Stories

Comcast’s Amazing Turnaround: What happened to the utility we used to love to hate?

By Richard Sheridan, March 2nd 2020

I have a confession to make. I LOVE Comcast. They are a great company, with great people, great service, beautiful stores, a wonderful user experience, and a high-quality product that is easy to install and configure. And because of all these things, I’m gladly willing to pay what they charge me. There, I said it. I’ve been wanting to say this for years.

No, I haven’t lost my mind. No, Comcast is not paying me to write this. They are not a customer of my company. I have no relationship with them other than being a happy customer.

Everything about them is great. 

They are even greater when you compare them to the other services out there, such as AT&T U-verse and DirecTV. I have no beef with the other companies; it’s just that my adult children use their services, and there is simply NO comparison.

I’m not writing this as a product review but rather to exclaim to all Menlo Innovations followers what is actually possible if you change your culture. I am secretly hoping this will get me an invite into the inner sanctum of Comcast’s engineering and design team, their product management team, or their executive team, which must have cast a strong vision for a bright future.

What they do now is at such a level of excellence in design and service—and such a leap from what they used to do and what they used to be—that there just had to be such a declarative moment of purpose-driven vision to alter the course and trajectory of one of the most hated utilities in industry history. And that declaration must have come with such technical vision, prowess, and funding as to ripple up all the way to board members and significant shareholders.

Bravo, Comcast. You did it. You became the best at what you do in the face of a storm of relentless criticism and competition, so relentless that those who left you years ago will read this and wonder what the heck I am talking about. They hate you for what you used to be. They just will refuse to believe that such a change is actually possible.

I personally want to thank you not just as a customer but as a technology industry thought-leader who has created a company whose mission is to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology. There are so many negative examples I can use to demonstrate how bad technology has gotten—for example, the stupid chip-reading credit card machines that confound you (swipe or insert?) and frustrate you (blinking messages to NOT remove your card until they blink that you should and then yell at you with beeps) to the point where each credit card transaction becomes painful and makes you feel like a stupid user.

I speak about these negative examples around the world in talks I give about joy and technology. You, Comcast, used to be my FAVORITE negative example, and everybody cheered. They cheered even if their locality had a different service provider, because you all sucked in exactly the same ways. High prices, poor service, bad user experience, hard to install, harder to use, and you all just didn’t seem to care, because you were a local monopoly and you seemingly didn’t have to care.

Then you did. For some crazy reason. You decided as a company to care, deeply, about your customers. 

So what specifically are you doing today that makes me so happy? Let me count the ways.

Installation is a breeze. You automatically detect EVERYTHING. There is never any hunting through a poorly printed book of five-digit codes to match my TV with your equipment and your remote. Now, it just WORKS!! My wife still asks me to install the equipment, because she thinks it is still hard and frustrating. I am a hero at home. (Actually YOU are the hero but I don’t tell her that!)

Your remote is So. Damn. Cool. The buttons light up in the dark when you move it. A simple thing, I know; Apple taught us about accelerometers back in 2006. 

Your product is the only one I know of that ACTUALLY UNDERSTANDS human voice commands. Not Siri, not Alexa, not Hey Google, not every car I’ve ever been in, but YOU, Comcast! I have doubted for my entire technical career (I got my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Michigan in 1980) whether we could EVER teach a computer to interpret a human voice with great certainty and low frustration. You, Comcast, are changing my mind. How did you do that? I know you are a wealthy company, but Apple has $300B in the bank and they can’t do it.

You always go to the HD channels. Auto-frigging-matically. Even if I use the old station number—Channel 7 for WXYZ Detroit, an ABC affiliate—you go to the HD version of the station, so my old hard-coded channel memory is still useful. Thank you. In the old days, my wife would just stay on the old non-HD station because she didn’t want to learn the new channel numbers. In the interim period, you’d ask “Go to HD?” and she still wouldn’t hit the extra button. Now it just happens. (Pay attention, AT&T!)

You record the entire football game!!! Not just what is scheduled, but even the triple overtime—without my having to remember to tell you to “extend” ahead of time. It’s the most important part of a sporting event, and you just do it. Auto-frigging-matically.

Then there is your customer service. I LOVE talking to your people. You have voice-driven automated attendant features like everyone else—except yours actually work. Just like your remote, they understand my voice! And if I need a human, I don’t have to fight to get to one. And the humans are SO, well, human. They are so helpful, caring, and competent. Thank you. I know that doesn’t happen by accident.

And then there are the humans that come to my house when things need that kind of attention. I want to put the last guy who came on my Christmas card list and maybe even invite him over next Thanksgiving for the Lions game.

I have spent the last 20-plus years of my career believing that what you are now doing was in fact possible. It wasn’t an act of technology that got you here. It was an act of caring, loving, joyful leadership. That it could happen inside of a utility, and a large one at that, is remarkable.

Keep up the good work and, once again, THANK YOU. You inspire me to even greater heights in my own business vision.