Talking tech since 2003

I live in the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. As far as television goes, I don’t have a lot of choice. I can either go with Comcast’s Xfinity or explore satellite TV with DirecTV or Dish Network. My options for Internet service are even more slim. I have the choice of Xfinity or Verizon DSL. No FiOS, you say? It’s not available in the city. The surrounding suburbs all seem to have it, but within the city limits, fiber isn’t an option.

So in order to have the best Internet service, I went with Xfinity. And, in order to remain free of any kind of contract or agreement, I also went with Xfinity for my TV package. And I’ve paid dearly for it with my time.

A couple of days ago, I upgraded my cable package and added an HD DVR box to the mix. One of the features I felt was an absolute necessity was remote DVR access. I work strange, always-changing hours and I’m not always around to set my DVR when something I want to watch is on, so being able to do so from my iPhone is important to me. Fast forward to today, though, and this feature still doesn’t work. Comcast’s website isn’t detecting my HD DVR box and neither is the Xfinity Remote app for my iPhone.

I’ve spoken to support specialists numerous times, and each time, the specialist seems to have no idea why I’m getting in touch and no notes available to show that I’ve spoken to four or five other people before them. They ask me all the same questions and offer up the same solutions — refreshing my account, resetting my cable box, and waiting about 12 hours for things to magically work. But when those 12 hours are up, I’m right back where I started. Exasperated, I finally got in touch with a rep two days ago who promised to escalate my problem a bit higher in the food chain and took down my phone number and email address. I haven’t heard back.

This experience has made me think a lot about Comcast — how enormous the company is, and how little competition it has in so many markets. Is it too big? Does the company dominate with such ease that it has little incentive to improve and innovate? To ensure its customer service system is smooth and efficient? To make sure problems are taken care of so that customers don’t have to get back in touch four, five or six times?

In stark contrast: I’m also a customer of Sprint, which, out of the wireless carriers in the United States, ranks third. When I called them about an issue (porting a Google Voice number to my Sprint account) that wasn’t easy as pie, Sprint kept someone on the phone to make sure I got the help I needed and even had someone call later to make sure everything was working okay. That’s the kind of customer service you get from a company that is forced to compete rather than one that feels invincible.

Maybe this issue will get taken care of. Maybe I’ll become so frustrated with the whole ordeal that I pay more money for Dish (and that sweet Hopper device). But one thing is for certain — for all the good the company with customer service on the social media side of things, its traditional customer service avenues are lagging way behind. The company feels too big, especially after gobbling up NBC, which gives it control of the network and all of its large cable properties. As I stated earlier today, I’m not a big fan of giving cable companies even more power, and Comcast seems to have quite a bit of it already.

The real question will be, how big is too big, and when does someone do something about it? Perhaps we’ll find out in the future. Until then, I’ll probably be talking to a Comcast representative.


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