Comcast to hire 5,500 new workers, spend $300M to bolster customer service

CHICAGO - While not conceding that its poor customer service reputation damned its $45 billion bid to acquire Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) with federal regulators, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) pledged to spend $300 million and hire 5,500 new workers to bolster its customer service acumen.

Speaking at a new Comcast concept retail store in Chicago,  alongside Neil Smit, president and CEO of Comcast Cable, and Charlie Herrin, executive VP of customer experience for Comcast, the company's top executive, Brian Roberts, said customer service issues were "probably not determinative" in the government rejecting the deal. 

He once again, however, conceded that Comcast had to improve its customer service reputation, and said the company will "embark on a complete transformation of what the customer service experience is all about."

In the immediate term, this will include the opening of three U.S.-based customer call centers in Albuquerque, N.M, Spokane, Wash., and Tucson, Ariz.,  which will include the hiring of 2,000 workers. 

"We said jointly as a group we've got to get the customer experience down," Smit said. "This is a challenge we haven't put enough into."

"There are times when you need to re-think things from a basic level," Herrin added. "We're on a mission."

Part of that mission will be the establishment of the so-called Xfinity Studio stores, boutique, Apple Store-like environments where, in Herrin's words, "Customers can learn about new products and play with them to see what they're all about."

The Chicago Xfinity Studio, which hosted Tuesday's event, will open in June, staffed by 32 employees. Comcast plans to convert an undisclosed number of its 500 service locations into similar Xfinity Studio-branded outlets.

While stories about customers getting manhandled and abused by Comcast reps continue to make their way through viral social media and tech blogs, Roberts noted that a number of improvements instituted under Herrin's nine-month tenure as customer service czar—such as apps that reduce the amount of time customers spend waiting for service calls—have already rendered improvements. 

Late appointments, for example, are already down 29 percent.

Given the predisposition of some media outlets and consumers to view Comcast as worse than chemical companies and large banks, Roberts was asked by FierceCable if these customer service improvements might be ignored by some. 

"We have to take it one day at a time," he said, taking the high road. "Our service will have to speak for us. At the end of the day, people will write what they want."

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