Category Archives: Marketing Insights

Why Comcast Makes Us Crazy

"This call may be monitored or recored or ignored or ridiculed or forgotten or mocked or played at our office parties for laughs." - Glasbergen cartoonDuring the latter half of July my husband Dan and I took a 10-day vacation to Scotland with friends. Lots of golf for Dan, lots of sightseeing for me.

It was a wonderful break and I came back with that relaxed vacation feeling that gives you a new perspective on your daily routine.

Shortly before 11 a.m. on Thursday August 3rd I was back in my office and noticed that the Wi-Fi had suddenly gone offline. No big deal, especially in my relaxed state.

I tried reconnecting manually and rebooting my computer, router and modem. Still no internet.

The router said we were online.

Then I noticed that my phone line was not working. Since I buy a bundle for phone, internet and cable television service, I tried turning on the TV. It registered analog service only.

Every aspect of my Comcast bundle was off.

Chatting with Comcast

I logged into my Comcast account with my cell phone. No outages in our area. According to Comcast all phone, internet and TV service was working.

While initiating an online chat, I came to a screen where I had to choose whether I was having a phone problem, an internet problem or a cable TV problem. I searched for an all-of-the-above option, but none existed.

I opted for phone service hoping they would see the need to fix all three aspects of my service.


For some companies that might be a reasonable assumption. But not for one that’s been repeatedly voted worst company in America and that prompted a 75-year-old woman to take a hammer to her local service center and start swinging.

The public sided with “The Hammer Lady.”

But I digress.

The phone support guy spent 45 minutes guiding me to reset and reboot my modem by disconnecting and reconnecting it. When that didn’t work he said I needed a technician to fix the phone and that he would forward me to internet and TV support to get help there.

I started a new chat with the internet person. After losing chat windows twice on my phone I called them.

Calling Comcast

The automated operator asked me to choose whether I was having a problem with phone, internet or TV. I said all of them. The system couldn’t handle that and spoke to me in a remedial voice.

By this point I was in danger of having Comcast obliterate that vacationed feeling that I had spent 10 days attaining.

I took a deep breath and chose the phone path again.

Jackie in phone support said that since the account was in my husband’s name I had to provide our phone number, address and the last four digits of his social security number. I couldn’t recall the latter.

“That’s okay I don’t really need that”, said Jackie.

Note to all of you calling in in the future. They don’t really need that.

I suppressed my urge to say “Then why did you ask,” and kept my pleasant self in check.

Jackie said she would send a reset to the modem remotely and that it could take up to 10 minutes to fix the phone. For the rest we needed a technician. The earliest one could come was noon the next day.

Nearly apoplectic after 75 minutes of this fruitless endeavor, I agreed to the noon appointment and hung up.

Twenty minutes later I went back down to my office to find the modem’s green lights lit.

The phone worked. The TV worked. My Wi-Fi was back up.

It took me five minutes on the automated customer service line to cancel the technician.

I was then left with the desire to purge the fury that remained inside me from the entire ordeal.

And that’s how I came to be writing a newsletter for you lovely people.

Tech Support Rage is Real

It turns out that tech support rage is a real thing, so named by mental health experts. The frustration and lack of control wrought by automated systems and robotic customer service reps can ruffle even those with Dalai Lama-like personae.

Yelling at customer support people doesn’t help and may mark you as “difficult,” prompting the rep to put you back in the queue or even “accidentally” disconnect you. I’m not kidding – there are reps who have confessed this online.

This is the nasty side of monopoly – or oligopoly – that my Economics professors did not talk about. These companies not only maximize price but they also minimize the cost of customer support.

Comcast doesn’t care because they don’t have to. Neither do other behemoth cable and mobile phone services.

The metrics these companies use to assess their customer support staff align with their cost minimization goals and thwart good service. “Cost per contact” encourages reps to spend no more than 15 minutes on the phone. To comply they just pass you to another rep.

Cost saving metrics may also explain why Comcast’s customer support was structured to handle only one service at a time though the majority of their customers bundle at least two services.

Getting Tech Support Sans Rage

What can you do?

Personally you can:

  1. Use social media to request support. Tweet or send a Facebook message to the company. Customer service experts say those methods may get a faster response as fewer people use them and as they signal your ability to broadcast your displeasure at (or joy from) the company’s customer service.
  2. Opt for “sales” or “to place an order” in the automated phone service menu to increase your chances of getting an onshore agent. Tech support is more often offshore, increasing your risk for language difficulties.
  3. Maintain your cool. Meditate, take deep breaths, do whatever you need to be cordial on the phone.
  4. Use or to learn how to bypass the automated systems and speak with a live person.

Make Your Brand’s Customer Service Better

Unless your brand has a monopoly, you can’t afford to lose customers to poor service. To grow your brand, ensure that your customer service is the antithesis of Comcast’s.

  1. Be customer focused. Understand your customers’ wants and needs. Design your products and services to address these.
  2. Provide humans immediately when customers seek support.
  3. Learn the most frequent complaints and try to address them systemically. If a supplier is providing poor quality products or a subcontractor is delivering inferior service, fix the situation or replace them.
  4. Choose metrics that encourage your reps to be customer focused. Begin by asking and tracking:
    1. How fast is your customer’s problem resolved?
    2. How many people does your customer have to talk to to get resolution?
    3. Can you improve on those?
    4. Do customers who request support buy your brand again afterward?

Customers are smart and learn from their experience with your brand. Now I know to try social media to get customer support from Comcast. If I ever lose all three services again with no area outage, I will request a modem reset upfront.

Thanks for reading. I feel much better now. I’m going to look at my Scotland photos again.

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Airbnb’s Wild Ride

Airbnb billboard saying "We imagine a world where can belong anywhere." brand in adolescence positioning

Image source:

From the moment my eighth grade French teacher informed me that you could study abroad in college I knew I was going to France.

Six years later I spent the summer preceding my junior year at a program in Avignon and the fall semester in Paris. I traveled for the two months in between. read more

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For Better Marketing, Channel Your Inner Three-Year-Old

Olympic Rings Donut Formation, For Better Marketing Channel Your Inner Three Year Old

Image Source: The Huffington Post

In the summer of 1991, when the unemployment rate in Boston hit 8.4 percent, I had the unfortunate need to find a job.

I was transitioning from a full-time MBA student at Boston College to part-time. I was temping during the day to pay the bills. Two nights each week I attended a three-hour summer class.

I read the want ads religiously. Veryfine Products ran an ad for a marketing research analyst in Brandweek, a marketing trade magazine, and I enthusiastically applied. read more

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L.L. Bean Gets the Boot

LL Bean Original Rainboot a symbol of brand consistency

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When a fashion-conscious teenager opts for a 104-year-old product, there must be something special about it. So when my 16-year-old daughter Fiona chose L.L. Bean rainboots, I had to ask her what the appeal was.

To Fiona’s credit and my relief, she did not say “I don’t know.” (Parents of teenagers will understand my relief.) read more

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4 Undeniable Truths About Your Brand

Woman mannequin with sun glasses and speech bubble above her head talking to male mannequin who has no face telling him the truth about his brandDo you know how brand images are formed?

Come behind the scenes to my kitchen project and take a look.

I was seeking a tile contractor to install a new backsplash in my kitchen.  My aim was to get three bids. I got a list of names from two tile retail stores and contacted seven contractors. read more

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Netflix Ain’t Chillin’

Netflix logoWhat do Netflix and “The Godfather” have in common?

Both showcase visionary brands that have succeeded with unorthodox methods.

In Netflix’s case, to paraphrase Mario Puzo, keep your friends close and your competitors on the payroll.

Wait – what? read more

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A Glovely Idea

Clorox Premium Choice Gloves incident highlights importance of user experienceDear Clorox:

I am an avid user of your Premium Choice Gloves which are “Neoprene Dipped for Extra Durability and Protection.”  Though I was not searching for neoprene-dipped gloves, I have become a loyal user of them as they are the most durable rubber gloves that Target sells to protect my hands as I scrub pots and pans.

Otherwise my hands would resemble those of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Usually I buy two pairs at a time, so when the first pair fails – via a tear in one of the gloves – I have a back-up pair ready.

Here’s the thing though.  It’s always the right glove that goes first.  read more

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Score More From Your Marketing

Fisher Stadium at Lafayette College - football game in progressOn Saturday September 24th I spent a beautiful evening with my family at Fisher Stadium in Easton, Pennsylvania, watching the Lafayette College Leopards play football against the Villanova Wildcats.

The weather was about all the Leopards had going for them. read more

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Eye of the Buyer

Eye of the buyerTwo weeks ago Fidelity took me on a frustrating financial odyssey. 

This summer Fidelity ditched long-time credit card partners American Express and Bank of America to consolidate its service with Elan Financial Services.  Anyone holding a Fidelity credit card received a new Fidelity Visa Signature card from Elan.

I was one of the 550,000+ who received a new card.  It was unclear to me whether I needed to re-designate where I wanted my rewards to go, so I tried to log into the new Fidelity Visa card website. read more

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How FitBit Stays Fit

array of FitBit productsI have been exercising regularly most of my life.  As a high energy person, I discovered in my teens that expending this energy often helped my sanity.  And that of the people around me.

In high school I took modern dance classes.  In college I took aerobics classes.

When I moved to Boston, I found a gym and cajoled myself to go there a few times a week.  read more

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