Comcast Vows Better Customer Service While Skeptics Scoff
At the annual International Consumer Electronics Show, it's traditional to hear announcements of the most amazing things, some of which are so amazing that it's hard to believe they might happen. For example, Windows tablets have yet to put the sales of iPads to shame. Past announcements of smartwatches never saw them become a must for the fashion conscious.
This year, perhaps one of the most eyebrow-raising claims belonged to Comcast (CMCSA) (CMCSK). "We expect that customer service will soon be one of our best products," said CEO Neil Smit, according to tech blog BGR.
That would be one astonishing turnaround. Although, as BGR put it, "Considering the quality of most of Comcast's products, this wouldn't be very difficult to achieve."
In "The Prince," Machiavelli once debated whether it was better for a leader to be feared or loved. (He said both if possible, but if not, then feared.) What he didn't address so clearly was the utility of being hated.
That's been Comcast's quandary, as the company has exceeded at being hated. It won -- if that's the right word -- Consumerist's audience poll of the most hated company in the country last year. That was the second time the largest cable television provider in the U.S. grabbed the crown, with 2010 being the first.
Comcast beat out the likes of Monsanto (MON), Walmart (WMT) and Bank of America (BAC). It even bested SeaWorld (SEAS) after the scandalous Blackfish documentary. The reason? Bad customer service. No, make that service so terrible that it has gained national attention on more than one occasion in just the last year:
A tech journalist recorded his attempt to cancel his Comcast service, as Time reported, while a "customer retention" specialist desperately tried to keep him from doing so.
Another man had multiple problems with inaccurate billing and was only able to resolve it because he had recorded a Comcast customer service rep previously making a promise, according to Mashable.
Comcast managed to get a customer fired over a billing dispute and eventually apologized, as AOL Jobs reported.
BGR reported that Comcast closed out the year by making a customer spend four hours on the phone to cancel service.
This is beyond bad service. It's the stuff of legend that makes attempts to merge with Time Warner Cable (TWC) a tad more difficult than might otherwise be the case.
But all that is behind Comcast, according to Smit. "We do need to transform our customer experience, and I think we have a lot of work to do," Smit said, according to Consumerist. "It will take time, but we'll get it done," in what Consumerist said could be the "understatement of the century."
Of course, it may take a phone call or two. Or three.