Comcast’s Secret: Overbooking

Comcast is not worried about overbooking penalties

Comcast management, taking a beating from unhappy consumers, recently claimed its new priority is customer service. Is the priority to expand service, diminish service or just make service promises?

Comcast’s website: “We push the boundaries of innovation and creativity because we want to exceed our customers’ expectations. We are committed to providing Comcast customers with a consistently superior customer experience.”

Sounds good. Would be better with a Comcast promise to end service overbooking. Airlines are forced to admit they overbook—and after United Airlines roughed up the passenger who did not want to surrender his seat, all airlines have to pay big bucks when overbooking results in a seat loss. But Comcast isn’t an airline. It is a gently regulated near-monopoly.

When a consumer calls for technical support, Comcast turns customer service into self-service: it offers an electronic re-charge and, if that doesn’t work, suggests to find solutions on the Comcast website.

Hang in long enough and a living person will answer—possibly someone in the Philippines where Comcast outsources much of its live customer service support. Speaking with a living Comcast contact can be very good for a Comcast person hoping to improve her/his English speaking skills. Those agents try to help, but their problem is not attitude, it’s lack of language precision and technical training up to speed with Comcast’s fast-changing technical advances.

Eventually live phone agents will set up a service appointment “window” of four hours, like 7 AM to 11:00 AM. Because of overbooking, that window is not firm and may be changed by Comcast without notice. You might find out when an auto-confirm call comes and tells you your 7-11window is 9AM to noon. It doesn’t mention the time was changed. It assumes you will figure it out.

Comcast also never mentions that if you don’t answer a call from a technician who is scheduled to see you, the appointment may be cancelled because it is assumed you are not home or no longer want the techie. Too bad if you take too long to answer within four rings or are in the shower and failed to bring your phone with you. This is a Comcast appointment. Stay near that phone at all times. Try to answer it by the 2nd ring. Have a snack ready for the techie. Auto-cancellation is four rings away.

Overbooking is the underlying problem. It creates more appointments than Comcast can handle, much like an airline selling more tickets than seats available. When pressed, some Comcast lower-level people admit that Comcast regularly overbooks without telling customers.

The appointment “window” is a starting place, not a commitment. Since Comcast is a near-monopoly, concern for regulatory anger is minimized and mistreatment of consumers is maximized. The new regulatory climate in Washington is corporate friendly, not consumer friendly, so Comcast is free to make promises about “superior customer experience” without supplying details.

My Sources: A Comcast representative who makes techie appointments said she and her colleagues are frustrated by how upper Comcast management ignores reports of customer complaints about Comcast’s appointment-changing game. Other Comcast employees admit that overbooking is built into the appointment system.

Consumer Compensation: If you demand compensation for being victimized by overbooking, failed technical fixes or techie non-appearances, ask for comp for your loss of time. Comcast may start with a small compensation that starts at $20 ($25 in Illinois) or a new contract with a lower monthly cost. Consider that a starting place: My latest battle with Comcast resulted in a $111.85 credit on this month’s bill.



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