Welcome to Comcast, this is Guido. (Part 2)

So if you read the previous post, then you know that roughly four hours after I hit the “Publish” button…I got a response from someone at Comcast in the form of a comment on the post. The comment solicited and email on my part going further in depth on the sources of my frustration with cable television. I have decided since the experience was as nice as it was…I would share most of the email conversation I had with “Melissa M”.

Now, before I get to the emails, let me just say that finding out Comcast has a digital ninja squad that found my blog post four hours after it hit the intarweebs is a little disturbing. As much as I would like to see SBR ranked up there with WWdN, TechCrunch, Scoble, and others…my poor efforts only net me about 50 or so hits a day (and most of those are the AT&T Tilt posts). See how that might make one a little nervous? Anyway, after the initial shock at getting a response, I fired off an email that was kindly worded and lightly seasoned with humor.

Melissa M.,

Thank you for your offer of assistance, though I doubt you will be able to help me realize my suggestions. I was serious about what I was willing to pay. Anything more than $30 a month is just too much for HDTV with DVR. Cable prices have been inflated to the point of feeling like a mafia shakedown as I mentioned in my post. For the privilege of watching a bare handful of channels, I get to hand Comcast well over $1000 a year. That is insane.

From a marketing perspective, I can understand the emphasis on “over 300 channels” or “over 600 channels” or even “over eleventy-hundred channels”. However, the reality is of all these channels you provide me, I watch less than 10. You are making me pay for content I am not interested in and will never use. Now, being in the IT industry I understand the technical complications of changing to a format where one could buy a package of X channels and would then get to choose which channels those are. Not to mention that I am quite certain the stations would have major problems with allowing you to do so. This would, however be the most wonderful and innovative offer any cable company could provide the consumer.

For example, in my case I would opt for somewhere around 10 channels or the closest package to that number that I could get. My choices would be Sci-Fi, USA, Cartoon Network, Food Network, NBC, The CW, Discovery, and then a few random channels to fill out the remaining slots. See, these are the only stations I watch regularly. And I actually only watch a few select shows on these stations. As long as I have access to Chuck (NBC), Heroes (NBC), Dr. Who (Sci-Fi), Eureka (Sci-fi), Reaper (CW), Good Eats (Food Network), Naruto (Cartoon Network), and Ben10 (Cartoon Network) then I am fine and need nothing more. I threw in Discovery because I like to pick up the random special from time to time.

As for the service itself, well I have many opinions and most of them are bad. We can start with my DVR locking up on a regular basis. The software is obviously highly unstable, unreliable, and unresponsive. The channels change with all the speed of my grandmother strolling through the room with her walker. I quite frequently turn on the TV to find a large black box in the middle of the picture until I bring up the guide. The SD channels look as fuzzy as they did back in the early 80’s on rabbit ears. The HD channels make me feel like I’m watching Max Headroom again. If you are unaware of that reference, it was an early 80’s show of a guy that was supposedly computer generated. He stuttered a lot and frequently froze for a second only to jump forward like a skipping CD or DVD. This is my normal Comcast experience.

I have had technicians out here many times to fix either my internet service (which is about as stable as Tom Cruise) or my HD television (which stutters more than a record player in a dump truck on a gravel road). And in all of these trips, I’ve been graced by mere days (in single digits) of reliable service.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that running a company with a myriad of offerings and locations is a complex task and because of the complexity of the system is prone to hiccups. But unless you can find a way to offer me better HD and a better DVR experience for no more than $30 a month (permanently, not a short lived special price), then I am afraid that internet television (since most stations offer streams new shows) and NetFlix will be the source of my entertainment fulfillment.

Jarek91
http://SoapBoxRants.net

I half anticipated a form letter type response or something that felt cold and impersonal…much like one gets from the Rabid Ninja Customer Retention Squad when one tries to cancel a service. My anticipation chose poorly. Melissa responded thoughtfully and even referenced my Max Headroom joke.

Hello, Michael.

First, kudos for your reference to Max Headroom. I got a kick out of that! :) Second, thank you for taking the time to discuss your concerns regarding the price you pay, the channels you receive and the intermittent digital cable service.

I would like to discuss your matter with leadership from your area. Please reply to this email including your street address, the name on the account, and the best number to reach you. I apologize for inconveniences we have caused. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make things right.

Best Regards,

<contact information removed>

So I sent the information feeling a bit more confident about this whole exchange. No, I didn’t think my service a-la-carte would fly, but I wasn’t imagining waking up with a horse head in my bed either.

<no, you can’t have my personal contact information…snipped>

 Thank you for taking the time to answer my concerns. I would not have thought that Comcast would pay any attention to such a small time blogger as myself. I do have to admit (as I did in Twitter) that it was a little disconcerting to get a reply so quickly after I likened Comcast to the Mafia. I wasn’t aware there was a digital ninja assault squad in Comcast. Seems like it might be a fun job. Your scare tactics, they scare me ^_^

And oddly, of all the problems I experience, I actually get a bit of entertainment from the Max Headroom audio from time to time. I think it has to do with my 80’s youth and my geek/tech background.

Now that I have both ninjas and the Mafia in this conversation, she addressed my curiosity about this elusive division of the cable giant.

Thank you for the information, Michael. And, for the record, whether or not you tied us to the mafia, we would have reached out to you. What my team does, as indicated by my signature, is try to reach the customers who reach out via digital means (high profile blogs – such as the Consumerist, Tech Cruch, etc, personal blogs – such as yours, internal and external forums, website dedicated to our demise, Twitter, virtually any way a person can choose to vent via today’s digital world). It’s our goal to reach the customers that have been missed or over looked by their local channels and change their Comcast experience. I some times joke with my family that I’m changing the world, one blog/one tweet at a time. But there is truth to that.

I digress. You should expect contact before the EOB today regarding you matter. Please keep me informed and feel free to contact me at any time with this or other matters.

I just want to mention that it’s always great when you get someone that actually shows personality in an exchange with a customer. There is nothing more disheartening than finding yourself dealing with YACD (Yet Another Corporate Drone). This is what customer service should be. Do you hear that Vonage? Yes, I’m talking to you. Fix it and maybe you won’t lose so many customers. Did I mention that I hate Vonage customer service? Anyway, back to the point…

Ahh, with great power comes great responsibility. If one believes only what they read on Consumerist, then one would be inclined to believe that all corporations are evil entities that ultimately want to crush all of humanity into mindless slaves to corporate will. And while I think most companies do need to sit back and evaluate their business practices and corporate focus, it is encouraging to see that some groups within these behemoth organizations do have the right ideals. We just need to get them more power to make the sweeping changes needed in Corporate America.

The exchange continued for a couple of further emails, but I chose not to add them. I want to thank Melissa M. for taking the time to talk with me and I will drop another blurb on SBR once I get my phone call from “the local leadership”. I don’t know where it’s going, but I do know where it’s been…