A Tale of Great Customer Service

I have been battling perplexing and annoying Internet connectivity problems for nearly a month. Occasionally my digital local line drops out, and quite frequently, my Internet access has high latency or comes screeching to a full stop. For those that are into such things, a description of the problem and initial troubleshooting is below the cut.

Today, during a particularly bad patch of connectivity when I was trying to participate in a conference call & webcast, I got annoyed and managed to send a note out via twitter:

Nasty internet connection latency plus repeated digital phone service crashes means yet another call to Comcast. Isn’t telecom fun?

Much to my surprise, a Comcast technician replied to my tweet within 15 minutes with an offer to help.

This could have seemed a “big brother” type response, but the technician made both a non-intrusive open-ended offer to help and her twitter account was set up with obvious care – her name, a picture and a profile that indicated she was a real person.

Through @replies and DMs, she did proceed to help, rather successfully. It appears she provides support through this model all day long and is rather pretty darn effective at it.

By the end of the day, I had a call from a Tier 4 local plant technician who looked at my stats and records and agreed that there was indeed a problem with my Comcast connection. (Darn it, I wasn’t taping…) I will be getting a call from a field supervisor to set up an onsite trouble call early next week.

What Comcast didn’t know is that I work in call center technology for a similar Alaskan company, and am always interested in effective use of alternate support channels.

This is a nice model, a positive application of Twitter and the near-real time capabilities of the Internet, and I’d love to see our company adopt something similar in its technical support center.

Nicely done, Comcast!


Now for the technical details:

My ping times to various resources (Comcast, GCI, etc) were quite often in the 1.0 – 1.3 sec range with 10% to 50% packet loss. A traceroute indicated the problem was in the hop between my wireless router and the local Comcast router.

I’ve had Comcast out twice to work on the issue. The first tech indicated some neighborhood node issues; the second tech found nothing, but I persuaded her to replace my VOIP cable modem.

I also tried replacing my wireless router, thinking that might be the problem. I now have a lovely a dual band Airport Extreme N router. It’s connected by Cat5 cable to my cable modem.

Resetting the cable modem temporarily resolves the problem, but all too toon thereafter it’s back. There’s no pattern in time of day or association with machines on the network.

Today I decided to work direct connected to the cable modem to see if the problem continued in that configuration. (This was after trying and failing to buy tickets from Ticketmaster because of the latency.)

Not only did my access intermittently slow way down, and latency jump way up, but I also saw my cable modem reset itself multiple times over the course of a couple of hours, making land line calls and web conferences impossible.

The Comcast tech I originally spoke with had several excellent suggestions about my local network, but after she looked at the node, escalated the issue to her local plant technicians.

The tier 4 local technician looked at my traceroute data and correlated times of day with me and were convinced that there was indeed a node problem.

I’m looking forward to seeing Comcast onsite early next week.

8 Responses to “A Tale of Great Customer Service”

  1. MWT Says:

    Comcast isn’t the only one. I seem to pick up random followers who find me by keyword searching on stuff I’ve said. One time I was whining about PHP, and got a reply from a PHP helpdesk bot. There’s another follower who sells olive oil – I must’ve been talking about food at some point. It’s definitely more convenient for the person with the problem that way. ;)

  2. duncan Says:

    Our first challenge… doing even phone support well… sigh…

  3. Shawn Powers Says:

    I got the same Twitter service from Charter today too. Not quite as helpful as yours, but it wasn’t specific to me — rather a regional outage.

    I like this support model. A lot.

  4. Ilya Says:

    Based on what MWT says, I have a concern that this undoubtedly helpful model can easily deteriorate into a full-blown “telemarketing” assault, once more people and corporations get on it… Not that I use Twitter, anyway ;)

    I am nonetheless happy that smart people elsewhere make inventive use of “new” technologies. Kudos to Comcast and others.

  5. Political Activism, Critical Thought and Twitter « Nothing Sacred Says:

    [...] trouble with the Comcast services at her home, and she tweeted about it.  Within 15 minutes, a Comcast technician had responded to her tweet with an offer to assist, and she’s now on her way to a resolution of her [...]

  6. Tom Says:

    I’m wondering if this was a case of “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” My question would be if you actually called Comcast would the service have been similar, or were you given more help because you were more visible to the world, because of being on Twitter? I also wonder if the service tech who helped you was just a real nice person doing this on her own, but with the ability to bump things up the ladder, or would Twitter monitoring be part of her Comcast responsibilities?

    Because taking care of a highly visible squeaky wheel while serving up the same old “press 1 if you are using a telephone, press 2 if you have a problem, press 3 to repeat this message…” support with an Indian accent to the not-so-visible customers would be a bit misleading.

    But you did have a good experience, so just color me disgruntled… :)

  7. Brian Says:

    Yikes.

    Your issue sounds EXACTLY like my issue. The latency between my Airport Extreme router and the Comcast cable modem is so bad that I cannot connect into work via VPN to get my work done. Ping times of 400-700ms are typical, which makes everything painfully slow.

    What I noticed was that the ping times were great (80ms) right after the wireless router started, but within a couple of minutes, the ping times climbed sky high again.

    My next test will be to work for a day in “directly connected to the Cable modem” mode, as you did to see if the problem changes.

    I tried downgrading the Apple Airport Extreme firmware to all previous versions and I get the exact same problem.

    Please keep us informed on how your tech visit goes.

    Cheers,

    -Brian

  8. John Says:

    One of my favorite customer service quotes is “Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.” -KATE ZABRISKIE