December 28, 2010

An Open Letter to Comcast/Xfinity

When we got home yesterday, we were surprised to find a weird “activate your device” message when we tried to go online. I turned on the TV, and there were no cable channels. Something was afoot.

So I called the number on the “activate” screen and had an automated message tell me that my account was delinquent, I owed hundreds of dollars, and my service had been discounted. Imagine my shock to learn this when I’d had NO PREVIOUS NOTICE. Even worse, I couldn’t get through to a customer service representative without paying my bill first (sleazy – what if it had been your mistake?).

Long story short, when my card number was stolen back in October, the bank canceled it and issued a new one. I forgot that the old one was registered for your automatic payment program, so your were unable to process payment in November and December. Fair enough, but maybe you could have mentioned that to me at some point before taking the extreme step of disconnecting my service.

Clearly you had my email address. While I received weekly “Xfinity What to Watch” spamails that I was too lazy to unsubscribe from, I never once received a “hey, there’s a problem with your payment” notice. And when I called to try to talk to a human being about the problem, the automated voice verified the last four digits of my phone number, so obviously you know how to reach me by phone. In fact, after a second call when I could finally reach a real person, I received an automated telephone survey, so calling me is proven to work. Not once, though, did I receive a “hey, we’re going to disconnect your service” call during the last two months.

And while we’re at it, we’re on the verge of 2011 and you’re my cable and internet provider. Don’t you have the technology to pop up a message on a screen saying, “hope you’re enjoying this, we’d like you to keep enjoying this, but can we talk about the problem with your card number? please call.” On the TV or on my computer screen – your choice. Or go old school because you know what else still works? Postal mail, a channel you and I will be returning to using.

Honestly – in 2010, you couldn’t find *some* way to contact me to let me know there was a problem? On top of that, I now have to go anti-green and re-activate paper bills if I want to be sure I see problem notices, because the only billing-related emails I received from you during the last two months looked exactly like the one below. Which looks exactly like every other “your statement is ready for viewing” message I get each month.

Comcast thinks this message equals "we're going to disconnect your service"

That message is the only billing-related one I received from you for the entire month of December. If you saw that message every month from your electric company, would you think there was a problem? Would you expect a little something more from them that they’re turning off your service? I expected more from you.

Yes, I could have logged in during those two months and seen a notice on the screen, but I also think you could have added a notice to that email or sent a separate notice to make sure I knew there was a problem. Good customer service this ain’t.

And now you want to charge reconnection fees because you disconnected my service without any heads up that there was a problem. Seriously?

Now that I’ve calmed down, I’m submitting the following requests so that others don’t have to spend a frustrating evening the way I did.

  • Change your procedures so that customers using your e-bill service receive separate notifications that there’s a problem with payment. Or add a notice to the standard template, but provide some type of heads-up that there’s an issue without the person having to log in to find out about it.
  • Change your procedures so that customers using your e-bill service receive separate notifications that you’re going to disconnect their service. While it likely won’t be anytime soon, I’d like to be able to trust your e-bill notices in the future and stop receiving paper bills again someday.
  • Make it possible for someone who’s as confused about an unknown problem as I was to talk to a human being first without having to cough up a credit card number first.

And I want my reconnection fees waived, because I would have paid my bill (as I have for years) had I known there was something wrong. It’s a shame your customer service representative couldn’t do that for me. I had no confidence that any complaints I submitted to an unempowered frontline person would get me anywhere, which is what made me blog this open letter to you. I know you think you’re protecting your CS folks by taking away their ability to judge a situation and make a customer happy, but all you’re doing is upsetting customers like me who want to discuss how to resolve a valid complaint.

Please fix these problems. You can do better, and you owe your customers better communication.

Sincerely,
Jenny

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17 Comments

  1. We’ve all been abused by the cable companies. I have Time Warner. What irks me most is that when you go to their website its flash I think. impossible to navigate, and nothing but sketchy marketing stuff.

    And these are the people who want to control the internet?

    Where is there skill set?

    Comment by joel goldstick — December 28, 2010 @ 9:10 am

  2. Simply appalling, although given the source (Comcast, not you) perhaps not surprising. When one bank switched me to a new credit-card number, I forgot to change one autopayment–for that presumably-dead medium, the print newspaper. Oddly enough, the old-fashioned non-digital SF Chronicle managed to not only let me know there might be a problem, right away, but give me a grace period to make the correction.

    Maybe Comcast is too busy producing those ads showing us how wonderful their customer service is to actually, you know, fix customer service.

    Comment by walt crawford — December 28, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  3. Hi Jenny

    You should read the Comcast and other customer service horror stories on Consumerist.com (a Consumer Reports website). If you try everything with Comcast customer service, you might want to launch an Executive Email Carpet Bomb:

    http://tinyurl.com/yk3lemt

    Cheers

    Comment by Rich Allen — December 28, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

  4. Oh how I loathe Comcast. When they forced all subscribers to upgrade to digital devices regardless of desire in the fall, we were denied the same service we’d been using for years (basically antenna service with some digital Telemundo – great for football!!!). They wanted to charge us rental fees for devices we didn’t want or need, and refused to listen to what we were saying. They only wanted us to upgrade to some sort of full cable service. Instead, we canceled our cable service completely and now rely on Netflix and the library for our DVD and television series. Yeah!

    Good luck.

    Comment by Heather — December 28, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

  5. Jenny, I say you should not only get the reconnection fees waived, but you should get 2 months of free service in recognition of the extremely poor customer service. I had the same situation – the bank deactivated a card due to a large scale fraudster. I got a new card. My ISP sent me a notice via email that there were problems with my payment. I checked, updated my card, clicked the recharge button and all was well. Something like that must happen to many people. It is unbelievable that you are the first person with that problem. It’s likely happened many times before and the company never did anything about it. I hope your public letter helps spur them into some kind of action. Thanks.

    Comment by SafeLibraries — December 29, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

  6. Forget Comcast if you can live without cable TV (I’ve never had it and no longer have any broadcast TV in the house). Clearwire has great customer service.

    Comment by Lynn — December 29, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

  7. I’ve had great success with Comcast by complaining on Twitter. They have a few employees who keep tabs on negative comments posted to Twitter, and will respond promptly. When I had an issue (was quoted a discounted price by one customer service rep, and then told that it was wrong and I would be charged more), I was contacted and given a phone number to their Executive Customer Care line, where they bent over backwards to fix it. Give it a try!

    Comment by Amelia — December 29, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

  8. Thanks for the advice and support, everyone. I did tweet a link to this post to the @comcastcares account, and @comcastbill responded pretty quickly. We ended up having as much of a conversation as you can have in direct messages on Twitter. He said all of the right things and was sympathetic, but I have yet to hear about the fees.

    I’m very disappointed that he didn’t show up here to participate in the discussion, though. I hope he’s just waiting to do that until he can report back about the fees. How they handle that piece in particular will tell me if they want to keep me as a customer. We’re talking about a whopping $4, but it’s the principle of it, especially because @comcast_bill said they know this is a problem.

    I am seriously reconsidering our choice of provider, because the original phone conversation to work through all of the billing issues turned up further problems on the cable tv side of the bill. When I called to cancel all of the movie channels except HBO and SHO a few months ago, the live chat rep didn’t highlight the fact that he was giving me a promotional price and that it would expire. So our bill was about to go up by $21 without my approval or even knowledge. The whole thing was such a negative experience that I canceled HBO and SHO, too, so they can thank Comcast for our lost subscriptions.

    The ball is in their court, so we’ll see what happens next. I’ll report back when I hear from them.

    Comment by jenny — December 29, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

  9. It’s not just Comcast. We had a similar problem with TDS, which provides our cable, phone and internet. However, they have our internet on a separate account that can’t be viewed when logging in to view the statement. Asking to combine the accounts has been refused. The first time my husband updated a credit card on the account the internet did not get updated at the same time and we got an overdue bill. The next time he needed to update a credit card he did so on the account and then called to make sure that they were also going to update credit card number on the internet account. A month later we get an overdue bill because they didn’t update the internet account credit card number. We’re hoping this isn’t repeated the next time we need to make updates to the account.

    Comment by Catharine — January 3, 2011 @ 5:42 am

  10. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    You just helped me make my decision to stay with my small hometown to companies a little longer. I just recieved a note on my door kindly reminding me to come by to write out the amount on the proper line of my personal check. She also called to apologized for my inconvience for she knew it was only an oversight and that I had a hectic schedule an to come by when I had time. Hows that for customer service?

    Comment by Gloria — January 8, 2011 @ 11:01 pm

  11. I had a similiar problem with Bank of America (how silly of me).

    Back to paper statements.

    Comment by Librarian Bryan — January 11, 2011 @ 4:39 pm

  12. Before I became a librarian I worked as a maitre d’ at a super luxury hotel/restaurant. This experience deeply informed my attitudes not only about librarianship and professionalism but about the experience of life generally. I can say with total confidence that superior service, day after day, is not only possible, it’s really simple. And neither difficult nor expensive. It takes commitment to 100% satisfaction as an organizational value and a small amount of persistent, ongoing training. But the rewards in customer dedication (and personal fulfillment) are manifold. Sadly, I’ve encountered very few organizations that share this view.

    I quit Comcast years ago for similar reasons.

    Comment by Bob Hassett — January 21, 2011 @ 7:49 am

  13. First I thoroughly sympathize with your predicament. Comcast should have let you know about the missed payments. Second, let me thank you for validating my paranoia. I’m with Time Warner and they do send a notice when my bill goes up. I know I’m on autopay, I’ve never had any problem, but the second I see that notice I run to their website and check the status of my account. Am I still on autopay? Did the bill get paid properly last month? Is everything going according to plan. I do the same with every other autopay account that I have. Until today I felt a little silly. Now, I feel that I am being practical, because you can’t trust the companies.

    Comment by LindaH — January 24, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

  14. Hmm. Jenny I can most certainly sympathize with your frustration. And I don’t mean to sound like I’m defending Comcast — because I’m not — but in the end it is really still your responsibility to balance your checkbook, check your credit card statements and even your Comcast statement every month. They do e-mail you the notice telling you to check your statement. So while I’ll agree, they should have made a little but more of an effort (very little bit) its still not their responsibility to make sure you pay your bill. In our area, being an eBill customer does not keep them from mailing late payment and disconnect notices, not sure why they wouldn’t just have mailed you a “hey pay your bill by Friday or we are cutting you off!”.

    That being said, we stopped using Comcast for TV several months ago and are a purely Internet TV family now. We have easily found resources on the Internet to watch almost every show that we used to watch on Comcast except HBO. Kick Comcast to the curb now! Stop paying the exorbitant fees to them!

    Comment by Bruce — January 25, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  15. Jenny, I could not agree with you more. I have had more trouble with Comcast over the past year; it is such a frustrating experience whenever I have to contact them. Just to give a few examples: they opened up 3 accounts under my name without my knowledge, canceled two installation appointments “internally” without ever notifying me, and double charged me- all within one month. It was NOT fun. The thing that bothers me the most about Comcast is how they market themselves on “Customer Care” which is really quite funny because they have the WORST customer care service I have ever worked with. I feel your pain!

    Comment by Paige — January 27, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

  16. Jenny, I’ve had similar problems with Comcast, and have been considering dropping them. I do use all three bundled services daily, but I’m paying more than ten times the amount monthly cable TV cost when I first began.

    It’s even more frustrating with Exelon/Com ED. They will not allow me to update my credit card online by just typing in a new set of data myself (which almost every other creditor seems to do easily). They insist I must reapply for both autopay and budget billing, which takes four to six weeks, and therefore I must pay at least one month’s billing by some other method. Their consumer staff insists they cannot do updates any other way. GRRRRR!!!!

    Comment by Steve Zumbo — February 2, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

  17. Jenny, The same situation happened to me! It was with Time Warner, however. After all the nonsense and acrobatics I have to go through to get to a person that can help, both at home and through some of my professional responsibilities, I’ve drawn one conclusion: The people that formulate the policies and execute them ruthlessly are one step above child molesters. Seriously.

    I am now with DISH and I can always get an answer.

    Comment by Bob Schnick — May 5, 2011 @ 8:07 am

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