TECH
11/26/2014 07:44 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Waiting For Comcast Cable Guy Could Be Less Hellish With New App Feature

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Can an app help reboot Comcast's image?

Between surveys showing many dissatisfied customers and the "Customer Service Call From Hell" heard 'round the world, the Comcast brand has taken a beating in recent months.

But the country's largest cable operator says it's making changes and investing billions of dollars to improve the customer experience. One of the latest efforts aims to help you spend less time waiting for the technician to fix your Internet or TV service.

Comcast is testing a new service in its MyAccount app that allows customers to track the arriving technician in real time on their mobile devices. The app will tell you when the technician is 30 minutes away -- so in theory you could come home from work to meet the rep. The app will also tell you if the tech has been held up and will be late.

Of course, many people have commutes longer than 30 minutes, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.

"You have things to do," Charlie Herrin, senior vice president of customer experience at Comcast, wrote in a blog post announcing the new feature. "Waiting for us to show up shouldn’t be one of them."

Comcast is certainly not winning any popularity contests these days. In May, the American Consumer Satisfaction Index ranked the company second to last in its yearly ranking of consumer satisfaction.

In July, a recording of a customer service call went viral. During the call, a Comcast rep simply wouldn't let Ryan Block, a product manager at AOL (parent company of The Huffington Post), disconnect from Comcast. The recording did prompt Comcast to publicly apologize to Block.

The new tool, which seems similar to the car-tracking feature in popular ride-summoning apps like Uber and Lyft, is only being tested in Boston. But if the tests go well, the company wants to roll it out to more customers next year, Herrin wrote in the blog post.

A Comcast spokesperson said it was too early to identify the specific markets that would see the new feature early next year.

The tool borrows another element from the on-demand car service apps: You'll be able to rate your service experience.

Unlike the transportation market -- in many cities you can choose among taxis, car services and ride-summoning apps -- many people don't have much of an alternative if they have a bad experience with a Comcast tech. As Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, recently pointed out, most people have no real choice when it comes to truly high-speed Internet.

This new feature in Comcast's app comes as the company tries to complete a $45 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable, the second largest cable operator in the country. (Time Warner Cable held last place in that American Consumer Satisfaction Index.) The deal, which has opposition from consumer advocacy groups, still needs to be approved by federal regulators.

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