Ever wonder why Comcast routinely ranks among the worst companies in America  for customer service? Let me tell you a story.
So my cable box stopped working, which meant I couldn't get the Giants games and my daughter couldn't watch Hannah Montana, which was something of a crisis in the Redmond household. So I called Comcast, and the nice woman on the phone tried a remote diagnosis, and told me the box was fried. "But don't worry," she said. "Just drop it by our office and we'll give you a new one right away."
Just drop it by our office. Here's that that means: You arrive at the cramped, airless spot on Potrero and 16th and wait. And wait. And wait. When I got there, the line was 21 people long, and four customer service clerks were trying their best to sort out a wide range of problems -- bill problems, service problems, people wanting more channels problems ... by the time I got to the front, 41 minutes had passed, and the line stood at 28 people. There wasn't any more room in the office; the 29th person was going to have to stand out on the street.
"It's always like this," an older woman in the line complained. And she's right -- at least, every time I've ever been there, the lines been long, the wait's been long and every single person in the room was unhappy.
Here's what's going on: In the old days, when your cable service didn't work, they sent a repair person to your house, and that person either fixed the problem or installed new equipment. Now it's up to me to unscrew the box (easy enough for me, though maybe not for everyone), take my time to go wait in line for a new one, and reinstall it (again, easy for me, maybe not for everyone.) So I'm already saving Comcast the money it used to spend sending a trained technician to my house. Now I'm paying, with my own time, to wait while an inadequate number of service people try to handle far too many problems.
Brian Roberts is the CEO of Comcast . I've sent him a note that says the following:
1. You need to hire more people for customer service. If you don't want to pay to send techs out to my house, then properly staff your offices. Most people have jobs, and can't afford to spend an hour or more (with travel time) to exchange a piece of your equipment every time it breaks.
2. Set up some orderly lines. One line for simple exchanges of gear, one for billing problems, one for people who want to spend 30 minutes deciding on a service upgrade. Even the DMV gets that; it shouldn't be so hard.
3. But more reliable gear.
4. Or: Cut your prices. I'm paying way, way too much money to put up with this shit.