How Twitter's ComcastCares Turned My Stress Filled Week Into One That Wasn't

Edit: This post was previously two posts but to make it easier to follow the whole story, I've edited them into a single post that was better formatted. I apologize for my long winded, and probably, poor written explanation. I'm a Web Designer/Content Manager - not an English Major (and I never liked Shakespeare anyway).

Original Post - May 12th, 2008

Let me walk you back to April 15th, 2008. I had just started a new job & just gotten my application approved to my new apartment that I would be moving into on May 15th, 2008. Trying to make sure that I took care of scheduling all of my new utilities well in advance, I called the Comcast building representative for my new complex (as my leasing agent told me to do). I told him which services I wanted and explained to him that I would not be moving into my new apartment until April 15th and that, if possible, I wanted to have them come on May 17th, a Saturday, and schedule a hookup of my new television & internet service. I also told him how I would need two single stream or one multi-stream CableCard for my HD Tivo. Having heard horror stories from fellow Tivo owners, online, about getting Comcast to successfully install Cable Cards or much less admit to you being able to get them (or spending an hour on the phone with a rep who doesn't know what they are) I was pleasantly surprised when, without batting an eye, the rep told me it would be no problem to have CableCard(s) sent out.

Very pleased, I hung up the phone, opened my Google Calendar & scheduled the appointment for that day.

Fast forward to this morning, May 12th, 2008.

I receive a call on my cell phone, while sitting at my desk at work that was marked restricted via caller ID. I answer the phone and a person, whom I can barely hear, tells me he is a Comcast service tech and wants to verify that I was at my apartment because he is on his way to install my new Comcast service. Exasperated I tell him is not ok, as I don't live there yet. I explained that I called a month ago to schedule a hookup on the 17th and that my time window was from 9:00 am until noon. He said...oh ok and was about to hang up when I stopped him. "Wait Wait," I said. "Are you going to come Saturday still to connect my new service." He answers, "I dunno." Pause. I ask, "Well - I was told, a month ago, that it would be May 17th between 9 and 12. Should I call customer service to verify this?" He said, "Oh yes yes. Goodbye" and hung up.

I immediately dug through my email to get the contact number for the Comcast building rep for our complex and I called him.

The conversation went as such:


"Uh, Hi. I'm calling to verify that my scheduled hookup appointment is still Saturday May 17th between 9:00 and 12:00. I just received a call from a tech who was on his way to my apartment to hookup my service except this isn't correct. I scheduled it for the 17th."

"Ummm....can I call you back at this number in several minutes?"

I then explain to him that the number he is seeing on his caller ID isn't my actual desk number - but the main number for my employer. I then try to give him my desk line and he says "One moment sir, I need to pull over so I can take down your information." Uh - since when do Comcast reps drive around????

I give him my information and he says he will call me back later once he can look up my info. I tell him, worried, "I called a month ago to schedule this hookup." He sounds doubtful, "I don't know if we have any times available still on Sautrday." Grrrrrrrr



(Edit from May 21st: Can't you tell how frustrated/pissed off I was? Keep in mind we had planned to move the following weekend (16th & 17th) and this date had been approaching for several weeks, with the stress building. This news wasn't helping. )

Update - May 14th, 2008

Wow - a lot has happened since Monday. Let me bring you up to date. Immediately after the posting below, I twittered my displeasure as well. I then remembered that Comcast has a Twitter account called Comcastcares. I sent an @ message to the account, linking to this post and giving them a brief summary of the issue. About an hour later, the person behind the account (Frank), replied to me requesting that I email them (he supplied an email address) explaining this issue in detail. I linked them to this blog post and re-explained the issue in the body of the email.

About an hour after this I received a call from Comcast Corporate in Philadelphia PA asking me to explain the issue. He said that he wanted to see that this is resolved and promised to call the local Comcast office here and then give me a call back Monday evening or Tuesday morning. Monday evening passes and I hear nothing.

Tuesday, I am out to lunch and I receive an email on my blackberry. It is from a different person at the local Comcast office, but someone at their local headquarters office in Manassas. The gentleman said he was informed about my problem and had cleared it up with the local office, ensuring me that my original scheduled install would happen on Saturday, May 17th, 2008. Once I arrived back at my office, I realized he had left me a voicemail as well, saying the same thing. I called him back, leaving a voicemail saying that I appreciate his call and that I was out to lunch, which is why he missed me. I replied to his email as well, just to make sure he got my message. I stepped out of my office to meet with a co-worker and upon my return, found that he had called once more. I emailed once again letting him know I had gotten his message and that I appreciate his prompt reply. I then replied to Comcastcares on twitter, letting Frank know that someone had gotten in touch with me (well, two someones actually) and that I was surprised and pleased with their response. He thanked me. I told him I would follow up, post Saturday, to let him know how it went. Thinking this was the end of it, I went home

This morning I arrived in my office to find out a THIRD person from Comcast HQ had contacted me at 5:20 pm yesterday from a 215 area code. According to google, 215 is PA so this must be their Corporate HQ once more. I just left the gentleman a voicemail assuring him that I had been contacted and that I was aware my appointment had been correctly rescheduled for Saturday.

Let me just say that Comcast is a huge ISP that has many strikes against them. Their local & regional customer service leaves something to be desired. Their shady means of monitoring and capping network traffic is anti-net neutrality and I think they leave something to be desired in that department. That being said, I am THOROUGHLY IMPRESSED by their response to my issue. Their use of social networks via Twitter to seek out customers with problem and respond to them is a breath of fresh air amongst the common means of corporate customer service. Having received 2 follow-up calls from their Corporate HQ in PA and 1 from their Regional HQ in Manassas has left me with the feeling that they really wanted to fix my issue and make sure I knew that they had taken the steps to do so. If only all of their customer service was like this. What happens to all of the users who AREN'T on Twitter like I am? No doubt, they are left at the mercy of the seemingly under trained local CS reps. It does seem, though, that people at Comcast Corporate HQ with some authority have recognized this is a problem and are taking means to fix it. I know that once companies grow, there are detrimental silos created within a company where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Clearly the Right Hand, in this case, is trying to fix this issue via innovative means. Cheers guys - you're doing a good job.

Friday, May 16th
Let me first take you back to Friday afternoon. Steffanie and I are packing the moving trucks, the both of us having took the day off to do so. I got a call from Comcast; It was an automated message confirming my installation appointment for the following morning between 9:00 am and noon. I hung up and told Steff that it was just the automated Comcast reminder. We go back to work.

Saturday, May 17th

Steff and I get up bright and early, despite our exhausted state from the day before - having went to bed around 1:00 am the night before from a very long day of moving. Marlo was due sometime between 8:00 am and 11:00 am to deliver our new couch. I got up at 7:00 to be ready for them to get here, and sure enough, around 8:15 they called. Went downstairs and helped them get it inside the loading dock, up the service elevator and into our apartment. They left around 8:40 and I began preparing for the Comcast technician to arrive. I setup the TV on the TV stand and hooked up my TivoHD to it. I setup the TV in the bedroom (which was due to receive an analog connection - not digital) and prepared our router in the "Office" (2nd bedroom) for the modem. It took me until 9:30 to finish all of this, and I was hoping that during this time the tech wouldn't arrive yet, as I hadn't had time to get all of this done until then.

Having finished all this, we resumed unpacking the other 30-40 other boxes packed in every bit of free-space around the apartment. I kept checking the clock every little bit, and as the morning wore on, it was fast approaching noon. The time window for the tech to get there was 9-12 so I was beginning to get worried that he wouldn't show. Alas, me fears were unfounded as he arrived at around 11:45 - having called me about 20 minutes before and letting me know he was on his way.

At 11:45 he walks in with his equipment to immediately tell me that he was unable to locate any Cable Cards that morning before leaving for his service calls. He asked me if an HDTV digital converter box would be sufficient. I told him that I was pretty sure that it wouldn't be, as the TivoHD specifically says it needs CableCards. Thinking about it more, I asked him what he meant by HDTV digital converter box and he held up the very very infamous Craptastic™ Scientific Atlantic box that Comcast is notorious for pushing off on their customers, something that is very well known in the tech enthusiast world as one of the most horribly designed devices to ever exist. I then explained to him that, no, this would not work as the whole point of a Tivo was for the CableCards to be able to change the channel on their own for the Tivo so as to be able to record different programs when Steff or I weren't there. He then nods in understanding and begins to work on the other tasks.

Because our apartment complex is new, having only just opened earlier this year, no one has ever lived in our unit before. The technician took about 15 minutes walking in every room of our apartment looking for a main routing station panel for all of the cables in our walls. After he and I were unable to locate one, he guessed (and was correct) that it was located behind the main panel in the living room - the supposed location one would put their main TV. He removed the faceplate from the outlet, found the junction, and began putting ends on the coax.

Once he finished with this, he asked where I wanted to put the cable modem. I showed him the office and explained that I had my own router/network, and that he only needed to setup the router on a certain table & provision it, and I would then hook it into the router & get the network setup. He began to work on this issue, which took a while as the first 2 cable modems he had with him would not acquire a signal. He had to go down to his truck to retrieve another, coming back a bit later with it.

All of these tasks had taken about 2 hours time. During this time, and I cannot remember exactly when, I emailed Frank at Comcastcares, of whom I corresponded with earlier in the week due to the scheduling issues. I had meant to email him very shortly after I found out that the tech did not have our CableCards, but I got caught up in helping the tech out that I had forgot. It wasn't until the tech headed down to his truck that I remembered. so I drafted an email to Frank. At this point, due to not being able to setup the CableCards, I expected the tech to come back shortly with a working router, set up our internet, and then leave - probably well before I received a message back from Frank. To my surprise, this was not to be.

Within a few minutes, I had an email on my blackberry:

Is the technician still there? Can you ask him to have his supervisor call my cell?


Frank Eliason
NCO Customer Service Manager

"Wow!" I thought. Not wanting to talk about the technician within hearing distance, I silently mouthed a word to Steffanie and handed her my blackberry so she could read the message. She saw it and smiled. I took the blackberry back from her, and turned to walk into the other room.

"Excuse me sir. I know this is going to sound unusual, but I have been in communication with one of your colleagues who works in Pennsylvania for your corporate office and he just emailed me telling me to have you have your supervisor call his cell. The Technician, stared back at me, I guess a little surprised. I handed him my blackberry so he could see the message myself...signed, Frank Eliason, NCO Customer Service Manager. The tech, without saying a word, removes his company cell & places a call to his dispatcher, kind of unsure of himself, but explaining to his supervisor what just happened and gave him the number. I smiled, thanking him once he got off the phone, and took my blackberry back. I immediately emailed Frank to let him know that I did as instructed, not really believing the local supervisor would call Frank. I get an email message back from Frank:

I spoke to him already and I have called a few other people. I will let you know. We will get one to you ASAP and I am trying for today.

Frank Eliason
NCO Customer Service Manager

Once again, I was shocked. Really - at this point I should cease to be surprised due to the way Frank had helped my earlier issue with the scheduling snafu. I had actually found a person with the authority to do something about people's problems who actually gave a care to customer's issues at Comcast. Something I didn't think was possible.

I wrote him back:

Ok Frank - I appreciate it.


The tech continues to work, and 9 minutes later, I get this:
I just got off the phone with some local people. They are working to locate one and get it to you.

I will keep you updated.

Frank Eliason
NCO Customer Service Manager

Not 2 minutes after receiving this, the tech gets a call from his dispatcher. The dispatcher says something inaudible about CableCards. The Tech responds to the dispatcher with something I didn't hear. I email Frank:
Tech is still here working on my inet connection now. Heard some correspondance between someone in local office and him talking about cablecards.

Forty minutes later, the tech finishes working on the internet. He then packs up his things and just as he is getting ready to leave, he gets another call. The dispatcher asks him where he is and if he can come to xxx location. The tech responds, saying he is only 10 minutes from there. After getting off the phone, he turns to me and tells me he is off to get the CableCard (multistream) and then will be right back. I smile and thank him, offering him some more sweet tea that I had given him earlier while he was working. He heads out the door w/ a to-go cup in hand just as I receive this:
They will be bringing one over today.

Frank Eliason
NCO Customer Service Manager

Smiling I resume unpacking things from boxes, until the technician returns. About 30 minutes later, he arrives back w/ a CableCard in hand. I offer him a seat on the couch and we go to work. We insert it into the #1 slot. He reads off the serial number, model number, and some other things from the card to someone at the local office over the phone. We wait for channels to start "coming in" or appearing in the channel test mode in the tivo menu. It takes about 15 minutes before the first one's start to appear. The tech explains to me that this will somtimes take a long time, he estimated 45 minutes to 24 hours, which I was skeptical about. The tech stood up and we shook hands. I asked him his last name so I could write Frank back & tell him his name & ID number so I could tell them how polite, and patient he was with me that day - knowing that my particular problem must be a pain in the ass.

At this point Steffanie really needed to head out to go shopping for some things we needed for the new place. We departed. At this point it was 4:03pm when I wrote Frank. The tech had spent from 11:50ish until 4:00 dealing with us.

We arrived home that night very late - around 11 pm. I checked the Tivo - no dice - the same lack of channels as before. I decided to wait a bit longer, until around 1:00 am. At this point it had been 9 hours since the CableCard was provisioned. I decided that if it was still getting in channels, as the tech said, I should have been seeing a small amount start to appear after every few hours. Given that there had been no change, in 9 hours, I spent about 20 minutes researching on the Tivo Community forums until I found this post from someone in Arlington from back in January who was having a problem very very similar to mine. I wrote Frank, letting him know that new issues had arisen. I detailed the issue, linked to the above forum post, and then proceeded to thank him profusely for all the help so far. I told him not to bother getting back to me until it was convenient for him because of the account that it was so late, and that it was the weekend.

Sunday, May 19, 2008

I received a reply the next day:

For some reason I am not able to access your information to reset the card. I will have someone do it in the morning.

Can you follow up with this? Follow the trail below; we need to send a hit to the cable card.

He had handed me off to someone on his team who, apparently, had some sort of technical expertise/experience in dealing with CableCards.

Monday- Wednesday, May 20-22, 2008

I begun a new email thread with this new person over the next 2 days (Monday and Tuesday). We eventually figured out that the technician hadn't provisioned my card correctly. As of Monday he called me at work to tell me this and told me to check it that night. I did so but it still wasn't working. I emailed him back and also twittered to Frank. The next day I got another email from the new person and he told me he was handing me off to someone locally who could trouble shoot directly with me once I arrived home. I got a call a short time later from this new local person. I thanked her and we setup a time (Wednesday at 6) when they would call me back at home to help me. I arrived home that night (Tuesday) to find that I HAD ALL OF MY CHANNELS! I immediately wrote an email to Frank/new person & twittered to Frank. Apparently, on a hunch, Frank told the other person to "hit" my card with a "setup" signal again and this worked to solve my issue. I told them that the phone call on Wednesday at 6 wouldn't be necessary (although I still got it, but it wasn't a big deal as I just thanked the man and told him to have a good night). After 10 days of email/twitter/phone tag, my issues were resolved and everything worked as it should.

Comcast needs to give Frank a promotion and hire about 30 people to work for him. He gets things done. Last week about this time I was DREADING being a Comcast Customer, as I have no choice for my area. This week, I still don't think that Comcast is the ISP I would like to have (I want FIOS) but I feel a LOT better about it knowing that Frank is there, should I ever need him.

Lesson of the week? If you're a Comcast customer and are having issues getting the service you ordered/were promised, just send a little note to Frank. He's got your back.