Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Comcast "Cares"

"Thank you for calling Comcast. Please make yourself comfortable. For nondescript jazz, please press 1. To hear reassuring lies like 'A customer service representative will be with you shortly,' press 2. For blaring heavy metal that you can hear in the next room if you decide to set the phone down in an effort to avoid wasting your life on hold, press 3." I would have chosen the third option this morning.

It all began with a monthly cable bill that was twice as high as normal. Of course, I figured that our fabulous promotional rates had run out, and I would just need to change my service plan to pay a more reasonable amount. Should have been simple, right? I was probably naive to think so. I tried to log in at Comcast's website and they told me that my account already had an email address linked to it and that I wasn't using the right one. So I figured that the email address was my old roommate's, since she was the one who'd originally opened the account.

Given that I had no time to wait on hold, I decided to follow the website's cheery suggestion to email them and receive a quick, helpful response within twenty-four hours. I received an incredibly understanding, comforting email with no real content. This is an actual direct quote:

I understand you would like to know why the total amount due is more than what it has been in the past and that you cannot log in to your online account using your non Comcast email address. I apologize for the confusion this high bill charges has caused you and I completely know the importance of having able to access your account online. Please do not worry; I am here to provide the necessary information about your bill and how you can get your user ID and password.

Oh, good. I feel so soothed. After I sent a follow-up email, Comcast finally gave me directions for how to solve my problem: I should close my current account to get rid of my old roommate's information and open a new one by clicking on a particular link and choosing new services. This sounded easy enough, so I decided to take care of it this morning as I was drinking my pre-work cup of coffee.

Big mistake.

The final step was a Live Chat in which the rep said that I couldn't possibly do what I was trying to do without calling Comcast. "I’m sorry; we cannot process your request at this time. Please call [phone number]." Since Comcast continually boasts that its email and Live Chat services are just as good as its phone services, I said something like, "I was following the directions in an email; please work with me to resolve this issue." The person—whom I was beginning to suspect to be a computer—pretty much repeated the exact sentence about not being able to process my order. It seems that email and Live Chat are just fancy ways for Comcast to avoid helping its customers.

Then I asked, "Why didn't the email just tell me to call instead of directing me to the Live Chat?" The rep started typing something and then changed his mind and typed something else, so I decided he must actually be a real person. He basically said he didn't know and repeated that I had to call the number. To which I responded: "Fine. Thanks for your 'help.'" I couldn't resist the sarcastic quotation marks, even though they are the most obnoxious thing in the world, and then of course I felt bad about it.

After all, it hasn't been that long since I've had a terrible customer service job; I know that he's just following some instructions in a manual and that part of his training was probably something like: "Don't innovate; don't use your problem-solving skills; just do exactly what the manual says." Because that's how big companies are. They treat their employees like idiots so that they can justify paying them diddly squat. So it's pretty sad that right after I'd decided this Live Chat rep was a real person, I treated him like he wasn't one.

At this point, I was already running late. I should have just postponed my call to Comcast. But I was frustrated and wanted to start out my day by solving this problem, not letting it drag on and on. So I called the customer service number and went through several rounds of "for [this problem], press 1." Then I got to the dreaded automated voice: "Thank you for calling Comcast. All available representatives are assisting other customers. Your estimated wait time is nine minutes." Okay, I thought, I can handle nine minutes. Don't ask me why I ever believe these automated voices.

So I started getting ready with the phone wedged in between my chin and my shoulder. The background music was so quiet that I could barely hear it when the phone was jammed against my ear, much less when I put it down momentarily to apply foundation or pull a shirt over my head. Putting on my makeup was the most amusing. I had my phone on my vanity, and I kept bending over to listen. If I didn't hear anything, I'd say, "Hello? Hello?" And of course, no one was there.

After at least forty minutes, as I was walking to the bus (a later one than I usually take), someone finally answered. I was out of breath from hurrying to the bus so when he asked me to describe the problem, I probably sounded like I was about to have a breakdown. I really wasn't; I had calmed down since the Live Chat incident. In fact, when he asked how I was doing, I nicely told him about my difficulties but assured him that I knew it wasn't his fault.

Anyways, he solved my problems beautifully. He actually seemed to want to answer my questions and find solutions. I'm getting the services I want at a reasonable rate, and I don't have to close my account and re-open it. (This would have involved paying for another installation, waiting around for four hours for the cable guy to come, and then having to deal with reconnecting my wireless adapter, which always causes an excessive amount of problems.) And best of all, the new services will begin immediately so I won't have to pay double for the month of July.

Though Comcast doesn’t care, at least one of its employees does.

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