Comcast gets it right, and that’s no mistake

It has been called the worst company in America. But even bad companies can do good.

I know, because it happened to me. I stumbled through consecutive and excruciating tales of incompetence. But, I hung in there long enough to locate a high level manager who instantly fixed everything — and was really sorry.

You’ll see.

Just writing about this makes the Good News Guy…well, not so nice. But I pulled myself together to give credit where it is due.

My Comcast cable snafus are a “first world problem” in light of past stories I’ve featured in this column, and I’m grateful for the privilege of even having the amenity. But my road to resolution was, nevertheless, paved with some prolonged pain along the way. I’m exhausted.

(Comcast adventures — or misadventures — are no stranger to our forum, either. Oh, where to begin? I do not want to get you started. Or do I? This is my all-time favorite. And our most recent does not disappoint.)

“I use my cable primarily for high-speed Internet and the most basic cable TV line-up comes with it regardless,” begins Der. Wait – what am I doing interviewing myself? I’m losing it. And I am way too difficult and uncooperative, so let me just tell you about it.

For various reasons, Comcast is the only hardwired cable provider available in my residence area, and a dish outside my condo window is just not going to fly. After a few years of acceptable service, I came home one day to find both my TV and Internet out.

My first service technician never showed. What a shocker.

The second service technician showed up on time but could not find the problem. He even admitted he gave up and suggested I would likely need to hire a private “cabler” for additional cost to diagnose the problem – and gave me the cabler’s business card. Don’t get ahead of me.

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Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if I had not followed the proactive approach of firmly yet politely escalating to written email communication with corporate office contacts? Yes, it would.

So I contacted the regional customer service office for my area, and was pleasantly surprised to find a manager who really seemed to care and knew what he was doing. He gave me his direct number. Let’s call him Ken.

He said he would send a highly experienced technician, and set up another appointment. The specialist arrived and was surgical in his precision, finding a loose connection in ten minutes that was simply not screwed in behind the common lobby hallway ceiling tile. How it got that way, we will never know.

Wait, isn’t this “cable repair 101″ that the first technician should have gotten?

It gets better. Two more technicians showed up, knocking on the door in subsequent days after the problem was solved, for service calls neither I nor Ken arranged or requested, and one even talked himself past the front desk. Wow. But good luck with getting a scheduled appointment. They insisted I had made these requests, but when I asked for documentation, no dice.

Nevertheless, I thanked Ken with a personal note (always a must), and so began the start of a beautiful friendship. A few minor unrelated but effectively attended-to issues later, he remained my go-to guy, fixing problems quickly and efficiently. And then came the obligatory digital box upgrades Comcast now required for all basic cable customers as more TV stations moved to digital HD – at no extra cost.

Since my basic TV lineup was thrown in for the same minimum Internet package price, I ordered the two necessary upgraded boxes online. When they showed up, repeated failed attempts to activate them remotely revealed they were inadvertently assigned to another account.

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But Ken said he had this. I waited. I sent seven emails. What happened?

Then, a response: He started from the beginning and asked for the correct account address to send the boxes to, again. In the meantime, I got an online alert that my billing was unusually high. It turned out I was charged some nebulous additional service charges for the free boxes.

Ken corrected the billing error, but asked for a third time what account addresses the boxes should be assigned to. Sigh.

Two replacement boxes finally arrived – but they were the old, obsolete “non-HD” type I already had when I signed up. This is the best part. I also received a completely unrelated new Internet modem/router combination called a gateway, which I never asked for or needed, and also showed up on my bill.

Sigh, again.

I could not reach Ken, so another service rep said (incorrectly) that a technician must personally come by and retrieve this gateway modem I never requested in order to get full credit back, so reluctantly I agreed. No one ever showed and I didn’t get the $20 no-show credit Comcast promises. Even Ken was puzzled.

More emails, and Ken and I were back together. He credited back the gateway fee, and finally delivered the two new HD digital boxes correctly assigned to my account. One powered up and worked, but the power cord to the other box was actually severed – not torn – with some sort of sharp cutting instrument.

I now had the following grand total of new equipment I did not need or request, which I was eager to send back in their prepaid shipping box as soon as I could: one defective box of two HD DTA boxes; two HD DTA boxes mistakenly assigned to another account; two unnecessary older “non-HD” DTA boxes that I never requested; and a gateway I never asked for or needed. Exhaling, again. All this equipment was surely worth hundreds of dollars.

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And all I needed was one more working HD DTA box. So close, and yet so far.

Email responses stopped. Nothing. Ken dumped me; he didn’t even want to be…just friends.

My approach needed to be ramped up, so I did a deep Internet search for even higher corporate contacts (at that time, the contact page was having technical issues).

My email landed in the lap of Chavis Robinson, Executive Customer Relations Supervisor, Comcast Northeast Division. He called and gave me his direct number.

“Please let me know when you are available and I will be more than happy to assist. I look forward to hearing from you,” he said.

He listened. He was pleasant. He cared. I was polite (wasn’t easy).

After months, he fixed everything at once, easily and immediately. He corrected any remaining inconsistencies on my billing record. Even though I never expected it or asked, he even reduced some past bills with good will credits back to my account. I thanked him. I was verklempt (look it up).

“No problem. Glad I could help,” Robinson concluded.

Why was this so hard until now? We will never know.

The Good News Guy’s mission is to be positive, and note that problems can be solved when done the right way – and once those who have a true stake in the company really know what is happening in the front lines.

So, have Comcast and I kissed and made up? Are we again sharing the sandbox? Maybe. For now we have learned to play well with others, and not run with scissors.

Andrew Der

Der is an environmental consultant and travel journalist specializing in water science, nature, eco-travel, and cultural destinations

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