When your high-def television, digital landline, and home Internet service are working right, the world is at your beck and call.
But when one of these modern wonders breaks down, you could be in for hassle.
Just ask Chris Lyttle or Rich Baril, who both happen to live in West Simsbury and both contacted me this month asking for help with Comcast. With a half million customers in Connecticut, Comcast is the largest cable provider in the state.
Lyttle was stunned when Comcast told him that the cable gateway (or modem) that he was renting was past its life expectancy and that his connection is likely to fail soon. If he returned the unit to a Comcast center he could get a replacement for free, or pay a fee to have a new one delivered.
“I did originally pay to have the equipment installed and have paid a monthly fee for it,” he wrote me in an email. “If they know it will fail and they are waiting for me to call after that happens that seems ridiculous. They should be upfront and replace or maintain it at no cost.”
Baril asked for my help because he said he has “been getting stonewalled and the runaround from Comcast in providing a service technician to address an issue with my Internet and phone service. Both ‘cut out’ at various times leaving us with neither.”
For the Baril family, it’s a huge issue because they use the Internet to communicate with their daughter, who is deaf.
Even after I helped the family get a earlier appointment for a Comcast technician, the problem intensified.
A technician was supposed to have shown up on a Friday afternoon, but instead came at 8 a.m. But the Internet and phone service had been remotely restored and the technician said he could not troubleshoot the problem since it was working at the time. Three hours later, the phone and Internet again stopped working. Comcast promised to send someone that afternoon. No one showed up and no calls were made to their cell phone warning them that the technician would not be available.
“Each time I called customer service I got a sympathetic ear and profuse apologies, but not one took any action to address my problem,” Baril wrote, adding that he was given a $40 credit for two missed calls. The last I heard his service had been restored, but obviously the family is frustrated.
Normally when hearing these complaints I would be ranting and raving about the company.
There are a couple of reasons why I am taking a measured approach.
First of all, Comcast has a wonderful public relations person in Connecticut, Laura Brubaker, whom I have dealt with for more than four years. Every time someone from Comcast contacts me with a problem, I send that person to Brubaker. She either helps solve the problem or, if Comcast wasn’t at fault, she takes the time to give customers an explanation.
Brubaker has always been upfront and straight with me, and she was again on these two situations.
No excuses. Brubaker said Comcast was clearly at fault.
“Our goal is to provide our customers with reliable and cutting-edge products and services, as well as clear communication and great customer service. In these two instances, we clearly fell short,” she told me. “We are on a course to resolve both of these issues and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and frustration we caused for these two customers.”
How refreshing to get a straight answer from a company PR person.
And Comcast is trying to improve its service, which we can all agree is far from perfect (an interesting comparison might be with newspaper delivery issues).
To get an idea what a company like Comcast deals with, consider that it has about one million contacts with customers across the country EVERY DAY. Starting last year, Comcast instituted a “Customer Guarantee” spelling out what can be expected and what Comcast will do if the guarantee is violated.
Since then, Brubaker said, there has been an improvement in customer satisfaction surveys.
“Our internal surveys show that satisfaction with Comcast’s Customer Service improved 2 percent in January 2010 compared to January 2009 and 80 percent of customers tell Comcast they resolved their issue on the first call and 94% tell Comcast the Technician arrived on time.”
Finally, all television and telephone and Internet providers have huge customer-service issues.
Not long ago, I asked state Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell Jr., whether he has cable or satellite service at his home.
“I recently did a bunch of research myself on television providers – DIRECTV, Dish, Comcast, U-verse – as I was thinking of changing providers. What I found out was that it was not easy to make many apples-to-apples comparisons. Each of the four I compared had issues on service reliability,” Farrell told me.
“The technology differed substantially as to each provider. Each offered very differing channel packages. Some did not provide the government access channels. Most gave me lots of channels I would never watch, but made it quite expensive to get certain channels that I wanted (my kids watch a channel called Sprout and I would love to have access to the RAI Italian television channel).
“All could interact with a DVR, but the capabilities of the DVR differed substantially from provider to provider. U-verse has distinct territorial limitations as to where it is offered in Connecticut and some of those limitations are not going to be solved any time soon.”
So in the end, what did Farrell do?
“I concluded that I would stay with what I had – Comcast – for the moment and see how the market evolved in the next year or two.”
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