Update – see end for update
Recently, while looking at my Comcast Bill, I decided to look at their current offerings. To my surprise, I ran across the “Digital Double Play” package. For only $66 they offer their Digital Cable package with Channel 1 on Demand, plus High Speed Internet. My current package is Limited Basic Cable ($18.95) with Performance Plus Internet ($52.95) for a total of ~$70. (As an aside, it is a total rip off that they tack on a $15 fee for not doing cable. When I signed up, I just wanted internet, only to find that there was a $15 charge per month for having “only” internet. My choices were to pay $15 for nothing, or $18 for limited basic)
The cable package is much better, with a slight decrease in internet, for a cheaper price. I can live with that. I look at the feature description and see the following note:
This package is designed for new customers
Ok, great. This is a good package for new customers. Lets look in the terms of service to see if it says anything about new customers only.
TOS of Digital Double Play Package
Offer is only available in wired and serviceable areas in participating Comcast systems
(and may not be transferred) and is limited to residential customers satisfying applicable
eligibility criteria. Offer not available to customers with unpaid account balances
Awesome, nothing. For comparison, here is a TOS about one of TV plans
TOS of Digital Preferred Plus
Offer is only available in wired and serviceable areas in participating Comcast systems
(and may not be transferred) and is limited to new residential customers satisfying
applicable eligibility criteria.
Note how it explicitly says for new customers only in the TOS. The digital double play doesn’t. The only thing to suggest that is the note about “designed for” new customers. Now, if this had said “for purchase by new customers only”, this might be different. But it doesn’t. It says designed for new customers. This does not mean for new customers only. Take, for example, a track/veldrome bike. These are “designed for” use on a track. Does this mean they can’t be ridden away from the track? Of course not. The same idea applies here. “Designed for” is not an indication of “for the sole use/purchase of”, especially combined with the fact it does not say that in the TOS while other packages do.
With that said, I decided to sign up for this package online. I go through checkout process and at the end get directed to live chat.
CSR (/robot?): [Looks up order]
CSR: “I see you are changing packages, are you doing this to save money”
CSR: “Ok, I’m sorry, my department isn’t able to give you discounts, you need to call the retentions department, they can offer you savings to keep you from leaving”
Me: “Uh, what’s the issue? Why do I have to call another line when I’m just trying to sign up for a package”
CSR: “It’s not an issue, just your order. Please call and they’ll be glad to help you”
So, I call the number I’m given (no clue why I have to call at this point, all I’m trying to do is sign up online). I’m given two options
#1 – New orders
#2 – Billing Inquiries
Well, neither of these really work, but I guess new orders is close enough so I dial #1. I wait on the phone 15-20 minutes. Seriously? 15 minutes? I’ve had to call 2 other companies recently for Customer Service. One company had a wait time of 0 minutes. The other company, Nike, which I ended up having to call approximately 4 different times had a wait time of ~2 minutes each call, with no call wait time taking more than 5 minutes. And I was able to get someone to help me with the first number I dialed. But I digress. Someone finally picks up and wakes me from my mini-nap.
CSR: “Hello, are you wanting to place a new order”
Me: “No, I just placed….”
CSR: “Ok, what company are you trying to contact”
Them: “Please hold”
Phone rings. It’s the same number! Same recording. I guess I should have hit #2. I do so. New voice recording. This recording says that “All other inquiries should call directory services. Please call this number.” This is getting rather old at this point. I call directory services. Tell them I’m trying to contact Comcast. I get yet another new number to call.
I call the new number. This one has an option for cancellations, which I assume is probably the closest I can get to retentions (which I was told to do while trying to add new services!) and someone picks up. I explain I placed an order and was told to contact retentions. After sounding puzzled that I was trying to get retentions (trust me, I am too) she puts me on hold and comes back and tells me she has retentions on the phone. Ok, about time. That only took 3 different phone numbers and 30 minutes to get to this point. FAIL.
CSR: “I’m with retentions. I was told you were directed here by live chat. What happened”
Me: “Well, I signed up online for this package. He asked if I was trying to save money. I said yes and here I am”
CSR: “Oh, ok. What happened is you don’t qualify for the package. He should have told you that. He then asked if you were wanting to save money and since you said yes, assumed you wanted to cancel so directed you here”
Me: “Ok, great. So why don’t I qualify”
CSR: “Well, the package is for new customers only”
Me: “Please tell me where it says that in the TOS”
CSR: [Reads TOS on the phone]
CSR: “You’re right, it doesn’t say it. But, look in the feature description. It says designed for new customers only”
Me: “Right, but that doesn’t mean existing can’t buy it, especially since it doesn’t say it in the TOS”
Somehow she starts trying to explain that I’m not a new customer, which I tell her about 10 times that I explicitly understand this and am not arguing with her about that. I acknowledge I am an existing customer. But this package according to how it is listed is available to existing customers. That is my point. Eventually….
CSR: “Well, I’m sorry for you being bounced around like this. What I can do for you is drop your internet to $33 for 6 months. I’ll go in and manually take $9 off the bill for those 6 months”.
[Aside. If you remember, my Internet is $52.95 That is broken down as $42.95 for base internet, and $10 for the plus. So really it’s bringing my internet base internet down and not “the interwebs” down. Misleading again. But I digress.]
So, after all that waiting, being bounced to different numbers, and being on hold for so long, I finally am off the phone – I’ll end up saving $54 over the next six months – which is better than nothing I suppose. However, that wasn’t my goal. I currently have the limited basic cable – and it’s called limited for a reason! What would the extra cost to Comcast be to have given me the package I wanted. Their cost – probably $0. Lost revenue from me? Assuming it was a $4 price difference, they would have lost $48 over the 12 month period. So instead of losing $48 over 12 months, they choose to lose $54 over 6 months. And, in the process, they pushed me towards finding a different service provider for both TV and Internet. Hrm. Good business sense there! If I had gotten the package, after 12 months the price would have jumped up $30 per month so they would have started making more from me.
Now, in the interest of being fair and balanced, while my customer service interaction here with Comcast was horrible, I will say that I have seen evidence of not all Comcast CSR sucking. One great example I have seen is Frank (ComcastCares) on Twitter. Everyone who has an interaction with him seems to come away pleased and he is genuinely very helpful and seems to be able to get things fixed for people (especially for technical issues). Even after posting a short rant on Twitter about this, in less than an hour he had replied to me saying he would pass on the feedback. That right there is the type of service Comcast should strive for. Even though I got no monetary benefit out of the action, a simple “I’ll pass the feedback along” goes a long way.
So, my main issues out of this whole issue were:
#1 – Unclear / Incorrect TOS. All they have to do is put “new customers only” in the TOS like they have in other ones and there would have been no misunderstanding.
#2 – Don’t make your customers call 3 different numbers and be on hold for 30+ minutes. Just not a good idea. EVER.
#3 – Don’t treat existing customers like crap and tell them there are no current offers. If you can offer it to a new customer you can offer it to an existing customer. I can become a former customer very quickly.
Maybe I’m expecting too much of customer service. However, after my recent interactions with Nike the bar has been raised. I guess now I have a lower point for that bar as well.
After speaking with Frank on Twitter, he looked into my account and was able to find an ongoing promotion in my area. It wasn’t the promotion I had been originally after, but nonetheless, he took the effort to look for something. Like I said earlier (before speaking with Frank) he’s been very helpful in looking into people’s troubles with Comcast, and now I have my own interaction to base that on rather than the reports of others. If all of Comcast’s customer support could have the positive feedback and the level of support that Frank and his team give to people, I think their customer support would be much better off for that. If all my interactions today had been on Twitter rather than the phone, this post would have been much different (and likely, wouldn’t exist). So, thanks to you Frank.