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.

Voice: The New/Old Human Interface

It started with punch cards, evolved to a cryptic language with phrases such as “c: DIR and CLS,” moved on to point and click, and then reached touch and pinch.

Moving mouses, typing on keyboards, pushing buttons, and touching screens has helped technology become significantly more accessible. But those approaches are still not the ultimate human interface.

While these newer interfaces have much lower learning curves, they still require learning new things. Not only do people need to understand physical interfaces, but they also need to understand logical ones. If you want to watch the TV show “Blue Bloods,” then you need to figure out both the channel and the time that it’s on.

So what’s next?

One of our 2016 CX trends is “Speech Analytics Piloting.” The technology for recognizing, understanding, and responding to human speech has evolved to the point where it can be more practically deployed. In our trends, we identified that analyzing phone calls from customers can uncover amazing insights. But the power of speech goes well beyond just listening and analyzing.

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XFINITY Is (Unfortunately) More Of The Same

After seeing multiple Comcast ads about it’s seemingly new super-duper offering, I was left with a nagging question: What exactly is XFINITY?

So on a recent trip to a Comcast office to replace a modem, I asked the Comcast employee behind the counter my question: What exactly is XFINITY? After about 30 seconds of her saying seemingly random things about platforms and content that I couldn’t understand, she finally said that it was just a new name for the products that we already use from Comcast.

I went to the website to verify that finding. After sorting my way through flashy graphics that disrupt the usability, I found a definition for XFINITY — and it sure sounds like just a new name for some additional features to the existing Comcast products.



My take: What a lost opportunity.

It would have been great if XFINITY was a new offering with a redesigned service model. Why? Because Comcast can definitely use a customer experience makeover. In Forrester’s 2010 Customer Experience Ranking of 133 companies, Comcast came in 126th for it’s Internet business and 125th for its TV service. It also came in 105th/109th out of 114 companies in the 2008 rankings and 95th/101st out of 112 firms in the 2007 rankings.

Repositioning a company or brand is a great opportunity for improving your entire operations. I’ve discussed how Alaska Airlines engaged its employees with its North of Expected campaign, Ford engaged its employees with its Drive One campaign, Staples redesigned customer interactions as part of its That Was Easy campaign, and JetBlue embedded its value across touchpoints in its Happy Jetting campaign.

But Comcast chose a different path with XFINITY; resembling marketing campaigns that I’ve chided in the past from JP Morgan ChaseCircuit City, and John Hancock for being empty promises:

Probability Of Success For Branding Efforts

Positioning And Scope Of Effort

The bottom line: Comcast needs more than just XFINITY ads

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