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Comcast Post-Ike: Just As Helpful As Centerpoint

It’s been very frustrating dealing with the utility companies with respect to restoring service in the post-Ike period. At issue is their inability to get and redistribute information about who’s on, who’s not, and routine progress reports. Today for a short while my focus turned to Comcast as our cable tv and cable modem service remains down.

I actually contacted Comcast last Friday morning while killing time on a conference call. It did so by way of the text chat tool in the support section of their web site. The CSR who dealt with my question was prompt and courteous. They had no information except to say that “they working hard on restoring service asap.” Of course, they can only start once power has been restored so they are implicitly behind Centerpoint. Not an enviable position to be in.

I had heard good things about someone with a Twitter account called @ComcastCares so today I send them a tweet. They responded promptly, but again with little to add.

Like Centerpoint Energy before them, the means that they have chosen to indicate their status is entirely inappropriate and kinda pointless. They publish maps indicating in only the most general way what neighborhood has or lacks service. In their case the maps are jpeg images that are updated periocically.

Comcast Services Restored in Southwest Houston

The trouble is that these maps are static, probably only updated once or twice a day. Then, it’s likely done by an artist in the marketing department….not someone with keen insight into the situation on the ground. They don’t even indicate what each dot actually means. It  must correspond to a point of distribution in the neighborhood. Perhaps where the fiber breaks out into coax? Who knows?

As with my earlier criticism of  Centerpoint Energy, this sort of thing is better accomplished using a Google Maps overlay tied to a database of customer properties. They ought to be able to indicate right down to each house who has service. Done that way they would be able to dynamically change the status of each house as the crews turn on each street. It’d be very cool.

Perhaps the simple fact that none of the utility providers have such a status display is a pointer to an opportunity. Someone should mash-it-up and sell it to them as part of an enhanced customer service plan.

Let me 100% clear. In no way am I meaning to criticize the Centerpoint or Comcast crews on the ground. They’re busting butt I’m sure. No, this is about managements substandard interface to the mass of customers. What we have here is a failure to communicate sound information, in reasonable detail, in a timely fashion.

By the way, one kinda despicable thing is that Comcast will not automatically credit your account for the outage suffered. Customers must contact the company and lodge a formal request for a credit before it will be issued. That’s pretty slimy considering that essentially 100% of their customers were offline for at least a week, many soon to be three weeks. It certainly speaks to their internal infrastructure. They must not know definitively when a single customer site is up or down. That’s incredibly lame considering that they provide the end-points to the user locations.

At this point I’m certainly happy that we have both DSL and cable modem service. At least one is up and working. We can always watch TV online, and rent some DVDs.

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