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Comcast to Reduce Install Windows
From Four Hours to Less Than Two
by Karl Bode 12:35PM Tuesday Jun 21 2011
One of the biggest consumer annoyances in the broadband and TV business is having to schedule an entire day in order to wait for an installation technician that may -- or may not -- ever actually arrive within their assigned appointment window. Comcast hopes to reduce this annoyance somewhat by reducing repair and install appointment windows from four hours to two hours or less starting next year. According to Bloomberg, the move is part of Comcast's ongoing effort to improve their consumer reputation. According to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, the company is using new dispatch technology and equipping all technicians with laptops and handheld devices to guarantee on- time arrival within the shorter appointment windows. Missed appointments has plagued many cable operators, with Charter taking particular heat a few years back for often having no idea where late techs actually were, but lying to consumers that they were on the way.

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Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1

"The tech is on the way"

To be fair, the CSR is simply not given the resources to tell the customer where the tech is. Even the most helpful CSRs, and trust me despite the many posts and news stories there are actually CSRs who do care about the customer.

Of course one exploding cable modem or late/noshow tech is sadly worth 10 high quality Techs and CSRs who go beyond just doing things by the book quality.
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Sabre
Di relung hatiku bernyanyi bidadari

join:2005-05-17

Re: "The tech is on the way"

This is absolutely true. The person on the phone simply has no way of knowing. (I speak from experience.) Whether to criticise the company for not providing that information is another debate; just bear in mind the person on the phone is likely as frustrated as you are.

Also worth noting, because Comcast's support and tech dispatching is generally handled locally, a number of areas have already shortened their windows of time (it's been 2-hour timeframes for the past couple years in my area). Hopefully they can get this rolled out nationwide soon - it can only be a good thing.
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fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3

Re: "The tech is on the way"

You're making a general statement based across the board which is not accurate.

There are many systems that already employ technology that does tell a CSR if a tech is in route to the job or not yet. The newer version of TechNet has the technician updating their status and "in route" status as they move through their day. However, going IN ROUTE will only be about as good as 15 minutes, really.

There really is just no need for a customer to know WHERE the technician is at any given time - it's just not their concern. What DOES matter is that the tech 1) shows up to the appointment with in the time frame. (Remember a time frame is an ARRIVAL time, not a "it will be done by the end of this time" frame. 2) That if a tech is going to be late, it's only right that they communicate this information as soon as they know to dispatch and that a dispatcher SHOULD make every effort to reassign that job to an available tech who can arrive on time, or to notify the customer of a late arrival. Outside of that, there just is no need for a "customer" to know "where the tech is"..

Just as another note, while 2 hour time frames may be making it nationwide, there are already systems that have been operating under 2 hour time frames for years. Once again, the Twin Cities leads on that front ans has been offering 2 hour frames for many years already. Also, this system has worked from as early as 8am (with an 8 to 9am hour time frame) all the way up 9pm at night, even in the dead of winter.

Thespis
I'm not an actor, but I play one on TV.
Premium
join:2004-08-03
Keller, TX

Re: "The tech is on the way"

I don't think anyone was saying that the customer needs to know where the tech is. If the CSR doesn't know where the tech is, there's no way to tell the customer an ETA.
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NickD
Premium
join:2000-11-17
Princeton Junction, NJ

Re: "The tech is on the way"

Last time I had an outage due to poor signals I had to take 2 days off work. The tech did not show the first day at all.

HB
Maru Maru Mori Mori
Premium
join:2011-06-21
00000

1 recommendation

I don't see how they can do that...

...especially toward the end of the day. The nature of install jobs are some are easy, some are a PITA. Missing appointments all together is the problem that needs to be solved, not 8-12 or 1-5 vs 8-10, 10-12, 1-3, 3-5. If people are taking the morning or afternoon off work, so long as the job gets done that morning or afternoon I think customers would be plenty satisfied.

All the dispatch tech in the world isn't going to make the previous PITA job go faster.
rradina

join:2000-08-08
Chesterfield, MO

Re: I don't see how they can do that...

Based on the news article, it seems like they are doing to do dynamic dispatching. That is, a tech won't know where they are going next until they finish the current job. Their laptop/mobile device then tells where to go. This will work but it will probably result in higher transportation costs as techs won't have their tickets geographically planned like UPS/FedEx which determine the best route based on time/distance/taffic/left turn factors. (Yes, I read that UPS tries to plan routes that involve more right turns than left turns for obvious reasons.)

If they don't do this, then perhaps difficult calls will either have a maximum time or they are transferred to a group of "roving" techs who tackle difficult/time consuming tickets. However, I don't think the maximum time thing works to improve customer service.

rchandra
Stargate Universe fan
Premium
join:2000-11-09
14225-2105

Re: I don't see how they can do that...

Indeed, shippers/carriers do do that, and route planning including as many rights and as few lefts as possible has even been tested by the MythBusters!
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FFH5
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

1 recommendation

said by HB:

...especially toward the end of the day. The nature of install jobs are some are easy, some are a PITA. Missing appointments all together is the problem that needs to be solved, not 8-12 or 1-5 vs 8-10, 10-12, 1-3, 3-5. If people are taking the morning or afternoon off work, so long as the job gets done that morning or afternoon I think customers would be plenty satisfied.

All the dispatch tech in the world isn't going to make the previous PITA job go faster.

The problem is that they have no extra personnel that can be dispatched when the dispatched techs get behind. They have a projected workload that needs for example 1000 techs(or whatever actual # is). And they have on staff(and with sub contractors) 1000 techs(not taking in to account sicks & vacations, etc.) and not the 1100 they should have to handle delays and contingencies. And they will do nothing to address that underlying reality because of cost concerns. So the new window system might help a little, but it will do nothing to fix the real problem.

And I feel sorry for the techs. They will be harassed within an inch of their lives to stay on schedule, even though everyone knows that can't happen because of unknowns field workers will encounter.
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bobgwen

join:2001-07-07
Bartow, FL

Re: I don't see how they can do that...

said by FFH5:

said by HB:

...especially toward the end of the day. The nature of install jobs are some are easy, some are a PITA. Missing appointments all together is the problem that needs to be solved, not 8-12 or 1-5 vs 8-10, 10-12, 1-3, 3-5. If people are taking the morning or afternoon off work, so long as the job gets done that morning or afternoon I think customers would be plenty satisfied.

All the dispatch tech in the world isn't going to make the previous PITA job go faster.

The problem is that they have no extra personnel that can be dispatched when the dispatched techs get behind. They have a projected workload that needs for example 1000 techs(or whatever actual # is). And they have on staff(and with sub contractors) 1000 techs(not taking in to account sicks & vacations, etc.) and not the 1100 they should have to handle delays and contingencies. And they will do nothing to address that underlying reality because of cost concerns. So the new window system might help a little, but it will do nothing to fix the real problem.

And I feel sorry for the techs. They will be harassed within an inch of their lives to stay on schedule, even though everyone knows that can't happen because of unknowns field workers will encounter.

Amen brother for that last line. I retired from at&t and had a laptop and cell phone in my truck and still was late for repair calls because of unknowns that popped up on jobs. We were given the jobs one at a time but then sometimes had to drive clear across town to try to make the scheduled time. It didn't work then for us (and still doesn't) and it won't work for them.
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OSUGoose

join:2007-12-27
Columbus, OH

Re: I don't see how they can do that...

thats more the dispatch manager toying with what jobs are dynamic dispatched, vs letting the system do its job and ping ur truck via gps, and assign you the job around the block vs across the city/county, while another tech is doing the sam comming to your area and your going to his. places buy these systems then dont let them do what their designed for.

cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

1 recommendation

said by FFH5:

The problem is that they have no extra personnel that can be dispatched when the dispatched techs get behind. They have a projected workload that needs for example 1000 techs(or whatever actual # is). And they have on staff(and with sub contractors) 1000 techs(not taking in to account sicks & vacations, etc.) and not the 1100 they should have to handle delays and contingencies. And they will do nothing to address that underlying reality because of cost concerns. So the new window system might help a little, but it will do nothing to fix the real problem.

Easy. If you have 1000 techs, only schedule 800 jobs (or some other number less than the number of techs). If techs get done with ample time, robocall the next day's jobs and see if any are available that day. Or fill them in with unscheduled work orders that were told "as soon as we can get a tech out".

Scheduling and time management isn't unique to just the cable industry.

HB
Maru Maru Mori Mori
Premium
join:2011-06-21
00000

Re: I don't see how they can do that...

Problem is they would need to run it like the airlines where they sell more tickets than there are seats. So we would see them booking 1200 jobs and rely on people not being home, techs being faster than scheduled, etc. To do it the other way leaves money on the table and there is no way Comcast is going to do that.
hottboiinnc
ME

join:2003-10-15
Cleveland, OH
Companies like WOW! Actually do this. You're given a 2hour window and your tech shows up within that time slot. No problems with it and it works. There is no reason nobody else can do this.

vircotto

join:2002-06-04
searching...
said by HB:

... Missing appointments all together is the problem that needs to be solved, not 8-12 or 1-5 vs 8-10, 10-12, 1-3, 3-5.
...

Amen to that. Last time I tried to get Comcast HSI installed, the tech was a no-show for 5 appointments. It's so d*mn frustrating when the CSR can say nothing but, "We can reschedule you for ...."

Actually, after the 3rd (or 4th?) missed appointment, when I called just after the window closed to see if the tech was just running late, I was told that the tech was still out working. In fact, I guess that the person I was talking to (I'm not sure if I called the general 800 number or a local number I had gotten ahold of) contacted the local dispatching center (but forgot to put me on hold, so I could hear both ends of the conversation) who said the tech was finishing a job on XXXX Street (which was 1 block over from me and the entire street is about 1 mile long) and was headed for me next. Of course he never did show.

The last couple of appointments where the tech was a no-show were 2-hour windows. That certainly didn't seem to make a difference.

I know my point in this thread ends here, but I feel compelled to finish the installation story.

Eventually, one day when a tech finally showed up, it was late in the day. He did some stuff at the pole, then came in and ran the cable to the room where the modem would be. He then said it was well after quitting time and he'd return first thing in the morning to complete it. Of course he never returned. When I called in around noon to see why the tech never returned, the CSR kept insisting that the installation was completed. No matter what I said, he wouldn't believe me because his computer showed the job as complete. Finally, I asked him to run any diagnostic on my modem.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because you can't do it!" I replied.
"Sure I can." he insisted.
When I offered to bet him anything that he couldn't, suddenly his tone changed and he asked me why i was so sure.
"Because the modem is still in the box!" I said.
"Why's that?"
"Because the tech never finished the installation!"
At this point the CSR seemed to understand. Another appointment in another few days and a new tech was out and completed the job.

All I can say is that I hope Comcast really does improve.

NPGMBR

join:2001-03-28
Arlington, VA

Re: I don't see how they can do that...

My God thats enough to make you jump out a window. I've had several missed appointments for two different installs as well and its very frustrating when the tech tells dispatch that hes at your door when you know damd well hes not. Then dispatch tells you hes leaving because you're not answering the door only to find out moments later (after the tech has left) that he was at the wrong building way on the north side of the city.

That happened to me two times. Attention to detail matters!

Tanshin

join:2009-07-18
West Simsbury, CT
kudos:1

We'll see about this...

This ought to be interesting... AT&T has laptops in all trucks and most techs have iPhones or some other smart phone with them and yet they still have four hour windows that are mostly inaccurate (my tech came to my house three hours after the window closed yesterday... and it was a different tech than the one that first called and said he was on the way six hours before).

Unless Comcast finds a reliable and better system than AT&T, I'm not sure if they'll be that much better.
hottboiinnc
ME

join:2003-10-15
Cleveland, OH

Re: We'll see about this...

ATT has a contract that states Tech's only have to perform XX amount of jobs during the day/hour,etc. It's a union thing. And WOW! Internet, Cable and Phone already does this.

bobgwen

join:2001-07-07
Bartow, FL

Re: We'll see about this...

said by hottboiinnc:

ATT has a contract that states Tech's only have to perform XX amount of jobs during the day/hour,etc. It's a union thing. And WOW! Internet, Cable and Phone already does this.

You, sir, are wrong. There is nothing in the contract that states how many jobs are done in the day. The company determines how many jobs are allowed to be taken to be distributed to the techs for the day, irregardless of how many are working that day. The company is the one who makes the commitment to the customer how many repair tickets will get fixed that day no matter what happens and the tech does indeed care ( most of them) about the customer. Ya better get your facts straight before you make statements.
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hottboiinnc
ME

join:2003-10-15
Cleveland, OH

Re: We'll see about this...

You better claim down before attacking me. It has been disclosed that much of the Union- especially the Ameritech region has a limit on how many jobs they preform each day. Just because you may not have that does NOT mean others don't. And "most of them" does not count for even half. ATT cares about one thing and that's it. $$$$. Employees alike until you find the right office to complain to and show up at.

IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Broadban..
·Comcast

If they would just have reliable service

I cannot count how many times I have had Comcast technicians in my house to repair their service. I finally bought TiVo Premiere DVRs and have had no trouble with them. The Comcast DVRs are nothing but trouble and they use the better of the two major hardware vendors (Motorola/GI). I have also had countless visits related to internet/CDV issues. I now have the Verizon Wireless Home Phone Connect and have had no issues with it, I just never use it because I use my cell phone now most of the time. Most of the time, the techs plug their meter into the line, say the signal is fine, and blame it on outside plant/central office issues and nothing further is done.

I have never had a missed appointment, but have had techs that were late. Some of the late techs are the good techs because they really take their time and are devoted to their work, which is why they're late. I would rather have a late tech who resolves the issue than an early/on time tech that does not resolve the issue and I have to schedule another tech. Sometimes dispatch does not communicate clearly with the techs. When I bought my TiVo boxes, I ordered 2 cable (1 card per box x 2 boxes) cards and the tech (who was a nice guy) only had one cable card and I told him I ordered 2 so he goes and hunts down another truck and gets a card from another tech. One of them was bad so he had to hunt down another truck and gets another card and activated them (which I could do myself without a truck roll) and my TiVo boxes have been trouble free and it's been almost a year now. It seems the Comcast DVRs last about 3-4 months and then crash so another box swap means another truck roll. I hate going into their Springfield office, because it is like going to the Registry of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and you take a number based on the service (equipment, payment, etc). Or I can drive to the Westfield Office (which is the central office/headend) and be in and out. It's just easier to set up a truck roll because the tech can do more than just swap out a piece of equipment. Plus I don't have to waste my gas or time to go to their office constantly replacing defective equipment. As for my Modem, I own it outright so if that goes bad, I just stop by Best Buy and pick up another one (me going to Best Buy is like a kid in a candy store).
flbas1

join:2010-02-03
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Re: If they would just have reliable service

said by IowaCowboy:

I cannot count how many times I have had Comcast technicians in my house to repair their service. I finally bought TiVo Premiere DVRs and have had no trouble with them. The Comcast DVRs are nothing but trouble

Maybe that should be the lesson - sell cable service like its cable service, and allow others to bolt-on additional value-added service (like DVR)

King P
Don't blame me. I voted for Ron Paul
Premium
join:2004-11-17
Murfreesboro, TN

Why did I read this as...

"Comcast reduced to installing Windows"...am I the only one that saw it as that, at first glance? I mean, surely SOMEONE there knows Mac and/or Linux
/sarcasm

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Oedipus

join:2005-05-09
kudos:1

Re: Why did I read this as...

said by King P:

"Comcast reduced to installing Windows"...am I the only one that saw it as that, at first glance? I mean, surely SOMEONE there knows Mac and/or Linux
/sarcasm

I saw it too.

Morac
Cat god

join:2001-08-30
Riverside, NJ
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Comcast

Let customers installing things themselves

Comcast could reduce install windows to 0 hours if they would allow all installs to be done by the customer. That includes CableCARD installs which currently require an installer to show up and simply read numbers into a phone.
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IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Broadban..
·Comcast

Re: Let customers installing things themselves

It does not make sense. I think the only time they should require a tech is when they have to connect/disconnect the cable line at the pole or for installing wiring (inside or out). As for equipment, they should let the customer choose between having the equipment shipped to their house, central office pickup, or a truck roll. I prefer the truck roll since I don't have to go to their office (which is like going to the Registry of Motor Vehicle aka the DMV) and you know when the cable guy is going to show up unlike waiting for the UPS courier who is unpredictable. I am more than capable of reading the serial number off of a CableCard and inserting it into a TiVo box.
hottboiinnc
ME

join:2003-10-15
Cleveland, OH

Re: Let customers installing things themselves

and how are you going to turn on your cable line if the tech doesn't come out and do it? Most lines are disconnected from the pole after a customer disconnects. It's not all IP yet.

OSUGoose

join:2007-12-27
Columbus, OH

Re: Let customers installing things themselves

Well that can be handled by a 8a-8p apt the day before the install is due, just like AT&T does if the house used to have phone service, customer has service on the day/night its due, and if it dont work, then truck roll net day to resolve/troubleshoot.

Morac
Cat god

join:2001-08-30
Riverside, NJ
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Comcast
said by hottboiinnc:

and how are you going to turn on your cable line if the tech doesn't come out and do it? Most lines are disconnected from the pole after a customer disconnects. It's not all IP yet.

Techinically the customer doesn't need to be home for that. There's no reason for someone to sit at home for 4 hours when all the work is done outside.
--
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hottboiinnc
ME

join:2003-10-15
Cleveland, OH

Re: Let customers installing things themselves

to make sure the outlet is actually working- yes they do. Otherwise another truck roll is required.
flbas1

join:2010-02-03
Fort Lauderdale, FL
said by IowaCowboy:

It does not make sense. I think the only time they should require a tech is when they have to connect/disconnect the cable line at the pole.

or use smart technology to turn on/off the signal at the box, reduce a roll, etc.

the signal is already probably encrypted anyway, so there isn't anything to steal. they could just mail a box to a sub and have them connect the wire. when the box is connected, it sends back a signal which activates the line.

they just need to invest in their infrastructure and get off 20th century truck rolls.

No self inst

@comcast.net

Re: Let customers installing things themselves

So has anybody on this heard of noise on the return which in turn causes speed issues. So you want Grandma or Joe Nerd that doesn't have a clue what a good install is to do their own wiring. Too many times techs track ingress issues down to the customer home. Let the professionals do the install and they will let you flip the burgers.
flbas1

join:2010-02-03
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Re: Let customers installing things themselves

I said infrastructure - like converting the cable hub to be auto-sensing when a cable box is connected and then try to connect (like a router). then just fedex a box to the house. User connects the box from the coax. If it connects, and gets a good enough signal - then why send a truck? Oh - I know - so you can come and do that work!

Think about apartments where one tenant leaves, and another comes in. nothing really changed. but the need to rerun cable.

my friend got cable installed. the installer cut the old lines and reran new ones, drilled 2 new holes going outside, and it still didn't work. the installer came back 2x and drilled more holes and ran more cable. imagine the ease if the original lines were tested before cutting . . . by maybe having someone plug in the cable box to the cable system BEFORE cutting lines.

Yea, most people can put the rectangle in the power spot, and the cable in the round hole.

you don't see BestBuy having mandatory TV installation service, DVD installation service, etc.

it would be expensive - but it would reduce the wait time guaranteed by installers.

SoJoSteve

@comcast.net
Customers cannot set the clock on their VCR or microwave ovens! You expect Aunt Millie to install her own cable television?
BiggA

join:2005-11-23
EARTH
EXACTLY. People don't have to be home for the tech to install or validate the cable service up to the demarc. After the demarc is the customer's problem. They, do, however, need service centers that actually have a phone number to call and a way to figure out when they have stuff in stock to make it easier for the customer to get ahold of their gear. This doesn't really work for CDV when there's an alarm or other complicated wiring involved, however.
Joe12345678

join:2003-07-22
Des Plaines, IL

The cable guys are overscheduled

The cable guys are overscheduled and pay pre job just leads to rushed jobs and blow offs.

And some times the windows for working time don't have the time to do a good job or deal with 3-4 bad boxes or cable cards that need to be swaped to find a working one.

Now if the laptops and handheld devices can let the tech do hit's so they don't have to sit on hold to do them that will speed things up.

and the phone people can even do some as easy as telling the cable guy to be a one who knows about cable card / tru2way.

»Tru2way Continuing Comedy of Errors

»Tru2Way Comedy of Errors, Act II

•••

AlphaOne
I see
Premium
join:2004-02-21

It already happened

My appointment last week was a 2-hr window.
The tech rang the doorbell 3 minutes before the appointment, and out the door after 1.5 hrs.
We upgraded to triple play (add digital voice).
He replaced all connectors, from the pedestal to the cables that feeds the modem and MTA.
wrad

join:2003-09-11
Fort Pierce, FL

Laptop

Contractors must buy their own around here.

OSUGoose

join:2007-12-27
Columbus, OH

Re: Laptop

Easy fix, signa contract stating that if the laptop is lost/stolen the replacement cost is xxx and will be witheld from their check untill paid off of will take 50% of check till paid.
hottboiinnc
ME

join:2003-10-15
Cleveland, OH

Re: Laptop

Court's in many states won't agree to that. Would be better for the contract to purchase their own; just like they do other items.

jmn1207
Premium
join:2000-07-19
Ashburn, VA
kudos:1

Obligatory Caps Mention

Great, now you will have a shorter wait before you can start using your service to hit your cap.

SoJoSteve

@comcast.net

Ankle bracelets on Techs

Comcast should put high-tech ankle bracelets on their installation techs so they can be tracked... that way, when you call the CSR and ask where is the tech, she can report that he fell asleep on the couch at the previous customer's home.

/sarcasm
Joe12345678

join:2003-07-22
Des Plaines, IL

Re: Ankle bracelets on Techs

gps in the tucks costs less and does not need it's own battery.

greymane

@158.111.4.x

Without Service for 4.5 weeks so far

I had a tree take out the cable line to my house a full month ago and have been trying to get Comcast to drop a new line ever since. Two technicians only looked at the pole and saw the line still up and left. Problem was the line has a slice through it and the attached ground line is still holding it up. If they just look at the line they could see it was cut. I've taken off two afternoons in the last week so far and the scheduled technician has failed to show. Comcast's computer system say I canceled the appointments when I call to inquire why the tech failed to show. I'm out over $600 in wages for my time. Is their any way I can bill these wankers for my wasted time? Of course I can't work from home since my cable and internet are out.