How Comcast Ignored This Customer’s Journey

We recently had an experience with Comcast that shows the importance of Customer Journey Thinking™. I’m not sharing this example to pick on Comcast (although it can be an easy target for bad customer experience given its consistently poor performance in the Temkin Experience Ratings), but instead I want to get across a key lesson for all companies.

We had a problem with our cable box and the Comcast phone agent said that we could bring it to the local Comcast center and get a new one. It’s a good move by Comcast to let people self-repair as much as possible; it keeps costs down and allows customers to accelerate the corrective action.

I wasn’t sure which of the cables that plug into the cable box I needed to bring, so I just grabbed the power cable. We went to Comcast and got the new box. Voila, success!

Unfortunately, that was not the end of the story. We got the cable box home and it didn’t work. There were no instructions. It wasn’t until a Comcast repairman showed up in a couple of days that we found out that the problem wasn’t with the box, it was with the remote. We needed to reprogram our remote.

What went wrong? Comcast treated our experience as a set of isolated interactions, instead of viewing our experience as a multi-step journey. We were looking for our TV to work again, and Comcast treated us as if we wanted to get help over the phone and swap a box at the local Comcast shop.

That’s where Customer Journey Thinking (CJM) comes into play. CJM is a way to focus on customers’ journeys when you are creating a new product, service, interaction, or experience. It requires people to always ask (and answer) these five questions:

  1. Who is the customer?
  2. What is the customer’s real goal?
  3. What did the customer do right before? (repeat three times)
  4. What will the customer do right afterwards? (repeat three times)
  5. What will make the customer happy?

Let’s say we were working at Comcast when they were looking at the self-service transaction of swapping a cable box at the Comcast stores. Here’s how a simple use of the CJM might have worked.

The team working on what looked like a modem swap st the Comcast store would have gone through the questions something like this:

  1. Who is the customer?
    • Are we targeting people who regularly swap out cable boxes and programs our remotes, or is our key market people who are much less familiar with our products and processes. We need to keep in mind any steps that might not be obvious or easy to understand for this type of customer (Note: As a best practice, it would be great to name an explicit design persona that we’re focusing on for this process).
  2. What is the customer’s real goal?
    • This customer probably wants to get his/her TV to start working again.
  3. What did the customer do right before? (repeat three times)
    • Unplugged the cable box and cables and drove to the Comcast store.
    • Went online to find the local Comcast store and its operating hours.
    • Spoke to someone at Comcast (or went online) where they found out that they could swap out the box.
  4. What will the customer do right afterwards? (repeat three times)
    • Take the box home.
    • Plug the box in.
    • Try and use the television… oops, they might not know they have to reprogram their remote.
  5. What will make the customer happy?
    • Getting their TV up and running quickly without any frustrations along the way.

If you were part of the team that went through these CJM questions, then you might have realized that the in-store element was only a piece in the overall journey, and that target customers would likely run into problems.

Using that Insight, the team might have identified these types of opportunities to improve the customers’ journey:

  • Have phone agents explain (or send a link to simple instructions about) which cables to bring with you when you swap out the box and explain that you will likely have to reprogram your remote.
  • At the store, provide instructions on reprogramming the remote and explain that it is a natural part of the process.
  • Send an email to customers who swap boxes with a link to instructions (including reprogramming of remote) and a diagnostic app if the box is not working properly.

The bottom line: Companies (not just Comcast) need to obsess about their customers’ journeys.

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey.

Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum.

My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers.

I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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