Comcast – Going Down the Rabbit Hole

Our story begins on July 23, 2013 – a normal Florida day, State Government bickering over who should take the blame for today’s screwup, people protesting a new adult toy store, and the scents of Botox and Bengay were fresh in the air. It was perfect until I was told the TV said “Not Authorized” and noticed the phone and internet were acting funny.

As a former Comcast employee, I figured this was something account related. Little did I know how far down the rabbit hole I would venture.

Down_the_rabbit_hole_by_super_sheep
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE, MICHAELBRACK

Several calls and a few tweets later, I discovered Comcast Corporate had audited my account and removed my employee discount. For those who don’t know, Comcast employees get a stellar discount, which at the time I worked there, was:

  • XFINITY Premier TV package including HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, Sports & Entertainment Package – free.
  • You pay only for the DVR or HD boxes.
  • The first phone line was $4.00 (roughly) plus tax. A second line was $15.00 plus tax.
  • At the time, 25 megabit internet was included, I think that’s now 50 megabit. If you wanted 105 megabit, it was $49.99 + tax.
  • There were likely discounts on XFINITY Home Security, but I’m not aware of them.
  • Additionally, there were discounts on products from Sony, Philips, Stainmaster, and a few other merchants.

summary

As you can see, our bill was about $87.78 per month, which was quite nice!

We discovered, however, during the account audit, Corporate downgraded my package from what I had, to the following:

  • Digital Basic
  • Removed the necessary billing codes for viewing HD services.
  • Removed the necessary billing codes for using the DVR service.
  • Deauthorized the phone and internet (briefly).
  • Basically, an entire account revamp, probably to get my attention.

Normal Comcast Customer Care/Billing levels couldn’t assist me, and kept trying to push me to what’s referred to as the “Comcast ESC” or Comcast Employee Service Center- the group employees of Team Comcast go through when they want to order or disconnect new/existing products.

Fortunately, a solution, albeit one complex in nature, presented itself. If you find yourself having troubles with Comcast, and know how to use Twitter, reach out to the @ComcastCares team or send them an e-mail: ComcastCares_Support@comcast.com. Their Twitter team seem to be one of but a few departments who know what they are doing, are quick to react, and friendly.

comcastcares

Working with the Twitter team, I learned my case had been assigned to a member of the “Comcast Executive Care Team”. A term I’m quite familiar with after working in Customer Service for nearly 10 years. Typically, these teams are high-touch retention teams who have been granted “super powers” from “Corporate” to get things done, and make customers happy. Comcast’s Executive Care teams seem to work in regions, and are market specific. As such, my rep is in South Florida, which is great as we at least have a familiarity with our respective areas, making small talk easy. While I won’t reveal his name for privacy reasons, let’s call him ComcastSaint.

Before reaching out to ComcastSaint, I discovered the new Comcast XFINITY X1 platform was available in my billing market, and wanted to order the service. I already knew my account had been reduced back to a normal consumer account, and thought ordering something (aka – giving a company money) wouldn’t be too difficult. I was sorely mistaken!

Comcast Sales/Billing closes at 9 PM EST, mere hours after I’ve learned what happened to my account. Time was short, and I was rushing in (what turned out to be a futile) attempt to place a order for new service, correct my plan/package, and schedule X1 installation. (For new readers, as of this writing XFINITY X1 requires professional installation; more on why later in this article).

First, I thought it prudent to speak with the billing team and restore the proper service packages to my account, disconnect the (now) un-needed second phone line, and make sure things like HD and DVR services were working. Then, order new X1 service and schedule installation. Unfortunately this, like repairing the Spanish and Greek economies, was a pipe dream/time sink, and in one evening I spent nearly 120 minutes on the phone attempting to accomplish this task.

order-calls

Some Customer Account Executives (as Comcast calls them) had absolutely no idea what X1 was, or insisted it wasn’t available in my market. Some would get half way through the order process and disconnect the call. And one CAE even processed the order, but never scheduled installation. Alas, I realized, ordering new service or at least, correcting the package and programming I receive this evening, was not going to happen.

But-Wait-Theres-More

July 24 arrives, and I’m on the phone like white on rice, trying to reach ComcastSaint. Making a hardcore effort to get a handle on what has been done, what needs to be done, and how we can fix this without sacrificing a goat to the Comcast Gods (aka Satan).

ComcastSaint finally confirms the following:

  • There are unfinished orders from the previous night.
  • My plan wasn’t successfully changed, more or less – halfway changed back to what I wanted.
  • And he can fix it, schedule installation, and get things resolved. It may take some time, a little patience, and some of the best magic Hogwart’s class of 1998 could churn out.

ComcastSaint is able to remove the unfinished orders, correct my package, and get X1 installation scheduled for that week. You see, I was having surgery and wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be incapacitated when Comcast was to arrive. Knowing those I live with may not be so keen on dealing with the Comcast installation team, much less have any idea WTF they needed to do, it was in our best interest as a household I was present.

Install day arrives, and the technicians arrive on time! Surprise surprise! Seriously, given Comcasts track record to get anything done in a timely manner (speaking as a customer and former employee), it’s amazing! It is here in our story, we reach the bottom of the rabbit hole, and our first snag: The technicians have misread my order and brought an insufficient amount of equipment.

I ordered: 2 X1 DVRs and 2 “remote” boxes, as I don’t want to share my DVR space with other people. Typically, you get 1 X1 DVR “hub” or main box…. and as many “remote” boxes as necessary for other TVs. The remote boxes allow you to watch recorded content and use one of the X1 DVR’s 4 built in tuners to watch live TV. You cannot, however, at this time, record programs from the “remote” boxes, or rewind/pause/fast-forward from the “remote boxes”.. Additionally, your features are limited. The main DVR for example can use Pandora. The remote boxes, cannot.

A call to ComcastSaint, and the equipment mishap was resolved. The technicians, while unhappy with me being able to get my way, were able to get another technician to bring the missing X1 DVR box. This brings us to snag 2 and why the X1 system requires professional installation.

Each X1 box is essentially a modem and has full internet connectivity, whether you subscribe to XFINITY Internet or not. This is how/why you can use Twitter, Pandora, and Facebook on the box, as well as the upcoming XFINITY Send-To-TV feature. As such, it requires a great quality signal, otherwise it would be unreliable, causing pixelation (aka tiling) and signal issues, or failed feature requests, such as accessing the DVR or Pandora service.

On installation, they noticed the signal coming into my home wasn’t sufficient and needed to boost it by 4dB. A fair amount, however, unsurprising given the signal load we needed for 2 Main DVR hubs and 2 remote boxes, and our already existing Comcast Digital Voice and Internet Services. In the end, what looked to be impossible, was the opposite, and the system was installed without a hitch.

So, what are we dealing with now, post installation? Tiling issues are intermittent. Comcast technicians have replaced half a node, installed a new tap + a new drop from the tap to my home. And a technician will be using the service port on the tap to watch TV and monitor signal today from 1 PM to 3 PM est.

Additionally, we have yet to work out the mess that will be my first bill. With the pro rated charges from the plan downgrade by Comcast Corporate, to the several “mid plan” “halfway completed” orders in the process of resolving the issue, combined with the numerous technician visits, hardware replacement (tap, drop, part of a node). We will see what the bill will be, and how much work it will take to resolve the issue.

Other smaller issues I’ve experienced during this? After upgrading to the X1 platform, I noticed the smartphone XFINITY TV app wouldn’t load the tv guide. A ticket to Comcast Engineering revealed this was due to a bug, and the app was updated, true to their word – it works now.

Also, the XFINITY TV site, http//xfinitytv.comcast.net site, was not functioning correctly. When loading the TV guide, you would get an error. That has been resolved. However, when using X1 and scheduling series or one time recordings, it will say “Any channel” or “Program name not available” on your list of upcoming recordings. Apparently these are known glitches and are related to the functionality of the X1 DVR. See below:

my-dvr-scheduled my-dvr-issue2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAQ:

During this process, how much time did I spend on the phone?

Approximately 6 hours. Yes, I have the phone logs to back it up.

Would you do it again?

Not by choice. But, I have been known to go many lengths further to get my way on much more trivial things. Example: I once sued Yahoo to get access to my Flickr account.

Comcast must die?

Comcast is a necessary evil of our lives, and unfortunately, I don’t think they are going anywhere. They have a forced monopoly in many areas and while the rules/laws regulating such things could (and should) change in the future, don’t hold your breath.

Is the X1 all it’s cracked up to be? E.g. Is it nice, fluid, functional?

Not really. It works quite well, and it’s a MAJOR improvement over the old guide and interface they’ve used for decades. Features like Pandora and DVR need improvement, as does the search. There are many downfalls to the platform as well. For example, you used to be able to punch in 427 and it would automatically tune. Now, it will pop up a menu on the right, show channel 427 but also programs which could be spelled using the numbers 427 as those numbers correspond to a phone keypad. Think old SMS days before most phones had a full keyboard.