An Example of a Poor UI and Poor Customer Service

Or, perhaps more fittingly, why I am unhappy with Comcast.

Since I got back to Colorado from Hawaii in 2003, I’ve used, and been relatively happy with, Comcast broadband Internet. There have been issues, but nothing that has been so bad as for me to consider moving to another service.

Unfortunately, that changed last week.

Let me back up and say that I don’t often use my Blog to call out a company for something irritating (that’s usually relegated to Twitter). In this case, however, I feel it a good object lesson in how poor design coupled with horrible customer service can transform a (mostly) satisfied customer and cause them to look into other options.

What took place is pretty simple to understand. My wife and I share the account, and her email address is one of the six email accounts that I can have attached to our service. She decided she wanted to add another address. What she didn’t know, and what the UI didn’t tell her (in BIG RED WARNING LETTERS) was she was actually changing her email account. Without any “are you sure you understand what you are doing and want to do this?” type of dialog, her email address was changed and her previous account stopped receiving mail immediately.

When she realized what happened, she frantically clicked back to get her old address re-activated, but the UI continued to tell her the username was in use even though it had been deactivated.

She called me pretty upset, and I got on the phone with Comcast. They told me that they couldn’t do anything about the issue for a minimum of 30 days. When I asked them why, they told me that when an email address is deactivated, it gets placed into a “holding” status for 30 days to insure another person doesn’t take the alias and start receiving mail intended for another customer. This makes a lot of sense to me. The odd thing is that they couldn’t re-activate it for the same customer!

I told the CSR on the phone that someone should be able to quite easily login to their database and type something like:

update user set status="active" where username = "[Amber's username]";

and that, while I knew he couldn’t do it, someone with a shiny Comcast data-center badge could.

After much back and forth, he finally submitted an “IT” ticket for me. Since then, and his promise that this would be resolved in 72 hours (over a week and a half ago from today), I’ve heard nothing.

There are a couple of lessons here. The first is that it is obvious Comcast doesn’t get how important an email address is. I would have rather Amber lost her phone number than her email address. From our online banking to Facebook, it is extremely difficult to change an email address when you have no access to the old one. Most services send confirmation messages to the old email address. The CSR I spoke with and Comcast’s policies in general around this issue prove that, while they claim to be on the vanguard of Internet technology, they just don’t get it. At all.

Secondly, it is extremely easy to add UI confirmations so do it! There is no excuse for this type of oversight whatsoever.

Our current plan is to switch over to Qwest Fiber as soon as it becomes available in our area. Unfortunately, Comcast has lost our confidence.


About johnnywey

Welcome to A Regular Expression. This blog is designed to reflect my thoughts on life, music, software design, Apple, faith, philosophy, and whatever else I can think of.

Posted on March 4, 2009, in General, Life. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. James Oltmans

    While I understand your frustration with Comcast I can say that Qwest was worse. Several years ago I had Qwest (things may have changed by now, I didn’t have Qwest Fiber just Qwest DSL). Anyway what I found was that either Qwest or the substandard router they sent me would disconnect me from the internet whenever I wasn’t using it thus needing a reboot of the router. They were not responsive in sending a new router and in the end I got pretty fed up with them. Also never ever ever believe a single ad they have when it comes to price. That’s the base price. They charge you for every little extra thing. “Oh you want the 3GB/s upstream rather than the standard 768kbs?” Yeah that’s another $10-$20/month extra. Not to mention the government fees on top of the base price which are easily another $10/month or more. Don’t get me started on their bundling either….

    Anyway, just a word of warning for you. And my advice is to never use the email addresses the ISP’s give you because if you ever change providers, you’re SOL and need to change.

  2. I’ve had my issues with Qwest as well. When I was using a modem to talk to a BBS (the good old days!) they would only guarantee a 2400 baud connection. The wiring in my neighborhood was awful but, because it carried 2400bps (just barely, I might add) they refused to come out and do anything to increase the line quality.

    I suppose there really isn’t a “good” utility Internet provider out there

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