Victory! Has Shamed Comcast Into a Modicum of Respect for Its Customers

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Garfield: Mission Accomplished
Photo Illustration: Jesper Goransson, the blog, began a mere 11 months ago with this simple preamble:
Actually, I have no deathwish for Comcast or any other gigantic, blundering, greedy, arrogant corporate monstrosity. What I do have is the earnest desire for such companies to change their ways. This site offers an opportunity -- for you to vent your grievances (civilly, please) and for Comcast to pay close attention.

I advise you to include your customer number in your post; this will give Comcast the chance to contact you and work on your problem. If it does so, I encourage you to post an update, giving credit where credit is due. Meantime, be aware you may be the target of online phishers trying to get personal information from you. DO NOT REPLY TO EMAILS CLAIMING TO BE FROM COMCAST. Deal with them only by phone.

Congratulations. You are no longer just an angry, mistreated customer. Nor, I hope, are you just part of an e-mob. But you are a revolutionary, wresting control from the oligarchs, and claiming it for the consumer. Your power is enormous. Use it wisely.
Since then, tens of thousands of consumers have visited the site. Thousands have posted there. And hundreds who have followed my advice to leave their Comcast account numbers have gotten follow-up calls from the company, most of which have led to resolution of the problem.

As stories last week in The New York Times and Washington Post demonstrate, Comcast has institutionalized the practice of listening, in live forums around the country but especially on the internet, to resolve individual problems and learn about the (many, gaping) holes in its customer-service operations.

Does this solve the biggest part of their structural problems? No, not by a long shot. They acquired cable systems too fast and have been inexcusably slow in building network-wide infrastructures for installation, repair and the most rudimentary customer-relations management. In short, they still totally suck. (As Comcast quality czar Rick Germano euphemistically frames the situation, "There's a lot of upside for us.") But they are investing a lot of money to build those very structures, and have turned a corner in corporate culture by:

1) Appointing senior VP Germano, who is charged with monitoring all customer-service issues and building an infrastructure for preventing problems and addressing them.

2) Having an in-house team poring over the internet looking for signs of trouble and discontent.

3) Creating mechanisms for real-time communication between customer-relations employees and repair/install dispatchers.

4) Shifting the incentives for frontline employees from "productivity" to quality; i.e., getting the problem solved versus getting on to the next caller/service order at the expense of the current one.

5) Resolving to host ("within a year," according to Germano) some equivalent of on its own site, rather than depend on a third party to entertain the criticism, frustration, anger and suggestions of its customers.

"We get it," says corporate spokeswoman Jenni Moyer. "And not only do we get it, we're not just listening. We're also changing the way we do things. And we're moving from being reactive to proactive."

From Germano's perspective, has been a double-edged sword. In certain respects, he says, "I wish it had never happened." But he acknowledged that it was part of "a bigger wake-up call." I asked him when he'll be ready to cry "uncle."

"Bob," he replied, "I'm crying 'uncle' now."
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