Comcast © Mike Mergen/Bloomberg News/Landov

Customer Service Hall of Shame

No. 2: Is Comcast a 'victim' of success?

The fast-growing broadband Internet provider acknowledges its reputation and says it's investing heavily in people and training to turn things around.

By Karen Aho

Comcast isn't winning the hearts of its customers.

In the 2008 MSN Money-Zogby International poll, the cable giant received a "poor" mark from 42% of respondents familiar with the company's customer service, 10 percentage points worse than in 2007, landing it in the No. 2 spot in our Customer Service Hall of Shame.

"I'm somewhat disappointed, more so in the year over year," said Rick Germano, Comcast's senior vice president of national customer operations.

Was Comcast's reputation further sullied by last year's widely publicized case of cable rage, in which a 75-year-old woman took a hammer to a company office? Or by the media glare after Comcast hired seat fillers for a Federal Communications Commission hearing about its broadband data management?

Without mentioning particular incidents, Germano raised the idea that isolated events that blow up into media storms can cloud people's perception of a company. Still, he acknowledged that Comcast needs to improve the experience of its 24.1 million customers.

"I think we're the victim of our own success, in the sense that we're growing so rapidly," he said. "We're playing catch-up in the customer-service front."

In addition to its cable TV operation, Comcast also is the nation's largest broadband Internet provider and its fourth-largest phone provider. The company's sales have grown 30.7% over the past five years, hitting $31.9 billion last year.

Germano said Comcast takes an average of 1 million customer calls a day and is working to keep up. He said the company is:

  • Adding 15,000 positions at its call centers, increasing the staff by 30%.

  • Rolling out high-tech diagnostic tools for agents in the field and at call centers.

  • Introducing a more descriptive bill.

  • Investing in staff training.

  • Making its credit policies uniform.

  • Continually soliciting feedback from customers, employees and outside consultants.

  • Thoroughly reviewing what works and what doesn't.

"I think there's no argument with your survey results. I mean, it is what it is," Germano said. "And that's what our customers and our noncustomers think about us, and that's not good.

"At the end of the day, we want to do a better job, and we have to listen to these surveys and communicate . . . with our customers."

In the poll, 31% of those familiar with Comcast's service rated it "fair," 22% "good" and 5% "excellent."

Published May 28, 2008

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