Comcast gets wrist-slap for failing to answer customer service calls promptly (quite possibly one of mine)

comcastIt’s been a tough few days here at the Cook household.

I’ve been on the phone three times so far this week with Comcast customer support, waiting my turn in line as I try to get painful Internet outages resolved. This all followed last week’s fun adventure to the north Seattle Comcast store to receive a new modem — a device I supposedly needed after I was told that tech support couldn’t reset my modem remotely.

Yes, this sort of stuff, has unfortunately almost become a Seattle tradition for many of us. And, this does impact you, our readers. After all, for every minute I’m dealing with Comcast, it’s another story I am not getting to tell.

My last incident, which hit right as I was trying to post a scoop, was especially annoying. (My wife even had to tell me to calm down and not be so rude to the customer service rep. Apologies to the woman who caught my wrath).

As it turns out, I’m not the only one running into these problems. And maybe that should make me feel better about the service. But it doesn’t.

As Peter Lewis over at Crosscut.com reports, Comcast has racked up more than $48,000 in fines in the past five months from the City of Seattle for failing to answer customer service calls promptly. According to an agreement with the city, Comcast is dedicated to answering 90 percent of inbound calls in 30 seconds or less. But, even though prices continue to rise for Comcast service, it has failed to meet that bar.

Comcast, the biggest cable company in Seattle, with about 150,000 of the city’s 160,000 cable subscribers, successfully negotiated its way out of one of the fines since it claimed to have corrected the customer service snafus. However, Lewis reports that the city does no independent analysis of the data provided by Comcast.

According Lewis’ report, customer complaints about Comcast to the city, which has a contract with the cable Internet company through January 2016, are up significantly so far this year. For the first five months, the city has logged 62 complaints. That compared to a total of 83 in 2012.

Meanwhile, my home Internet service — which historically has been fairly good — took a big tumble this week.

During one outage, I got the normal spiel that the company was experiencing high call volumes. Because of that, I opted for a call back between 9 and 13 minutes later.

The call came back, but in two back-to-back instances I couldn’t communicate with the person on the other end of the line and just heard my own voice echoing. Finally, after hearing from the customer support rep, I explained the ongoing Internet connectivity problem and was told to go through the normal reboot process.

By the time I headed downstairs to pull the power source on my modem — a good 20 minutes after I first discovered the issue — the modem was magically operational again.

Whoopee. I was back online.

A week like this makes me dream about the possibilities of the city’s Gigabit Squared proposal, though at this point I neither work nor live in one of the proposed service areas.

Here’s one of the letters that the city recently sent to Comcast.

May 19, 2013

Ms. Janet Turpen

Vice President, Government Affairs

Comcast Cable

15815 25th Ave. West

Lynwood, WA 98087

RE: Notice of Franchise Violation and Assessment of Liquidated Damages

Dear Ms. Turpen:

We have reviewed Comcast’s 1st Quarter 2013 report and note that Comcast failed to meet the standard of 90% of calls answered within 30 seconds during the 1st Quarter of 2013. Specifically Comcast’s percentage of calls answered within 30 seconds during the first quarter was 72%, significantly below the 90% standard established in section 10.1(d) of Comcast’s franchise with the City of Seattle (the “Franchise”). We continue to be alarmed that another 125,577 calls were labeled as “Abandoned by Caller” during the 1st quarter. We believe that while there may be several reasons why calls may be terminated by a caller, a reasonable person would conclude that the calls were dropped because callers were put on hold for too long.

Pursuant to Section 19.2 (A) (3) (a) of the Franchise, which provides for liquidated damages of $1,500 (in 2006 dollars) per quarter for each percentage point below the required performance standard, Comcast is herein assessed liquidated damages in the amount of $31,032.00* (Thirty-One Thousand, and Thirty-Two dollars).  Please remit payment to the Office of Cable Communications no later than June 3, 2013.

Please contact me at … if you have any questions regarding the foregoing.

Sincerely,

Tony Perez, Director

Seattle Office of Cable Communications

  • Ricky89

    I feel your pain John. I absolutely hate dealing with Comcast customer service. I wish there was a competitor in the Seattle area so that Comcast was not the only choice,

  • Dan

    The only customer service that is worse is centurylink.

  • Dan Savage

    There are slowly becoming more options… John already mentioned the Gigabit Squared project, and Wave Broadband is building out their fiber and cable services in Seattle as well. This is a classic example of a nationwide service provider spending so much time being a behemoth corporation that they have lost focus on being a great service provider. Don’t get me wrong; I think that Comcast has one of the best products available. It’s just that they have more work to do in the customer service department.

  • Roger

    It isn’t just getting a hold of someone, it is also finding a competent person on the other end that is difficult. In December, I purchased a TiVo with OnDemand support for ComCast and after standing in a long line to get CableCard, I got basic cable working. It took me 4 calls to customer service and talking to a ComCast field guy that happened to be working outside my house to get HD channels and HBO working. I have had 3 or 4 additional calls to try and get OnDemand working which usually end with customer service rep saying they initiated changes on their side and it should be working in 45-60 minutes. It is 6+ months later and it still doesn’t work and I am tired of calling them so I have basically given up on OnDemand. As far as I am concerned, Comcast is the bottom of the barrel in customer service!

    • Mike Christensen

      Trust me, the TiVo implementation of OnDemand is completely useless. It’s full of ads that are super repetitive that you’re not allowed to fast-forward through. You’re better off paying $1.99 or whatever to download the show on Amazon.

  • Viet Nguyen

    I wonder if you get better customer service if you mention you write for a well-read technology publication.

  • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

    Did Comcast’s cables suffer a bit under the heat? I had the same issues, but only on Sunday and Monday, the two hottest days of the week. Since it’s cooled down, I haven’t had a single problem.

  • Forrest Corbett

    Their customer service is hit and miss. They always, always, always point the finger at the customer first. I’ve learned to always jump through their hoops even if I know it’s not going to help. I’ve never placed a call to them when it was an issue on my end. Fortunately, the tech that usually gets sent out figured this out years ago, and the last few times he came out, he never even knocked on my door until he was done working on the pole, line… to tell me what he fixed.

    I have found that, after you jump through their hoops, if you bring up the modem logs and tell them the errors you’re seeing, they are pretty quick at moving past the “the customer is always the problem” mentality.

    Comcast once blocked my account for sending spam. I was finally able to get enough information out of them to determine they blocked me based on my IP and because of spam being sent on a specific date. Well, that date was right in the middle of a lot of local power outages (December 2006) and my power was out for several days. Not only that, but I was able to check my IP history and the IP I had before the outage was not the one that was blocked. I only got the offending IP the day the power came back on – a day after I was accused of sending spam.

  • Brant Williams

    Just had similar experience today in fact… no call back…had to call them back and pretend I had a rotary phone…sweet.

    I find it baffling they treat their best customers the worst. For instance, I have the same freedom to choose a new service at any time as does a new customer. I can cancel and sign up with anyone else at any moment. Yet, I am not able to take advantage of ‘new customer’ pricing or packages..even their fully matured pricing.

    Stymied.

  • Ja Jo

    Yep had the same ridiculous issues with Cc. I get the feeling they haven’t quite figured out they’ll need to start competing at the customer service level. Perfect example of why monopolies in a market are so terrible for consumers. In other words Gigabit Squared couldn’t come soon enough.

  • Tim

    Nine to Thirteen minutes? You lucky bastard. Try 45 minutes to an hour for a call back in Grand Rapids, MI

  • Despair

    Try the next day here for a callback.. Got told there was an outage after I lost connection to my online game and couldn’t even load a webpage. And in addition to telling me there was an outage by an automated voice, it said that due to the outage we can not connect you to a customer service rep at this time. The estimated time for the outage to be concluded is tomorrow, at 2AM. Would you like a callback around then when the service is restored?

    Get screwed Comcast.