After satisfactory market trials, Comcast has deployed across its footprint an app, Tech ETA, that lets customers track the whereabouts of appointed service technicians.
Comcast first introduced the Uber-like app back in November 2014, giving customers insight within a margin of 30 minutes as to when a tech will show up at their door.
“We’ve held trials of Tech ETA in various markets throughout our footprint, collecting feedback from customers and technicians,” Comcast spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said in an email to FierceCable. “This week, we’ve formally launched Tech ETA to all our customers, so they can easily monitor when our technicians are on their way for a scheduled appointment through the My Account app.”
The app was touted on the Comcast corporate blog by the operator’s customer service czar, Charlie Herrin, who said it’s narrowing the appointment window it offers customers from four to two hours. Herrin also said the cable company is getting better at on-time arrivals. “In fact, we closed 2016 with a 97% on-time arrival rate, getting even closer to our goal of being on-time every time,” he said.
Like TechTracker, a similar consumer app launched by the erstwhile Time Warner Cable several years ago, Tech ETA relies on backend tools provided by CSG International. Comcast called its version the “Dynamic Dispatch System.” The software lets the MSO track and coordinate a range of field activities conducted by not only its in-house techs, but subcontractors as well.
CSG said the apps are essential in a cable business that has expanded beyond just video and broadband to an array of home-automation services, resulting in more complex installation scheduling needs.
Critics, however, say the system puts installers perpetually on the clock, scheduling their every move, and assigning jobs that may not be logistically efficient to independent contractors.
"What they're doing is Uber-izing cable installers," attorney David Blanchard, who is currently representing numerous independent installation contractors against a Comcast subcontractor in Michigan alleging unfair labor practices, told FierceTelecom last year.
Blanchard said besides leading to micromanagement, the apps tend to favor company efficiency over what makes geographical sense to the installer, resulting in issues such as higher fuel consumption and reduced billable projects.
Speaking in a Slate story regarding the apps, also published last year, Scott Dutton, CSG director of product management, argued the apps do factor in geographical location and traffic patterns, and actually make installation work more efficient for indie contractors.
"We drip-feed work to the technician," Dutton said. "We assign you this job, that job ends, and we assign you this one. They don't have to worry because as soon as one job ends, we assign them the next one."