If they weren’t being paid ungodly sums to shill for one of America’s most hated companies, I’d almost feel sorry for Comcast’s top PR execs right now. The reason is because they now have an impossible task of trying to put out multiple fires all over the place as more and more customers are recording their interactions with the company and posting them all over the Internet, where they immediately go viral on Reddit and other hot social media sites.
To get a sense of how bad things are getting for America’s most unloved cable company, consider some of the Comcast horror stories that have become hits at Reddit’s technology page over just the past three days:
- “In order to avoid Comcast’s notorious ‘Unreturned Equipment’ fees, I filmed myself properly returning all their equipment – I now owe $1320 in ‘Unreturned Equipment’ and other fees.”
- “Comcast is trying to screw me and I am not sure how to fix it.”
- “How Comcast screwed me out of $200.”
And yes, my writeup yesterday on the Comcast customer who tried to cancel his service and got put on hold until the company’s offices closed also proved to be very popular as well.
I really can’t remember a time when a company has been so disliked that its customers have moved en masse to meticulously document their interactions with it just to show the world how bad it is. And the fact that these customers are often being told completely contradictory things from different agents — the man who got bogus charges wiped from his bill only because he’d recorded an earlier conversation where an agent specifically told him that no charges would apply is a prime example — shows that the company’s left hand doesn’t know what its right hand, right foot and pancreas are all doing.
The Verge’s Adrianne Jeffries has written an excellent report explaining how Comcast has been pieced together Frankenstein-style over several years of mergers and acquisitions, which means that the company is hugely fragmented with no unified standards or best practices for customer service.
“Every division had a unique management structure, as does each region,” Jeffries explains. “Initiatives that come down from the top are interpreted differently at the lower levels, where regions and divisions compete for resources… Comcast customers in different parts of the country are subject to different prices and different rules, often seemingly arbitrarily.”
This is, to state the obvious, a huge mess that will require a major concerted effort on Comcast’s effort to fix. But if the task of fixing Comcast’s horrendous customer service and training infrastructure is hard enough right now, it will get even harder if Comcast merges with Time Warner Cable, another cable behemoth that has a reputation as bad, if not worse, than Comcast’s. All told, the potential for an epic customer service disaster resulting from the Comcast-TWC merger is high enough that it could even make Sprint’s experience with Nextel look tame.
At this point the decent thing for Comcast’s bigwigs to do would be to realize that their customer service infrastructure is horribly broken, that their customers are howling at the skies to vent their frustrations and that the proposed merger with TWC would only make this situation even worse. In other words, the decent thing to do would be for Comcast to abandon its plans to buy TWC until the company sorts out its own problems before taking on more problems of its own.
However, given their actions up until now, Comcast’s top executives strike me as the kind of bean-counting Harvard Business School grads who chase every last dollar in the same way a dead-eyed shark robotically gravitates toward blood in the water, so I’m not holding my breath.