More fun and games with Comcast (aka the A&P of my Cynicality)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/02/20 10:16 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/02/20/7816533.aspx


Nothing technical, and yes, more Comcast stuff, different from the earlier stuff, but even so, sorry!

It suddenly occurs to me that someone from Comcast might be paying attention, if this comment is accurate (Gwyn doesn't think so, but even so....).

My Comcast high speed Internet just went down. It went down and although I called right away I was told that they knew about a problem in my area and were working on it.

They told me it should be up some time by 6:30 AM (it is 3:03 AM right now).

Yes my hours are strange. Why do you think my blog is? :-)

It is weird when the high speed Internet service is down (which it is right now) but the cable service is up, which it is right now, an Angel rerun on TNTHD, not much on this time of night beyond uninteresting reruns and softcore adult stuff on Skinemax I'd rather skip. Angel is also a niche fetish kind of thing too, but the moral depths are more appealing to me (and as the poem says, deep roots are not touched by the frost).

Unrelated point, but does anyone else in Seattle notice now the HD cable channels are the East Coast feeds while the regular non-HD versions are the West Coast? I guess I don't really care that much at home but it was annoying in a hotel room a few weeks ago at the last UTC meeting since the schedule is just off on stuff!

Oh yeah, I was talking about weird. Like that last paragraph wasn't? Hmmmm.

I personally prefer to talk to the cable folks than the high speed folks when reporting an outage, they both have the same outage info even if they have different troubleshooting steps when it's not a known outage, and frankly they just seem nicer. Some have suggested that is just that when the high speed goes down I am more strident, but when I talk to the cable folks when the high speed is down, I am just as anxious. They just seem more patient, you know?

One very important part -- when they tell you on the line that they know about an outage that affects you and that you don't have to talk to someone? Wait to talk to someone. Give me a second and I will explain why this is a Very Good Idea™.

A moment later someone is on the line. They verify my address -- that is, they make me repeat mine and I say it fast enough that it is easy to verify but impossible to look up. That's just me, always working to make sure I can see a few moves ahead.

So anyway this is when I am told that everything should be up by 6:30 AM. Sigh.

He heard my sigh, I think. It was not exceptionally loud but all he has is my voice on the phone so it makes sense that he'd hear my frustration.

He points out that he will credit me for the day.

That's nice, actually. I mean since it will be up all day when I'm not here but down for like three hours when I am not, this is a very nice gesture. I say so, and thank him.

This is why it was a Very Good Idea™ to stay on the line, by the way.

But then I am curious.

I ask whether I would have been credited that way for the down time if I hung up when the recorded message told me I could and that I did not have to wait to talk to someone.

He admits that I would not have gotten credit for the day, in that case.

Ah, my cynical nature is assuaged nicely here. There are two "flaws" in this design from the overall me-as-the-customer satisfaction standpoint.

Now both points are excusable when there is no known outage, but when something is out both are a bit more suspect.

It is perhaps my cynical nature again, but I would feel much more comfortable never being charged when the service is down and always being charged when it is up -- even though I'd only get a few hours credit rather than a day, I am sure that over the course of a month there would be enough random outages that it would all even out.

Because although the gesture was nice, this is just a perk that the person on the phone is empowered to give a customer who might be unhappy. It is not an institutional thing designed to get people the best service, but a way to help customer satisfaction at a micro level -- in a framework to allow anyone in the country to be helped out this way.

I suppose it looks like I am being cheap here, but it is more complicated than that. I am very much a value-for-value guy, who will not even blink about being charged for weeks of high speed service while I am out of the country but would be unhappy to know that for three hours of those weeks the service was down.

Clearly I am not trying to save money so much as just trying to get what I pay for.

But maybe this is intentional. Perhaps the bean counters at Comcast have calculated the issue both ways and this way is just more profitable.

Or even more deviously, perhaps it is not about the money at all, at least not directly. Maybe the Comcast bean counters were charged with figuring out which way would lead to more customer satisfaction in the long run. Maybe they calculated that there would be much dissatisfaction if people found out how often the service was down, after the fact. Plus if the credit is automatic then the implied sense of entitlement kicks in and no one is especially interested, but if those who are especifically unhappy enough to have a conversation are given a perk then they might actually be converted from unsatisfied to satisfied.

You know, while I was typing this the high speed service has gone up and down a few times.

I knew there was no sense using the RAS to get back in just yet. They weren't done fixing and there is no sense frustrating myself while they are still working on stuff. They kind of have a free pass for the day anyway. right? I mean, if the service goes down tonight I can hardly call and expect them to credit me twice for the same day, right?

Well, I guess I could. But I wouldn't (the whole value-for-value thing again).

I am reading this post over and I can already hear some of my friends pointing out how I am thinking about this way too much. Which might be true, but I am up anyway and Basic Instinct 2 (which to be fair is on Showtime right now and not Skinemax, er Cinemax!) is just not crying out to me to be watched. And the stuff I have to work on at this moment kind of needs that RAS connection.

This is actually how I am -- I do tend to really think all the way through stuff, perhaps in part to make up for the occasional impulsive act that I do without thinking. Which is not to say that I do that, but....

Back to the whole Comcast thing.

In the end, I don't expect Comcast to change how this works. For whatever reason they ended up giong with, they ran a bunch of numbers and made a decision that they felt was best for the company overall. On the whole I can't even claim to be dissatisfied since the whole appeals to my cynical nature (to compare, I used to love to stay in Grand Cayman the week before, the week of, and  the week after Christmas, just to watch the rates go from low to high to low for the exact same room and meals, unapologetically -- you can do the same thing in Las Vegas though I have a much easier time getting rooms comp'd there!).

On the other hand, my kind of satisfaction is decidedly not what Comcast is looking for, since mine is the confident recognition that someone is running a good scam and running it so well that the masses don't notice. No company wants people to think they are the bad guy, even if they give tacit (yet cynical) approval. Especially since people like me talk to others (or to be more accurate, more popular versions of people like me talk to bigger groups of others than I myself can reach), and that monkeys with the whole "satisfied customers" end of the scam....

In any case, my hat is off to Comcast, for coming up with the best way to make the most of their non-service for themelves. Which in the end has a lot more to do with customer satisfaction than their service does. Off the top of my head I can think of many times that both Unicode and Microsoft have managed to handle such situations much more terribly (perhaps topics for future blogs, some other day!).

Looking at the cable modem, the connection has been up solid for long enough now -- it is only 4:30 AM but it looks like Comcast underpromised and overdelivered on that expected fix time. Excellent, I think (in my mental Mr. Burns voice).

 

This post brought to you by(U+2cd4, aka COPTIC CAPITAL LETTER OLD COPTIC HAT)


# DJ on 20 Feb 2008 10:26 AM:

Comcast is one of the worst companies that I have ever dealt with, with regard to service and reliability.  I have dropped their cable TV and gone to satellite TV, but am stuck with their cable internet because of speed requirements and the lack of any viable alternative.  As soon as Verizon FIOS is available in my area I will drop Comcast like a hot rock!

DJ

# Josh Poley on 20 Feb 2008 1:20 PM:

Ya, ditch TV altogether (waste of time) and go with FIOS.

# Adrian on 20 Feb 2008 1:23 PM:

I think you're giving Comcast way too much credit by assuming that they actually designed the system this way.  My cynical mind says they don't really care and this credit-the-complainers system just evolved.

My own Comcast experience suggests they improvise more than scheme:

http://www.adrianmccarthy.com/blog/?p=93

http://www.adrianmccarthy.com/blog/?p=94

Adrian.

# Mihai on 20 Feb 2008 2:08 PM:

Same as DJ, I am stuck with Comcast, and I can hardly wait for FIOS to get to my area.

Comcast seem to do everything "on the edge," it might work for some customers, but it crosses the line for many technical savvy people.

Example: in my area they bought the business from AT&T. In about 7 years they almost tripled the price. Added newsgroups download limits (with a BS excuse, that some downloaded "1TB per month" which is technically impossible at the available speed even if you download 24/7). Looks like they kill P2P connections and "Comcast Cheating On Bandwidth Testing" and "Comcast Charges $1000 Per Wiretap"

Some of these don't directly affect me, but this is part of "on the edge" policy: don't p*ss off too many customers beyond a certain threshold.

A thin line to walk that I hope will bite them as soon as some alternative becomes available.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Feb 2008 2:16 PM:

Hey Adrian,

If someone from Comcast wants to officially deny my explanation and state "we're not being sneaky, we're just being dumb" then I guess I could go along with that maybe, but my cynical nature just thinks a bit of planning is also going on in this situation.

In your case there are enough components and cross-group needs that I have an easier time assessing blame as you have, but in my case it seems a bit too self-contained to be due to the same kind of probelm....

# ComcastCares on 20 Feb 2008 4:31 PM:

Michael,

Thank you for the feedback.  I will share your experience and your recommendations.  I can assure you that I do work for Comcast and we are working to improve the service for our valued Customers.  If you wish to verify this you can send an email or contact me.

Thank you for being a valued Customer and I do apologize for the outage you experienced!

Frank Eliason

frank_eliason@cable.comcast.com

# Dean Harding on 20 Feb 2008 10:35 PM:

You think you got it bad, check out my recent experience:

http://codeka.com/blogs/index.php/dean/2008/02/21/what_do_you_do_when_your_phone_is_down_f

At the U.S. has some semblance of competition when it comes to telephony. In Australia, everything comes on the back of Telstra...

# FOSS on 21 Feb 2008 3:11 PM:

Not to worry Mike, it's just Comcast updating their infrastructure to filter your P2P apps, sabotage your Bit Torrent sessions and more easily monitor you web browsing habits.  It's really not their fault, the RIAA (who oversees the Internet ) requires it. After all, Comcast wants the RIAA to sue you, not them.  It's SOP.

If you don't like it just switch ISP's.  Oh wait...

# LongTimeCustomer on 30 Mar 2008 2:04 PM:

Comcast is having trouble again.  I am so sick of this.  This has been happening at least 3 times a month and thier are more times I don't know about.  I am sick of calling them.  I am sick of this cable service.  But at this time I have no choice as I connect to work as part of my job and need a fairly fast connection.  I am waiting for FIOS as well.  Currently, I have all three options from Comcast, Internet, Phone, and TV.  It is time for me to go back to Direct TV and maybe look at Vontage for the Phone.  I am stuck with the internet until FIOS.  I am very frustrated and very dissatisfied with Comcast.  My whole family is frustrated with the TV service, especially the HD.  There are timeouts when moving through the menus in on demand all the time.  Plus, when watching a movie there are times when the movie pauses and is jerky causing you to loose the flow of the film.


referenced by

2008/03/30 The weird and unpredictable nature of the effects of positive vibes

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