Comcast in the Philippines

I have had my share of joys and troubles with Comcast as my “Triple Play” provider, but I’ve never before experienced a total failure to communicate with a company — as I have this week — in trying to get my voice and cable modem replaced.

When you used to call Comcast customer support, you dialed an 800 number and you were then connected to the regional office that served your area.  Having that sort of local connection was important because, “Jersey Understands Jersey” and you could speak in cultural semaphores that clicked understanding that helped quicken resolutions to any technical or billing problem.

It now appears Comcast have outsourced all their technical support and billing to the Philippines, and that is causing a lot of widespread and furious grief for customers.  There isn’t just a cultural separation between the Philippines and the USA, but, like it or not, there is a language difference that often bears down on not understanding each other because of natural accents.

I realize I’m risking a slippery slope here — Racial and Cultural tensions building on both sides of the communication dyad — but if you cannot understand the person you are speaking with over the phone, then all hope is lost for finding a successful resolution to your problem.  Too much time is lost in failed interpretation.

I won’t bore you with the technical problems I was trying to solve with Comcast, but the wrong equipment was sent that I could not self-install, and the call center in the Philippines were not taking my point or offering any sort of realistic solution.

They told me they understood me, but when I would ask them a question about that understanding, they did not understand what I was asking.  When I mentioned I was having a hard time understanding them, they were hurt and offended, and I don’t blame them for feeling frustrated, too.  I blame Comcast corporate for pushing this communicable misunderstanding on its employees and customers.

In the end, a tech was sent to our place — the $49.00 USD in-person visitation fee was waived — and all of that was a surprise to me because nobody in the Philippines let me know any of that.  I was told everything would be done via a UPS exchange and the next day when the Americanized voice of the female Comcast robo caller told me I was getting a visit from 9-11am, I was stunned.

When the tech arrived, and I shared my Philippines story with him, he grimaced   He nodded his head as he told me even he has to go through the Philippines to get help.  I asked him if he was talking about work or at home, and he said, “both.”

Then he went on to prove his point by calling Comcast tech field support — in the Philippines! — on speakerphone to get the replacement modem programmed.  I could barely understand what the guy on the other end was saying.  When the call was complete, I asked him how he was able to understand what was being said, and the tech told me it didn’t matter what was being said because they’re both following a programming setup that requires steps, so each side already knows what’s going to happen next, so understanding each other is not an issue.

How do you handle language disconnects when you’re trying to get a problem fixed?  Is it enough that one side of the conversation understands while the other may not?  Or must each side of the conversation be fully engaged in complete comprehension to help ensure the problem has been identified and resolved?

Oh, and don’t get me started on how Comcast are now forcing your cable modem to be an open public WiFi hotspot by default — my tech didn’t even know that was happening, but I did — and I immediately turned off the public HotSpot in my account settings. Comcast can set up and manage their own neighborhood WiFi hotspots without involving my electricity bill or home broadband connection.