The team at Convince
& Convert and I have been working with Comcast for nearly two years, helping
them understand the landscape of
customer experience influencers, and how that community thinks
about CX transformation and storytelling.
Last week, as part of that work, I was joined at the Comcast
headquarters in Philly by a cavalcade of all-star customer
experience thinkers: Chip Bell, Jeanne Bliss,
Dijulius, Matt Dixon,
Toporek, Bill Quiseng, and
We gathered together to spend an entire day behind the scenes
with Comcast executive leadership, including Chief Customer
Charlie Herrin, discussing the commitment the company has made
to turn around a customer experience that has historically been far
less than optimal.
The company has invested hundreds of millions of dollars,
embarked on the largest
Net Promoter Score implementation in history, and has made more
than one million customer callbacks in just the first 10 months of
2018. (Every manager in the company, regardless of role, is now
required to call actual customers on a regular basis).
The commitment made to this transformation is
staggering and is bearing fruit in hundreds of ways, large and
For example, customers receive a $20 bill credit if technicians
are late for an appointment. Customer service response times are
way down, especially in social media, where Comcast now has 408
full-time equivalents (FTEs) handing social care. And the xFinity
product line is riddled with self-healing functionality and easy
diagnostics. Comcast fundamentally believes that better, simpler,
more intuitive products are the forward guard of CX.
The 80,000+ employees are dialed in on this course trajectory,
which is crucial. In fact, Comcast has spent as much, if not more,
time and money on internal CX and culture change than they have on
customer-facing enhancements. This “inside out CX” approach is
absolutely a requirement for meaningful, long-term change to occur,
particularly in service-oriented businesses.
As you might imagine, a course trajectory change of this
magnitude takes years. Today, a lot goes right. And a few things
that go wrong. Sometimes more than a few.
But as a Comcast customer, I can personally attest that the
customer experience and customer service improvements are
numerous and real.
But they are also largely hidden.
This is the great conundrum for Comcast: how do you convince people
This is the great conundrum for Comcast: how do you convince
people you’ve changed?
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For example, during this CX Influencer Day, my colleagues and I
received a technology briefing from Comcast’s Senior VP of
Digital Home, Devices, and AI, Frasier
Stirling. He showed off several interesting features, many of
them using the xFinity voice remote. For instance, press the
microphone button and name any NFL player, and his stats
And a lot more ninja tricks are rolling out soon.
It’s a ton of behind-the-scenes work and expense to
make all of this synch up. We asked him why Comcast was making that
investment, and he said he felt it was his job to make people love
television again. He said emotion comes first. Emotion then creates
Emotion comes first. Emotion then creates customers.
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It all makes sense, and the company’s commitment to iterative
product enhancements is commendable. But how do you create the
emotion if people don’t know about the cool stuff that will
trigger it? I wouldn’t call myself an avid television watcher,
but I do watch a bit, as do some of the other CX professionals who
joined me in Philadelphia. And NONE of us were aware of some of the
features that Frasier demonstrated, even though they are currently
available in our homes.
At one point, he said one of the voice remote features was “a
bit of an easter egg.” And it got me thinking, particularly since
I drive a Tesla that is full of hidden tricks, isn’t the
difference between a “feature that triggers emotion” and an
“easter egg” simply the number of people that know about
To me, this is also part of the challenge currently faced by
Amazon Alexa and Google Home. The ability of those devices to add
value to our lives is out-kicking the coverage of our ability to
stay on top of what those abilities actually are.
Discovery takes time to occur organically, and I wonder how
Comcast could be more proactive in alerting customers to what is
actually at their fingertips or lips.
Comcast faces a similar challenge with the customer experience
turnaround story at large. Charlie Herrin talked extensively with
us last week that “trust must be earned” from customers, and he
is, of course, correct on that point.
But HOW do you earn that trust if you’re a company
like Comcast? How do customers — some of them longstanding and
frankly, long-suffering — get the message that there’s a new CX
sheriff in town?
Comcast runs some ads on this theme today, talking about their
commitment, showing their technicians in action, and so forth.
I’m not sure there’s much impact here. The “believe us,
we’ve changed” commercial is quite the trope in modern,
American business and you could build a hall of fame to house the
gauzy, piano-laden contributions from Toyota, Facebook, Wells
Fargo, and many, many others.
These 30-second corporate pinky swears say the right things, but
there’s a reason why it’s called customer EXPERIENCE.
So if you’re Comcast, I think there are only two options to
regain the trust of any particular customer or former customers,
and both are marathons, not TV-aided sprints.
First, you put up such a long string of uninterrupted,
error-free service that it slowly begins to dawn on the customer
that “hey, these guys have their act together.” This is the
electric company model of trust-building. If I flick a switch 5,000
times in a row without incident, I begin to believe that those
responsible for illumination are pretty good at their
The trouble with this approach is that it’s massively
susceptible to glitches in the Matrix and disturbances in the
Force. This method of regaining
customer trust works like an ice cube tray: every day that goes
by the water gets harder. But one little problem — somebody
leaves the freezer door open just a crack — and you’re melted.
Back to the beginning.
For xFinity, there are a lot of ways that door can be left open:
weather, up or downstream tech issues that aren’t their
responsibility, and customer errors.
Airlines have the exact same problem. Without even talking to
you, I can tell you your least favorite airline: the one that
disrupted your travel plans you most recently, for any reason, even
if it had nothing to do with the airline itself.
It’s possible to earn trust and rebuild a CX reputation using
this consistent, long-term excellence model, but boy is it hard,
and unreliable to boot.
The second option for Comcast to address the conundrum
that is changing the narrative around their CX is to simply fix
every problem perfectly.
There is a ton of research that shows that customers who have a
problem that a company successfully fixes are not only satisfied,
but buy more and are more vociferous advocates than customers who
never had a problem at all. We cite some of this work in my book,
Hug Your Haters.
Comcast’s Big Opportunity for Earning Trust
To me, this is the opportunity for Comcast. Because amidst
increasing complexity, emerging product/service lines like home
automation and mobile phone, it seems to me that EVERY xFinity
customer will have a problem eventually. I certainly do, from time
You’ve heard the saying that the measure of a person isn’t
how she or he treats people when times or good, but how they treat
you when times are bad? Customer experience and customer service
work the same way.
If Comcast can NAIL IT every time a customer has any
kind of an issue, that’s the most direct path to gaining trust,
creating true, ground-up advocacy, and spreading the word about the
overall CX transformation.
The commitment to better problem resolution at Comcast is real,
but there is still a ways to go. This is what powers the
company’s zeal to make every product self-healing, wherever
possible. Charlie Herrin once told me, “the best phone call is
the one that never has to happen.”
Customer experience at the product level, done
perfectly, makes customer service superfluous, in large
Customer experience at the product level, done perfectly, makes
customer service superfluous, in large measure.
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The implications for this fascinate me. Customer service has
always been looked at as mostly a soft skill, rooted in equal parts
empathy and common sense. But Comcast’s approach combines the
traditional service approach with a wholly modern idea:
what if every product is its own customer service
Maybe the secret to telling the transformation story at Comcast
doesn’t require convincing 29 million people that customer
service is better. Perhaps instead, it requires machines to tell
that story through customer experience, one robotically fixed
problem at a time.