Comcast and Shortsightedness: Why Big Companies Are Stupid

Mike Masnick at Techdirt has a great post pointing out what is undoubtedly a lapse in judgement on behalf of the big media companies – while many of them are now embracing the idea of streaming their programming to viewers over the net, all of them complain about having to work around barriers related to the bandwidth costs associated with streaming video. Of course, they fail to realize that using BitTorrent to manage the distribution of said content would practically eliminate the bulk of the bandwidth cost by transferring tiny bits of that “cost” to end-users. This ends up being a sunk cost for most users, since the majority of people out there pay flat fee for their Internet connection.

Stupid suits. They are too short-sighted to see what they consider to be the problem is actually the solution. The actual problem is copyright infringement and piracy, BitTorrent is a distribution scheme and nothing more.

Need further proof that telcos and media companies are short-sighted and stupid? Comcast has been desperately trying to address their horrible customer service by severely restructuring their helpdesk organization. Obviously, what they’ve done is adopt what I would call a typical short-sighted corporate strategy: they’re addressing the perceived customer service problem by bombarding their staff with “Soft Skills” training – their CSRs are forced to continuously demonstrate empathy and apologize on behalf of the company after what seems like every other sentence.

Here is how I know: last week, we called Comcast (like we have to do every other week) so they would fix our Internet connection by remotely resetting the modem. It’s something that we have to do often, and can’t be solved by hard-resetting or power-cycling the device, only by having a CSR reset it from their terminal. When we were asked what we needed help with, my girlfriend said:

We need you to reset the modem to fix our Internet connection. We restarted the computer, reset the modem, and still can’t fix it, so we need you to reset it like we have to call in to have done every other week.

Our CSR, Phyllis, apologized profusely for the trouble we were having… she did this several times before asking for our account number. Then, she let us know that every other CSR we have talked to in the last 4 months has failed to leave notes on our account (“oh, but the last time you called was 4 months ago!”). Fantastic. Finally, after wasting 15 minutes of my time by not resetting my modem, constantly apologizing, and reading her basic troubleshooting script (out loud!), the lady informed me that my area was being affected by an outage, after which I slammed down the phone in frustration.

This is what happens when short-sighted executives can’t figure out the cause of a problem. The cause of Comcast’s customer service issues was never a lack of soft skills training. Rather, it is more likely that it is somehow related to:

  • Lack of adequate job-related training for techs and CSR’s – versus soft skills which ARE NOT job-related. A lot of Comcast’s customer care employees simply don’t know how to do their job.
  • Lack of accountability for technician behavior – the most horrible Comcast stories, including my own, all have to do with installers. For example, 2 years ago, a Comcast installer on an install appointment at my apartment tried to offer me “extra channels” in exchange for sex with my friend Jen (I shit you not!). Since the guy was outsourced several times over, I had to settle for his dispatcher’s phone number (disconnected) in lieu of an apology.
  • Their use of the evil install disk to mess with your browser – it took me several days of troubleshooting to remove the “Internet Explorer by Comcast” tag that the Comcast install disk left on my girlfriend’s computer. Not because it was an eyesore (we use Firefox), but because whatever they did also made it so my system stopped recognizing *.CHM files. It HAD to be undone so that my girlfriend could open the iTunes help file rather than call me. Not only did this waste days of my time, it also wasted 2 hours of time at a Tier 1 level, 1 hour of time at a Tier 2 level, and an additional hour of time with one of Comcast’s specialists, who was only able to resolve my issue after having me try a fix that was, as he put it, “totally out of the scope of what I am allowed to do to help a customer.” Which I can understand, since I had to download and run a custom VB script from some random website. Thanks, Todd Gordon.
  • Technicians want to perform the install and go home, without any regard for OTHER CUSTOMERS that their work may be affecting – so you end up with situations like the one I am in now. Two weeks ago, my new neighbors moved in. At around the same time, we lost the signal on the cable jack in our master bedroom. When we went around our apartment building, we noticed the cable box had been left unlocked, and that one of the two cables labeled with our apartment number had been cut. Clearly severed by a pair of pliers. Goddamn installers. I still haven’t solved this issue, but the first time I called in about it, I got no love, and I don’t have much hope for a second or third attempt.

Some other things Comcast suits might want to look at are getting rid of the constant marketing mailings to people who are already Comcast customers and dumping opressive network management policies like secret bandwidth caps and BitTorrent throttling through reset packet forgery.

Just sayin…

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4 Responses to “Comcast and Shortsightedness: Why Big Companies Are Stupid”

  1. Hi I have tried every where to find out how to get rid of the comcast installation page off of IE. I used to have comcast but now I am wireless . It worked fine until a week ago. When I open IE when I am wireless comcast installation page comes up and it wont let me on the internet. Ive tried different browsers, no luck. If you Can help me pleas email me. Also If Im on dial up its fine.

  2. Hi Its me again My email adres was wrong.Here is the correct one

  3. Hey Sandra, what do you mean exactly when you say that you are “wireless?” Did you sign up for a wireless Internet service, or are you using someone else’s wireless network? If you’re using someone else’s network there may not be much you can do… What is your browser home page set to? That could also be an issue…

  4. maleesha Says:

    Ooh, stories like this make me irate. I had a similar experience with Qwest. They are all retarded in the worst way.

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