Just a few weeks after he was named to the post, Comcast senior vice president of customer experience Charlie Herrin got to experience the feeling of eating crow, issuing a public apology to a former accounting firm employee who lost his job reportedly for complaining about his cable service.
Conal O’Rourke, a former accountant for PricewaterhouseCoopers in San Jose, Calif., went through a months-long customer service nightmare with Comcast, complete with erroneous billing, receiving equipment he didn’t order and watching his high-speed Internet speeds slow to a crawl.
“What happened with Mr. O’Rourke's service is completely unacceptable,” Herrin said in a blog posting. “Despite our attempts to address Mr. O’Rourke’s issues, we simply dropped the ball and did not make things right. Mr. O’Rourke deserves another apology from us and we’re making this one publicly.
Herrin, who had been in product development – he led the team that developed the X1 platform – was named to the customer service post in September.
O’Rourke’s dilemma, detailed here at tech website Ars Technica, ended in his being dismissed from PwC after he called Comcast corporate accounting chief Lawrence Salva to complain. That call apparently triggered an investigation by an unnamed Comcast employee, who determined that O’Rourke worked at PwC (a firm where Salva served as a partner for more than 12 years before joining Comcast in 2000). Comcast, which is a client of PwC’s then contacted PwC partner Joseph Atkinson, complaining that O’Rourke had invoked his relationship with PwC (which O’Rourke has denied) to gain leverage with Comcast customer service. O’Rourke told Ars Technica that on Feb. 7 he was subjected to an internal ethics investigation as a result of the call and was terminated on Feb. 18 (ironically or not, just five days after Comcast announced its pending merger with Time Warner Cable on Feb. 13).
Herrin said in the blog posting that no one at Comcast ever asked for him to be fired. But the newly minted customer care chief said that the company will work diligently to determine exactly what broke down in the service chain.
“We’re also determined to get to the bottom of exactly what happened with his service, figure out what went wrong at every point along the way, and fix any underlying issues,” Herrin said in the post. “I’m a few weeks into a new role at Comcast which is entirely focused on what we can do to make the customer experience better. We need to make sure that every interaction is excellent … from the moment a customer orders a new service, to the installation, to the way we communicate with them, to how we respond to any issues. We’re holding ourselves accountable and we are working hard to make real improvements across the board. While it will take us some time, we can and will do better than this.”
This is the second high-profile customer service slip Comcast has experienced this year as it tries to convince federal regulators that its union with Time Warner Cable will be iln the public interest. In July it suffered a black eye after a tech journalist went through a lengthy phone ordeal just to disconnect his service.
According to Ars Technica, O’Rourke has hired an attorney and is asking for a public apology, his job at PwC back and $100, 312.50 by Oct. 14. The website said O’Rourke’s attorney called the Comcast apology “hollow,” and noted that the Oct. 14 deadline still stands.