Saturday, May 21, 2011

Customer Service Failures (A Comcast Rant)

I hate dealing with customer service most of the times. There are some companies that do a spectacular job of it, and others that do not. Still others are helpful in some areas and not so much in others. I get offended when companies make me use my time to fix their mistakes,

As an example of this, let me tell you about my issues with Comcast. I've been a customer since roughly 2000, between two addresses. I've had a number of bizarre issues occur, for example, when I moved, I returned my old cable box. Two years later, I received a bill for the cable box, and since it was two years later, I didn't have the old receipt. It took me getting on the phone and talking with people a few times to get this fixed.

In early April, I received a letter from Comcast saying my old cable modem didn't support the highest possible speeds for the network, and that I should call them for a new one. A few years back, I had purchased my own cable modem to avoid rental fees, but my thought was that if it meant higher speeds, I could use their modem for a month or two and buy the same model they sent me on eBay to save on future rental costs. I called and the representative asked if I wanted to pick up the new modem or to have it sent to me. Since there was no cost mentioned, I took them up on the offer to ship it to me.

The modem arrived very quickly.

Before I disconnected my old modem, I went to (my 163 students will recognize this site) and got a baseline speed. I swapped out the modem for the new one, spent an hour resetting everything and registering the new device with Comcast, and then re-ran the test on the site. Oddly enough, it was about the same speed.

I called Comcast and they told me my old modem would not support the higher speed connection if I chose to use the more expensive Internet service ("Blast"). I decided to stick with the new modem and find a replacement, because I have been considering upgrading.

I sold my old cable modem (again, my own personal modem) on eBay. This is when problems start.

The modem arrived to a customer out in California. He tries to set it up and Comcast tells him it is a stolen modem. The customer wants a refund, and since I sold the item and it did not work, he rightly filed a significantly not as described complaint. So, it cost me $11 to ship it to him, and $15 for him to ship it back to me. I am now out $26 because of Comcast's mistake.

My bill comes in the mail the next day, and I have three charges:
1) Unreturned modem fee ($60)
2) Shipping Fee ($9.95)
3) Modem Rental Fee ($7.00)

As you can imagine, I was frustrated. I called Comcast and tried to be polite. I find that explaining that I am frustrated up front helps me to stay courteous. The rep tells me they need to submit a research request, which would take ten business days, after which I would be contacted via email. The rep took down my email address and we ended the conversation.

I hadn't heard anything for over two weeks, so I called in. The rep I spoke with yesterday told me the credit for the unreturned modem was there (and I was able to verify this online), and she wasn't sure why I didn't get contacted regarding this. Having resolved the modem fee, I asked about the shipping fee, and the customer representative was able to refund that, since it was a charge that I was not told about, and the eBay stuff is my problem. She then tried to get me to sign back up for Comcast Voice, which really infuriated me. I told her I have an Ooma and ended the conversation.

So, Comcast refused to refund the modem rental fee, and as a result of Comcast's mistakes, I have wasted $26 on shipping, $7 on a modem rental fee, a bunch of hours dealing with their customer support, my first negative feedback on eBay, and frustration. Comcast has decided they can't do anything more for me, and while the representatives are nice, this is an obvious mistake on their part, and my inconvenience is my problem.

I think companies nowadays spend way too much time following procedures, and I don't feel like customer service representatives understand "the right thing to do". If a first-line customer service representative sees something that just isn't right, they should be getting a supervisor involved.

I've had other issues with Verizon. My apartment building just got wired for FIOS. My doorbell rang, and the person said "I'm here from Verizon". I told them "you must have rung the wrong bell" - assuming he was setting up someone else's apartment. Two days later, the doorbell rang again, and it was Verizon. He asked if he could speak with me, so I assumed they might need to get in my apartment. (When they set up FIOS in the building, they had to put some equipment in the back of one of my closets). I stopped work on a project and went upstairs, and the guy was just there to try to sell me FIOS. I walked away from him, and called Verizon, because it isn't the right thing for me to be harassed at home like this. The first representative I spoke with told me to go to and register there (which only opts me out of phone calls, not in-person calls). We got disconnected somehow. I called back and re-explained my problem, and they told me there was nothing they could do. I finally sent an email to the customer support on the Web site, explained the situation, explained my frustration, and asked to be forwarded to a supervisor. The supervisor got back to me and told me they added me to their "do not knock" database, but offered no apologies or explanation as to why the other reps couldn't do that.  Had Verizon been a little more helpful or a little less intrusive, I would be switching from Comcast to Verizon right now. I'm still considering who is the lesser of two evils, but it does look like FIOS would be about $20 cheaper.

For those of you going in to support-related fields, try to keep the idea of "what is right" in mind when you deal with customers. I know it is not easy, and I know I stray sometimes myself when dealing with students and co-workers, but it is a good ideal to shoot for.


J said...

Just to read it its frustraiting.


Bryon said...

I hate computer mistakes too and honestly your story reminds me of some stories I have read about people that have purchased receivers online for their DirecTV service only to find out when they cancel service that all receivers manufactured for DirecTV are owned by DirecTV. Frankly that is a confusing situation but yours sounds confusing too since you purchased your modem. I too try to avoid fees and so I have been looking to see if I could find a provider that would charge me less for fees and I stumbled onto which someone put up to compare the companies. I was relieved to find out that my DISH Network employee account was already lowest in fees. That gives me more peace of mind. Even if I can’t avoid fees I like to at least keep them as low as possible.