Thursday, July 13, 2017

How Comcast SHOULD have worked to fix signal leakage problems, but DIDN'T.

Everybody whose worked with a cable or telephone company has a story to tell about crappy customer service. Recently Comcast called saying there was trouble anticipated on my line and asking to fix it. What should have been a simple proactive service call has turned into a multi-call multi-day fiasco. It did not have to be this way.

I claim some blame for getting angry and not responding in the most constructive way. I offer suggestions in how Comcast could have communicated better through the multiple interactions that could have avoided my anger, and put things back on track.

The story/problem:

Upon my return from vacation I found multiple messages on my phone answering machine, from someone identifying themselves as calling from Comcast, saying that their monitoring system had identified a problem with my network and asking me to call 844-482-6747 between 8AM and 8PM to work on the problem.

An internet search on that number turned up several forum posts saying they believed the call was a scam. The CallerID on my phone reported either "Unavailable" or "Private Out of Area". Signing onto the Comcast web site and reviewing the calls log showed, "Cell Phone MA (508) 922-7953". Searching for that number again turned up much speculation that it was a scam.

I called my the Comcast service number that was on my bill, and asked about it. Surprise! It was legitimate. I was asked to schedule a service call, but that the work was strictly to be outside my house and I didn't even need to be home for it. When I asked why bother scheduling a call, I was told quite confidently by representative Anne that it was so I would know why a Comcast truck was outside of my house. The visit was scheduled for between 10 and 12 a couple days later.

At 9:30 the Tech shows up and wants to come in and check for loose wiring. I confess I did not respond constructively to this, and said angrily, "That's not what I was told!" My partner, a senior network engineer, offered to do the testing. I said a bunch of things in a hostile tone including, "Do what you have to do," "Perform your outside testing," and "We've had the line to the house replaced five years ago when squirrels bit through it. Check that." The Tech simply left and logged that he was not allowed in the house. That log information didn't reach me until the third follow-up call I made asking what the resolution was.

I called Comcast in a rage because I didn't want my service to go bad, but that I had not been communicated with properly. The first representative I spoke with started working through a script, and I hung up. The next representative I spoke with offered to log a feedback ticket, with an ID could use for check-ins, documenting how I was told the wrong thing about the nature of the service call, and that the tech left without saying what the resolution was.

Later that evening I got another call from Comcast just like the ones I got while on vacation. I called the 844 number, and said, "The Tech has already been here. But I do not know if the problem was or was not resolved." The caller apologized, and said that after reviewing the information I could be assured the problem was resolved.

I called my regular service number, referenced the ticket, and asked what the story was. I was told, "The real nature of the problem was a problem with your internal wiring, and we need to schedule a tech to come and look at it." This being the fourth different story, I got really angry and demanded to talk to a supervisor. I had to get a bit rude to get that demand satisfied.

To the supervisor, I inventoried all the wrong stories I had gotten thus far, and he said a new visit had been scheduled. Again I got angry, because I had not agreed to any new visit. A visit on Sunday was offerend (which would normally be quite nice) but I was not going to be home on Sunday, and I was angry that I seemed to be getting told, not asked about a service visit. We agreed to a different day later in the week.

This morning I got another call from Comcast, this time with valid Caller ID asking to set up a visit to work on a network problem. I angrily quoted the ticket ID and said, there is already a visit scheduled.

So the problems were:

  • Incorrect description of work needed and nature of service call.
  • Inability to come to understanding with visiting technician.
  • Delay in getting information on why technician left back to me.
  • Disconnect between service call setup and service call requests.
  • Incorrect statement that problem was resolved.
  • Continued disconnect between service call setup and service call requests.

Again, I admit to not having responded in the most constructive ways to these. The result was that I wasted my own time, and probably made it harder for Comcast to do the right thing.

If Comcast had told me up front, that a technician needed to inspect wiring in the house, or if I had been less hostile to that change of plan when the technician had come, the problem would have been resolved quickly and easily.

However, I would suggest that the internal fragile processes within Comcast caused several missed opportunities to make this all run more smoothly:

The solution:

Make the service process more robust by understanding the nature of failed communication. Add a little bit here and there to reduce mis-communication and to respond constructively to it when the inevitable mis-communication happens.

1. If you have a proactive trouble identification system, give clear indication of how to confirm it is not a scam. Adding, "or call the Comcast service telephone number on your bill." to the message would have given a quick and easy way to verify the call was legitimate. Don't hide your Caller ID!

2. When you are doing proactive trouble resolution, give the people working the issue the CORRECT information to communicate to the customer.

3. When you send your service technicians out to the field for proactive work, train them in responding to customers taken by surprise in mis-communication of the nature of the call.

4. Connect your proactive work order system to your regular service order system.

5. Remind your service personnel to AVOID MAKING STUFF UP when they don't know the answer. Make sure the correct answer is made available to them to communicate. Make sure they understand the customer's attempt to resolve conflicting information coming from multiple sources.

As things stand, the Comcast system for proactively correcting cable network leakage problems is fragile, and can too easily turn into a system for creating angry customers. Indeed I more than once said, "Maybe I should switch to FiOS." I'm lucky to have a choice. But I'd prefer for both me and Comcast to win here going forward.

Let's see if the problem does get properly diagnosed and fixed next week.


  • The technician showed up within the scheduled timeframe.
  • A quick connection to the house wiring from outside of the house determined that the RF leakage was acceptably low.
  • The technician marked the issue as resolved.
  • The supervisor who scheduled this visit promised I would get a call half an hour before the technician showed up.  None was received.
  • The supervisor promised he would call on the afternoon of the visit to check in.  No call has been received.
When the first technician visited, we ourselves found and corrected one imperfectly tightened down connection behind a switch plate.  We also realized we had one connection in the house wiring disconnected while we were away on vacation.  We theorized that the disconnection was what Comcast detected, but multiple calls, and multiple visits were required to get us to the point of recognizing that the current state of affairs is just fine.

There was no email in my Comcast inbox confirming either of the two scheduled visits.

One interpretation of events is, "If the first technician had done his job and checked the outside wiring as was originally agreed, everything would have just run smoothly."  However I'd say that my hostile reception for the first technician made communication too challenging for him. If he had said, "I checked the outside wiring as you were told, but I can show you how there is noise coming into Comcast lines from inside your house," I would have let him in.  Maybe we'd have found the loose connection as root cause and fixed it together.  But the first technician could not know that I was receptive to that message.

However, that situation would not have arisen if basic communication had been done right. Instead, communication of:
  • What the problem is.
  • How we will know the problem is solved.
  • The conditions on which inspection of inside wiring will be needed.
  • Consistent status reporting.
  • Promised follow-up contacts.
Were ALL failures.  0 out of 10 for communication, Comcast.


I finally did get the promised follow-up call from the Supervisor.  We reviewed the other communication failures. He told me that the problem arose on July 1, the day we disconnected the coax from our line filter. This tilts my belief in the direction of, "We caused this, and fixed it ourselves, but didn't have a functional conversation with the first technician to resolve the situation."

I'll work harder myself to inform, rather than act out displeasure when I'm confronted by technicians doing unexpected stuff. I had the opportunity to make this iffy situation better and I blew it.  I hope that Comcast also learns from this and does better with explaining the problem, and working through it.

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