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
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.
Tony Perez, Director
Seattle Office of Cable Communications