Comcast vows to put customers first

Cable company is trying to shake its infamous reputation for providing the worst customer service on the planet with a new initiative it says will be focused on customer needs.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read

Comcast says it has a plan to fix its troubled customer service reputation so that people won't hate the cable company.

New Comcast initiative seeks to repair strained customer relations. Getty Images

The new initiative announced Tuesday is meant to "reinvent the customer experience" and create a culture within Comcast that is "focused on exceeding customers' expectations." The most important aspect of the plan is to view the company's interactions with customers through the eyes of those customers, executives said.

"This transformation is about shifting our mindset to be completely focused on the customer," Neil Smit, CEO of Comcast Cable, said in a statement. "It's about respecting their time, being more proactive, doing what's right, and never being satisfied with good enough."

Cable as a whole has long had a poor reputation for customer satisfaction. But Comcast has distinguished itself as among the worst of the worst. The company has been called out and humiliated for its employees' appalling treatment of customers repeatedly. Last summer, several customers recorded phone calls with Comcast customer service representatives, where the employees verbally abused customers and posted them to the Internet.

It was these incidents that forced Comcast executives to take action and develop a strategy for improving customer service, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told reporters at a press conference in Chicago on Tuesday. The press conference was streamed live online.

"It's unacceptable some of the individual instances that have been well documented," he said. "And so it was a rallying cry inside the company that we are going to, top to bottom, rethink every way we do business."

As part of its plan, the company will invest in hiring 5,500 more customer support representatives and will invest in new technologies that will be used by Comcast employees to better serve customers and technologies customers can use to interact with the company. For instance, the company is testing out a new Uber-like mobile app that uses GPS technology to allow customers to track their the location and arrival of their service technician in real time and then rate the experience afterward.

"If it's anything less than four stars [out of five], we should take a look at that," Smit said.

Comcast has already seen a 29 percent improvement in the reduction of late appointments over the past year, but more can be done. That's why the company has also set the goal for technicians to always be on time by the third quarter of this year. If a technician is late, customers will get an automatic $20 credit on their bill.

The news comes a little more than a week after government regulators signaled they would be putting the kibosh on the company's planned merger with fellow cable operator Time Warner Cable. Facing challenges on the deal from the Federal Communications and the Department of Justice, Comcast withdrew its application for the merger. Like Comcast, Time Warner Cable has a similarly poor customer service reputation. But Roberts said he didn't think the customer complaints about service factored into the decision regulators made about the deal.

Smit added, "Deal or no deal, this is the right thing to do for the business."

CNET's Joan Solsman contributed to this report.