CHICAGO – Comcast kicked off a major customer care initiative Tuesday, announcing that it will hire 5,500 customer service reps over the next three years, unveiling a prototype Studio XFinity store where customers and potential customers can try out the latest technology and announcing new programs aimed at enhancing the customer experience.
Comcast said it will hire about 5,500 CSRs across the country, 2,000 of them at three new call centers in Spokane, Wash.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Albuquerque, N.M. The Albuquerque center will open first, staffed with bilingual employees that will speak with Spanish-speaking customers across the country. The other two centers will open later this year.
In addition, Comcast revealed a prototype Studio Xfinity store in Chicago – slated to officially open in June – which will allow customers and potential customers to explore XFinity products and services and purchase them if they want. But the emphasis will be more on educating customers rather than the hard sell.
“We’re looking at this as a huge opportunity,” Comcast chairman Brian Roberts said of the Studio XFinity stores and the customer care moves. “As we improve the service and offer more and more products, customers are saying ‘Gosh, I didn’t know I could do that.’”
Comcast has about 500 retail stores across the country and has revamped 125 of them. The Chicago Studio XFinity is a flagship store, so chances are other converted locations will not look the same.
Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit said the stores are only part of the changes in store for Comcast, all aimed at making the customer experience better. He added that the customer care unit has a budget of about $300 million and the additional employees will be added to that.
But among the bells and whistles – including on-screen notifications that the batteries in the customer remote need changing, and mobile tracking of service technicians – are several back to basics initiatives. Those include an always on time pledge that will take effect in the third quarter, which would automatically credit a customer’s account $20 if a service technician is one minute late for an appointment.
Comcast EVP of customer experience Charlie Herrin said its customer care plan is broken down into four basic tenets: seeing things through the customer’s eyes; simplifying transactions; using creative technology to help customers enjoy the experience and giving employees the tools and training the need to deliver a top-notch customer experience.
Comcast has taken it on the chin on the customer service side especially during the approval process or the Time Warner Cable merger that was terminated late last month. Roberts acknowledged that there have been some black eyes on the service front, but added that they inspired the Comcast team to do better.
Roberts said that while those highly publicized slip-ups were minuscule compared to the 350 million customer calls the company receives each year, they were totally unacceptable.
“It was a rallying cry inside the company, that we are going to top to bottom rethink every way we do business,” Roberts said. "Will we ever be perfect? I think the bar is always rising.”