could say that my first mistake was typing in the Comcast URL to get service! But perhaps it should have been evident from my first contact with “customer service”. After spending a bit of time via their online chat, they came to the conclusion that I needed to speak with a technician. Which I finally did.
Looking at the account, the tech noted that I was indeed set up for self install, but the account was cancelled since I did not connect to their network. I mentioned that this would be rather difficult since there is no connection from the building to their connection out at the utility pole. He mentioned that their records showed my location was “self-install ready”. Now, think about the logic here: of all the myriad wires tacked onto this house over the past couple of decades, how am I to have any idea which of these might have belonged to Comcast at one point or another? Not only that, shortly after moving in, I had cut down two coaxial wires running from the pole which were laying on top of the garage roof, which is against our local electrical code. As I never had “cable TV”, I knew it would affect nothing.
So, back to my tech buddy. He is in the middle of typing in my new order, when the line goes dead. Calling back, of course I cannot reach anyone who even knows a person with this same first name. So I end up having to explain everything all over again, and finally get an order entered. I am given a date when they’ll arrive.
Naturally, that date comes and goes, and I still have no service. I call again. The order has again been cancelled since “Nobody was home at the time.” Bullshit. I specifically rearranged an entire day’s work so I could be around to answer the door. Not only that, since it was simply an installation from utility pole to the house, nobody even needed to be around.
In the meantime, I had received a new billing notice. It showed a completely different monthly rate, and of course had the installation fee and installation kit being tacked on. Yet another session on chat to get it sorted. (And I’ll comment on these chats later as well.)
So, I reschedule it again, this time with the assurance that it’s all straightened out. The appointment is for a Thursday. No show, again. No phone call, again. Do I call? No. I’m curious to see how long this will take. I wait. Friday. Saturday, Sunday, Monday…onward until Friday, and not one word, and no technician. Friday evening, I’m looking at the website for their competitor, WOW. Of course, I need to type in an address before I can get a rate, but no big deal, the site tells me to call. Screw it. I’ll wait until next week.
Saturday around noon, walking up my driveway is a salesman for WOW. They’d gotten my address from the site, and sent him out. 15 minutes later, I had a signed deal: $30/month flat rate for one year, faster service (30Mbps vs. 25Mbps), and he promised a tech would be out on Monday. Less than 48 hours later, the tech pulls away in his truck, and my new Surfboard modem is lit up happily with Internet service. And my phone is also lit up, happily telling AT&T to disconnect their overpriced line from my account.
Of course, during that week of waiting, I receive yet another billing notification from Comcast, with still a different rate and added fees. Once I got on chat, again, the day I connected with WOW, I pretty much told them I wanted everything cancelled. No problem! In fact, that was the only thing they did right in this whole affair!
Still steaming a bit, I found the email address for a vice president at Comcast, who was not only in charge of the customer service experience, he promised that they were doing everything to ensure the customer was given a favorable experience. I let loose. Politely of course. I simply outlined all of my ordeals in dateline fashion, and expressed my disappointment alongside my promise that I would never do business with them again.
Will it do any good? It’s doubtful. But by the same token, until consumers start utilizing these avenues for feedback, there is no way the company will ever know where service needs improving. And complaints should not be crowdsourced from the Internet, where the mob mentality tends to drag things down into rude and insulting behavior. This is a business you are dealing with, and working with them in a calm and professional manner is the only way you will gain their attention and respect.
So anyway, there were many failures in this example. The worst failure was in communication. Even when I signed up for AT&T DSL about four years ago, my checkout process included a reminder that I would be called by a technician to complete the order. And it actually happened. They returned the call within hours of my signing up, and we were good to go.
When you complete the Comcast checkout process, you are left hanging. You receive a “thank you,” and you get a confirmation of shipment for the installation kit, but that’s it. There needs to be some communication regarding the next step. Ever go to a site, sign up, and see a “What’s next?” page? Comcast needs this.
In addition, communication falters when you deal with offshored customer service personnel. This has long been a sore spot with me. I feel that companies who do business in a country should staff their customer sevice and technical support in that same country. All you essentially get through Comcast’s chat are off-shored agents who spend their time apologizing (“Sorry for the delay,” “Sorry you are having a problem,” etc.), while translating our complaints into Punjabi so they can look up the appropriate response from their scripts. Sad.
When I did reach a tech in the US, at least I did not have a language barrier. But internally, it was obvious Comcast has an internal communications error. One department has no clue what the other department has done. I feel that any person in the company should be able to look up my order, see exactly what steps were taken, and light a fire under the appropriate parties to correct things and make them right. Yet nobody was able to do that (and I was told as much). Everything is so compartmentalized that their service and support personnel cannot reach out beyond their departments to help us fully and completely.
As for the added fees, those are debatable. I can see a provider charging me to install outlets inside the building. (Which is normally just drilling a hole and shoving a wire through it, sadly.) The installation kit was one such expense that supplied nothing of value–it included two coaxial cables, a splitter, and a bag of wire clips (which you use to tack a coaxial cable to another surface). Items I already own, in spades. There was no activation code, no appointment reminder, nothing other than a welcome pamphlet. This should be an option at checkout, not a requirement. Most who already have the cable modem are already set up with the wiring.
Overall, Comcast could stand to get their communications sorted out, and actually follow through on appointments. I spent over five weeks since the time I ordered, waiting for a simple hookup from utility pole to the house, and it took a competitor only 48 hours to steal that business away. I can’t say my trust in Comcast has improved either. Hard to blame me, no?
In the meantime, WOW’s service has been working just fine here.