I’ve been a Comcast customer for just over a year, and evidently have had a different experience than many people–at least if blog comments are any indication.

While researching my previous post on a Comcast customer who videotaped a sleeping Comcast repairman, I read many flaming comments about the quality of Comcast’s service. The Comcast repairman who came to my house last Saturday had a similar problem than the one that contributed to the other repairman’s sleep episode. But my repairman’s communication efforts were a definite plus.

I signed up last year for a package deal: Comcast digital telephone, Internet and cable television. None of them have been any trouble, and in fact, I’m much happier than when I suffered through a period with a satellite TV provider. You want to complain? Try justifying the expense of satellite when your signal goes out for long periods of time whenever a modest storm passes by. We even lost service on sunny days, with no apparent cause.

So when Comcast called recently to offer us the chance to change to its new digital phone service (basically VOIP, like Vonage), we gladly accepted the offer. On Saturday, “Chuck” the repairman (not his real name–I’ll be darned if I get a good worker fired) showed up within the timeframe that we expected (the three-hour window), and got straight to work. I was looking for a way to bring up the story of the sleeping Comcast repairman, when Chuck brought up the issue in a roundabout way.

As he hooked up my new modem, Chuck told me that the setup work would be quick, but that it would take a long time for him to complete the job. Why? Because part of the work involved Chuck and his call center exchanging phone calls, to ensure that the line works both for inbound and outbound calls. “I’ve had waits as long as an hour,” Chuck said ruefully.

That was almost unbelievable to me, an employee of a financial services company that operates three call centers in the U.S. and one in Canada. We worry about hold times that exceed 60 seconds, let alone 60 minutes! After I asked him what was causing those extreme wait times, Chuck explained that Comcast had nearly 500 repairmen (and women) like him servicing accounts in the Chicago metro region. Comcast was pushing to get the maximum number of customer installs scheduled in the second quarter, to improve the company’s financials.

But those 500 repairmen had to wait for one of the less than 10 service representatives in Comcast’s call center. The backlog should have been anticipated by Comcast–and additional staff hired and trained. But that didn’t happen. So after a few minutes of standing in my basement with his phone on hold, waiting for a customer service rep, Chuck excused himself and said he was going to wait in his truck. Sure enough, it was somewhere between 30-45 minutes later when he reentered my home and finished the install procedure.

I thanked him and told him that he had been excellent. Did I say that because the install was speedy? Obviously not. I said it because he told me to expect a longer timeframe from the beginning. No surprises. And although he may have taken a nap in his truck, I wouldn’t know and I wouldn’t care. Chuck had the sense to limit his impact on my life.

Of course, Comcast had better come to its senses regarding staffing its call center. As one blog commenter stated:

While there’s no excuse for someone falling asleep on the job, it does point to the importance of telecom providers providing quality, rapid customer service, even when the ‘customer’ is an employee.