Proving the Value of Self Service: Comcast Rises

Written by on June 7, 2016

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released its 2016 Telecommunications report, last week. The only national cross-industry measure of customer satisfaction in the United States, the ACSI measures consumer satisfaction with the quality of products and services offered by foreign and domestic firms with significant share in U.S. markets.

The telecommunications report examines the implications of new customer benchmarks for top companies in industries providing data, voice and video services to U.S. households – and it gives those of us interested in customer experience, some startling insights.

For one, Comcast is no longer one of the most reviled subscriber cable operators in the United States. (We’ll give you a moment to mop up the coffee)

This is surprising because for the last 14 years, Comcast has been spared only the ignominy of holding the lowest customer service score among subscription cable providers (that honour that belongs to Charter and Time Warner Cable). They have been at the worst or second worst, every year for the last 14 years, in the subscription cable providers category. These results have been supported by story after story of bad customer service in the media. Between the story of how a customer had to call the CEO’s mother to get the company to schedule service, to the cringeworthy news of them giving nicknames to customers, Comcast has suffered embarrassment after embarrassment (all of the aforementioned stories took place in the first two months of 2015).

With this report, Comcast is in the middle of the pack. With a score of 62, Comcast is not as well liked as say…Verizon but it’s not as bad off as Time Warner Cable or Charter Communications. And it isn’t just the surveys – Comcast had a better than expected Q1-2016 earnings which they’re crediting their improved customer service efforts.

What changed?

A few months ago, this information might have earned some disbelief, laughter and eye-rolling. After all, Comcast promising to work on their customer service is a punchline so old that even Grandma refuses to laugh anymore when you trot it out.

But believe it or not, Comcast has taken many initiatives to improve customer satisfaction – beyond just hiring more people. Sure, Comcast has promised to create more than 5500 customer service jobs as part of a multi-year customer service transformation (and they’re right on track), but the other measures they’ve implemented indicate that what really solved the problem is not more manpower but smarter, more proactive customer support.

They’ve taken measures to improve their billing system, ensure that technicians get to customers’ homes on time, and even put checks in place to ensure customer satisfaction (like that if a technician is late, the customer gets $20 credited to their account).

What is really interesting to me, though, is their My Account app. Available for iOS and Android, it allows users to check their estimated wait time or request a call back within a 15-minute window, and even has an Uber-like Tech Tracker feature. Customers can also initiate troubleshooting right from within this app. If they can’t get through to the rep, they can choose a convenient time for a rep to call them instead of wasting time sitting on hold.

Comcast’s new measures aren’t dramatic – they’re not tearing down their model entirely. Instead, they’re reforming it as a blend of self-service and proactive customer support – human-assisted support, as I like to call it. By making sure that a lot of the information that a customer might require, information that they might have had to get in touch with the hotline for previously, is now available to them before they need to request for it, Comcast is finally winning the customer game. After 14 years, it’s finally looking up for Comcast.

Have trouble believing this miraculous return? Comcast noted in their earnings call that the company had the the highest first contact resolution rate in years. This means a greater percentage of Comcast customers had their issues resolved the first time they interacted with Comcast’s customer service representatives. If that isn’t a push for self-service, I don’t know what is.

Only time can tell if Comcast can sustain this lift or if the next year will see them sink back to their lows.

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