EVERETT — A Comcast call center in south Everett plays a key role in keeping “Jeopardy!” on in Phoenix, the internet up in San Francisco and home security sensors active in Minneapolis.
The telecom giant has dedicated its call center here to working exclusively with 10,000 technicians in the field across a dozen states.
The Technician Support Center helps techs with troubleshooting and account questions on the “day of the job” — from the time the techs knock on a customer’s door to the time they leave.
“We knew if we make that technician’s day run smoothly and give them a great experience, that’s going to translate right to the customer,” said Jon Fleischmann, senior director of the Technician Support Center.
Comcast measures customer satisfaction through what’s called a “net promoter system,” based on how many people would recommend a company to family and friends.
“We used to have more customers saying bad things than good things, but now that has shifted,” Fleischmann said. “We have more customers saying good things than bad. And we want to keep on that trend.”
The call center at 900 132nd St. SW in Everett took its first call two years ago and has been receiving about 2 million calls or texts from techs a year. It’s received buy-in from the people who are doing the work. Call agent Danielle Flatto worked at the call center before the switch and continues there today.
“We have a lot more control with our techs to create a better customer experience,” Flatto said. “It makes me proud to be a Comcaster.”
Comcast has two major call centers in Snohomish County — one in Everett and one in Lynnwood. Those centers employ more than 1,300 workers.
The centers are part of the Philadelphia-based company’s West division, which includes a dozen mostly, contiguous states that stretch as far east as Texas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. About 9 million Comcast customers are in those states.
In the past, call centers throughout the division handled calls from customers and technicians alike. With this move, Comcast plucked support calls from techs and shifted them to Everett.
“It’s all about standardization, best practices and processes to get to our best product goal,” Fleischmann said.
Everett was selected because the site was about the right size but also because it was the highest-rated call center in the West division, Fleischmann said.
Comcast kept all of the agents at the center and shifted their jobs. Their pay is about the same. A typical agent receives about nine weeks of training. Only a handful of jobs were added, mostly through transfers, Fleischmann said. They handle all calls from techs working on residential voice, video, data and home security.
Call agents also meet weekly to talk about policy changes and new products and tools. Part of the agents’ job is to educate the techs in the field — most are in-house, but some are business partners — on what they can already do.
“And that’s really the goal to empower the techs to not have to call, quite frankly,” Fleischmann said.
Most of the calls are about account changes, Flatto said. Many are about troubleshooting problems that techs can’t handle themselves.
Call agents have a couple of internal tools, including a web page, to help them diagnose problems.
Call agents who notice unusual problems point them out to supervisors. Flatto remembers one error code that techs in the field were seeing one day recently.
“Because we were getting that call … and pushing it up the ladder, we got it fixed within 24 hours,” Flatto said.
While customer feedback has been improving, there are still challenges, Fleischmann said.
“I would say the biggest challenge is the standardization piece,” he said. “When somebody in Minnesota thinks they have the best practice, but truly, as a division, we decide that California’s the better way … managing through that change as humans is difficult.”
Comcast has been making a concerted effort to improve customer experience. The company has narrowed the window for arrival time for technicians to two-hours, for instance.
Another thing, the company has gone so far as to put the word “customer” on chairs around the office as a constant reminder that the customer is in the room.
“I think historically customer experience or customer service has been somewhat of negative out there in the public — that’s where our total focus is right now,” Fleischmann said. “How do we get this awesome customer experience to match our awesome product experience? With that, we’ll have the whole package.”
For the past several years, Comcast has seen a drop in cable subscribers but an increase in internet users.
“The goal isn’t really to compare ourselves with the Frontiers and the CenturyLinks of the world,” Fleischmann said. “We’re playing in the ballpark of the Apples, Amazons and Googles of the world.
“We’re there from a technology standpoint and now you’re looking at things that we’re doing in the customer service space of those companies. Those are our competitors in the future and now.”