Every week I receive a new offer to convert my analog AT&T telephone service to Comcast’s Voice-over-IP at a very affordable price of around $30 per month, combining Television, Internet, and Phone (hence triple play) from a single provider. And I have been very close to switching over. But nothing makes it more clear to say no to them after having spent another frustrating hour at 5 am in the morning on the phone trying to restore my repeatedly disconnected internet connection.
I do not usually use my own circumstances to highlight a vendor but this example emphasizes a much bigger issue: how destructive the experience can be to the acceptance of a product or service. Vendors need to learn that what sells is the experience, not the product or service.
Case in point. From the old days of Palo Alto’s Cable CoOp (and MediaCity), the original provider of broadband some 10 years ago and final acquisition had landed my Television and Broadband service under one roof with Comcast. Fed up with receiving two separate bills for about 5 years I called into Comcast to merge the two accounts into one. Four endless calls (one each month) and cumulative no less than ten hours later, I decided to throw in the towel and visit the Comcast store, one week before the inauguration. There, a helpful gal quickly assessed the situation, merged the two accounts, and gave me a new cable-modem to serve my needs. Proud of the newfound face-to-face experience I returned home, installed the new modem, and went on with life…so I thought.
Returning home from the inauguration in Washington DC a week later, expecting to relive the event we had witnessed in-person, I could not be more disappointed to find my Comcast DVR empty. A call into Comcast led to the quick discovery and admission that they had disconnected ALL my cable activities by installing a physical terminator on the side of our house. Eager to reconnect and four hours later, with the help of a knowledgeable service technician my service was restored. Since then, consistently every month around billing time my service is being disconnected, requiring me to put in another 2-hour call to Comcast to repeat the saga and reconnect the service.
That gives new meaning to their Comcastic slogan, doesn’t it? Needless to say, I am not going to entrust Comcast with my phone service, or any other service.
But this case is symptomatic for many other consumer technology experiences we encounter.
We confirm again that:
- In this automated world face-to-face interaction still trumps phone support
- Customer relationship management does not come from an automated system (nor does it come from sales)
- Support is crucial to selling more services (or losing them) and should have profit and loss responsibility
But to Comcast specifically, it proves it has no business in penetrating our life with consumer products of any kind. Let alone your most sacred connection to the outside world, your telephone. We named the Comcast DVR the most horrid consumer device ever built and combined with their incapable support provides for an unacceptable user experience.
Just like AT&T in mobile telephony we expect (and demand) a consumer vendor like Apple to reduce Comcast to its core competency, providing nothing more than a reliable network connection.
I have high hopes for that new Apple TV coming our way soon, that with the help of the government mandate for cable-cards that is already in place, will make the choice for best-of-breed back-end providers very easy. I’ll be the first one to take a hard look at the network provider.