Category Archives: Comcast

Comcast Attempts to Stay Relevant Now While Planning For the Future

Comcast Stream image

Comcast recently responded to the growth of over the top (OTT) streaming video services by launching its own version. While not an outright OTT, the idea behind Comcast’s Stream is to provide a narrow collection of channels that will appeal to a younger demographic. Seeing as the system developed out of an earlier program designed specifically for college students, it is not surprising that Comcast hopes those same viewers will purchase Stream as they begin living on their own. Ultimately, according to a spokesman for the company, Comcast believes that once these consumers achieve higher income levels, they will upgrade to a full cable package.

Although Stream has seen some growth since its release earlier this summer, industry analysts question whether or not the service launched too early. In particular, they have pointed out that it does not provide the same flexibility as a real OTT, since it requires the user to already be a Comcast internet customer, and it can only broadcast live shows on the home wireless network of the consumer. In order to access live television programs remotely, say on a tablet while traveling, the broadcast network needs to have its own mobile app through which the Stream subscriber can authenticate. The ability to watch live shows via Stream while away from the home network should be available by early 2016, around the same time that the service will have expanded to a national audience. Currently, only Comcast internet customers in Chicago and Boston have the option to purchase the service.

Looking toward the future, Comcast is working to make its larger channel packages even more appealing. Part of the positive forecast is reflected in the announcement of a new deal with Discovery Communications, the group responsible for producing the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and TLC, that will extend into the 2020s. Additionally, Comcast is in contract discussions with companies, including Business Insider and Vice Media, to produce original programming for the cable company. In the eyes of the media conglomerate, original content can’t appear soon enough, as Comcast lost almost 70,000 cable television subscribers during the first six months of 2015.

In another realization of the changing nature of their business plan, Comcast has announced that it is beginning the testing phase of a new modem model known as the DOCSIS 3.1 The testing of this modem parallels the company’s announcement that it will be offering a fiber internet service with speeds of 2 Gbps. The potential expansion of fiber with the DOCSIS 3.1 is extensive, as it could allow speeds to eventually reach 10 Gbps, although that remains a distant reality at this point in time.

Comcast Customer Service Is Still A Work in Progress

Comcast Service Truck

For years, Comcast has been hounded by complaints about under-performing TV and internet service and almost non-existent customer support staff. In an effort to reverse course, the telecom behemoth announced earlier this year that they were promoting a new VP for customer experience. When Charlie Herrin took over this role he admitted that it would be a long undertaking and that results would not be instantaneous. He certainly has his work cut out for him, especially after embarrassing incidents in 2014 included a customer service representative berating someone attempting to close his account and a frustrated user being charged $1,000 after canceling his inconsistent service. The first part of 2015 hasn’t been any better, as Comcast held the top position in the annual Customer Service Hall of Shame rankings.

Herrin’s first step toward addressing the customer service issues was by making the initial interaction for new Comcast customers as pleasant as possible. This meant narrowing appointment windows for when the cable guy would arrive to set up the service. To help this process run smoothly, the company launched an app that allows customers to track the location of the cable man in real time. This way, there’s no need to put off that quick trip to the store to fill a prescription, whereas before, customers were left sitting around for six hours, never sure if they could run a quick errand for fear that they would miss the installation provider and have to make a new appointment. Despite these improvements in being able to track service technicians, Comcast isn’t stopping there. They are also instituting a new program where a customer receives a $20 credit if a technician arrives late to a scheduled appointment.

The next part of Comcast’s plan is to improve the quality of customer service providers, both over the phone and at their stores. An essential component to this transformation is hiring an additional 5,500 representatives to lessen wait times. Each of these new employees will undergo increased technical training, as well as workshops designed to improve their interpersonal communication skills. We all know that these skills will be put to the test, so we commend Comcast for recognizing that what they have been providing their employees in terms of communication and anger management techniques has not been enough.

The last part of the customer service turnaround involves physical store locations. In addition to more capable individuals running the places, Comcast is working to make it easier for customers to exchange cable boxes, pay their bills, and receive additional information about their accounts. Some locations have already received a facelift and include additional seating, video screens that show the customer’s number in line, and a special counter specifically set aside for returning and exchanging cable boxes. Furthermore, Comcast has made an agreement with the UPS Store so that customers may now return their cable boxes to any of their locations without penalty.

All of these changes certainly sound good, but Comcast has made similar, albeit less ambitious, declarations of improved customer service in the past. Until tangible results are evident, Charlie Herrin remains on the hot seat.

Time Warner Cable Mergers and Net Neutrality Expectations for Charter

Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable logos combined.

A little over two months ago a proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable (TWC) was called off. Almost no time passed before Charter Communications entered into an agreement to purchase TWC for roughly $57 billion. As the calendar turns to July, there remains a certain level of uncertainty surrounding the details of this proposed purchase, as well as how the FCC will respond to the bid.

 

Early after its announcement in 2014, the bid by Comcast to purchase TWC was considered a long shot. Claims from within the broadband community, consumer advocate groups, and the public all made it clear that they were concerned with the creation of what would have been the largest TV operator in the United States. Even the Chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, expressed his opposition to the merger. Wheeler’s main point of contention, however, was that if the purchase were allowed to proceed, it would create an unfair competitive advantage for Comcast in the broadband market. In particular, the company would have enjoyed a controlling share of almost 60% among broadband providers. Ultimately it was this near monopoly, coupled with the lack of any penalty fee for ending the agreement, which caused Comcast to back out of the deal.

 

Drawing lessons from the failed deal between Comcast and TWC, Charter has begun to promote how its proposed purchase of TWC will not alter the television or broadband playing field on the national stage. The CEO of Charter, Tom Rutledge, has stressed that even if his company is successful in acquiring TWC and Bright House, the newly expanded company will still be only the second largest provider of cable and high speed internet services behind Comcast. At most, Charter would supply about 20% of all TV customers and 29% of all broadband customers. Another issue that Charter does not need to address is that unlike Comcast, which has a financial interest in Hulu, there is no concern that Charter may regulate speeds for video streaming services, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.

 

Charter is also drawing on the FCC ruling which made broadband a Title II utility as a reason for why its proposed merger should be approved. Rutledge made clear that the footprint of the expanded company would not overlap geographically and that there would remain competition for broadband services offering 25 Mbps in all of its coverage areas. Additionally, he stated that since the majority of the company’s investment is in broadband, not television, it would encourage the expansion of Over the Top (OTT) streaming video services and not impose any sort of data cap on customers. Indeed, subscribers with the new Charter, if the merger is approved, could see significant savings on their broadband subscriptions as their speeds are tripled while their monthly bill is lowered.

 

While the merger works its way through regulatory checks, industry analysts appear confident that the deal will occur. The latest suggestions are that there is a 75% chance that the deal is approved. The FCC has announced that they hope to have this process decided, in favor or opposition of the merger, by the end of 2015.

 

Fiber footprint increases while prices drop

A bundle of optical fibers.

 

As the review process for the proposed Charter purchase of Time Warner Cable continues to advance slowly, internet users around the United States are seeing more rapid gains in the expansion of fiber options. While Google Fiber has been one of the major leaders in this expansion, CenturyLink and AT&T have also been making gains. Throwing its hat into the ring now is Comcast, which is trying to differentiate itself from the competition.

 

While the current speed people can expect from fiber is around 1Gbps, Comcast is doubling this and offering speeds of 2 Gbps. Known as Gigabit Pro, these services will be offered to households in parts of Tennessee, Florida, California, and Georgia. Ultimately, the goal is to bring these services to around 20 million homes by the early part of 2016.

 

The latest reports indicate that Comcast is expanding its Gigabit Pro service area to include more of the Midwest and western United States. Regions of Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, Utah, Washington, and Oregon will soon be able to enjoy speeds twice as fast as other service providers in the state. This latest round of expansion has industry insiders buzzing that Comcast has invested more heavily in its fiber infrastructure than previously believed. In addition to their Gigabit Pro service, Comcast plans to launch Extreme 250 by the end of the year. This service will offer speeds of 250 Mbps.

 

Although their speeds may lack what Comcast will soon offer, CenturyLink continues to offer its 1 Gbps services in certain parts of the United States. By the end of 2015, they hope to have finished connecting over one million businesses and households to their fiber service. The same is true for AT&T which is expanding its U-verse fiber footprint in Illinois and Tennessee.

 

As more of these services are being offered, prices have been dropping. Initially, AT&T had been pricing its services in the $120 range, but competition has caused them to drop prices in some areas, including in the southern United States, by up to $50 per month. Google Fiber is currently offering its services for $70 to $100 per month. Even though Comcast’s Gigabit Pro provides speeds twice as fast as its competitors, the proposed price of $299 per month may turn off many consumers. What is clear, however, is that unlike AT&T, Comcast has no plans to establish a usage cap on anyone using Gigabit Pro.

 

Can Comcast fix their customer service with new VP?

Comcast recently announced a new Vice President of Customer Service, with the goal of changing the customer service experience for the better. Currently, Comcast are rated as one of the worst companies for customer service and support.

Charlie Herrin will be the new “VP of Customer Experience” and his job is to fix Comcast’s terrible support. Comcast Executive VP Neil Smit talked about how it might take a few years, but it is a top priority.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike Comcast’s customer support. They have aggressive tactics to keep you on board, bring up random bills without notifying the customer and offer almost no response, unless you manage to get your case viral on social media.

Changing the Experience

Comcast didn’t list any major points they want to change, just flat out stating the experience between staff and support would get better. This does not make us too confident it is a number one priority, but lets remain neutral.

The first order of business will be establishing a better way to contact support and get the help needed. Not everything requires a technician at your door, but it would be nice to have one available within a few days.

Bills, cancellation and subscriptions need to be sorted and transparent. This is one area Comcast really needs to improve. No more $1k bills for turning in your equipment to Comcast and no more waiting a month to be disconnected from their Internet service.

Overall, Comcast just needs to be more transparent and down-to-earth with customers. They need to support and help customers, not push them around and force them into signing more expensive deals.

More Than Just Support

comcast-infograph

The problem for Comcast is it’s more than just support. People want options, better plans, a more direct split between phone, Internet and TV, but Comcast will not be willing to change their plans.

Changing the support structure might work for some people, but when you are on 27Mbps down for $150, it might not matter how nice the support staff is on the other side of the phone.

Image Credit: LatentView

Tough call: Do you believe Comcast and its customer service quandary?

Whether you’re talking about cable television, cars or any customer oriented or retail related business, nothing sends fear into an industry or specific company like a bad call between a representative and the consumer.

Comcast is just the latest entity to experience one of those calls on the wrong end of the spectrum.  One customer, Ryan Block, had what can be called a run-in of epic proportions when it comes to customer relations when he attempted to contact Comcast and cancel his cable. Block decided to record most of the conversation, which showcased just how poor this particular Comcast representative was at doing his job. Block and his wife simply wanted to cancel their cable, and this Comcast customer “expert” got the point where he almost became annoyed with the customer and his tone suggested that he couldn’t understand why anyone would want to cancel with the cable and communications giant.

Anyone who has done customer service knows that your job is to keep the consumer happy but also do everything you can to ensure that you keep whatever business you already have. The one caveat to that sentiment is two simple words: within reason.

The Comcast employee seemed content on keeping this customer to the point that his repetitive nature and demeanor over the phone did the exact opposite, and turned this customer who was already leaving Comcast into a customer that most likely never will return.

This is a tough spot for Comcast or any cable and internet provider to be perfectly honest. The field of communications, cable and thus entertainment options is incredibly competitive and even the slightest flinch by any of these is going to cost you business in some form or fashion, even when you’re the largest cable communications company in the world.

Customer service often is an outsourced part of any business, and monitoring how good or bad it is can be remarkably difficult. That’s not giving Comcast or any satellite or cable company a free pass of sorts but it’s often the truth. That being said, Comcast must work harder to ensure that no matter how they go about employing customer service personnel that they be trained to handle calls professionally, while still attempting to save and secure as much business and revenue of possible.

No company, regardless of size, is impervious to bad customer service. Recognizing that point, Comcast quickly reacted and said that this employee wasn’t the norm but rather the exception when it comes to how they deal with customers. Here’s hoping what Comcast is saying about the incident is more sincere than the employee that put them in this predicament to start with.

CABLE COMPLACENT: Redesign from Comcast shouldn’t come as surprise

The world of cable television is buzzing courtesy of Comcast.

Arguably the world’s largest and most successful communications organizations in the world recently unveiled a new design for its triple play customers and the subsequent DVR service offered by the cable television, internet and phone entity.

Known simply as Xfinity X1, this DVR display is stunning and is filled with a myriad of new features that should keep customers cruising along as satisfied subscribers to Comcast for quite some time. And if the cable consumer who already employs the services of Comcast wants to keep things the same, they don’t necessarily have to opt for the latest and greatest technology from the cable giant.

Some of the new quirks conjured up by Comcast and its new DVR service include more recording options, a voice activated control and the ability to use your smart phone or tablet to change channels.

And, of course, a new DVR box and remote control. Given the stature and success of Comcast, it’s hard to believe their remote control has looked the same for the better part of a decade.

Complacency? Maybe. Laziness? Perhaps. Long overdue? Absolutely.

This latest reveal by Comcast probably strikes most as somewhere between surprising and “it’s about time” on the spectrum, depending on your perspective of how you view this media heavyweight. Those who fixate on the latter argue that Comcast, despite its financial standing and the volume of revenue and customers it touts, accepted the status quo as the norm, while their competitors in the marketplace continually strive to be different or highlight their points of differentiation.

Comcast, to some degree, relied on its laurels and standing in the industry and didn’t really follow suit in terms of injecting a little life or upgrade into what they do.

Truth is, why would change or alter what isn’t broken? And Comcast would hardly be a company you’d describe as broke.

But even with their standing within the communications business firmly intact, Comcast devised a redesign that isn’t equal parts flare and substance. The sleeker, customer friendly menu intersects nicely with the type of technology Comcast believed it was lacking. The upgrade is so eye popping and significant that it would be hard to image any current customer not being totally enthralled with the new look setup, compared to what they’re seeing now.

You could say Comcast finally looks the part of being the number one cable, internet, phone and communications company.

Comcast continues to deny testing data caps in some states

Comcast has been testing data caps in some Southern states, where the competition for Internet service providers is even smaller than it is in the Northern states.

These tests include a 300GB data cap with customers being charged every time they surpass another 50GB per month. This comes alongside a 5GB data cap, with $5 off if the customer does not go over, but a $1 price increase for every gigabyte over.

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