Internal Comcast Memo Says Consumerist Is All About “Headlines,” So Here’s One For Them

Earlier this month, Consumerist readers voted to hand Comcast its second Worst Company In America title, the results undoubtedly tied to the cable company’s ill-advised decision to acquire equally cruddy pay-TV provider Time Warner Cable. But rather than own up to — or even ignore — its WCIA tournament victory, the company chose to send out a memo to thousands of employees name-checking Consumerist and accusing us of being all about making headlines.

You can read the entire memo, written by Kevin Casey, President of Comcast’s Northeast Division, at the bottom of this post, but we’ll look specifically at some portions that stood out to us.

Here’s a paragraph in which Casey tells employees to blow off studies by groups that disprove of the merger and to listen to one particular study (but don’t look too closely because you’ll see just how badly the company is still doing):

We cannot make excuses for even one bad experience, but you should know that some of the more recent surveys were conducted by groups like Consumers Union, which have been actively lobbying against the proposed merger from the start. Others, like Consumerist, are designed more for media headlines than accuracy or insight. We have seen steady improvement on other large-scale, credible customer service surveys, including ones from the internationally-recognized J.D. Power & Associates, where since 2010, Comcast has improved more than any other provider in the industry, boosting overall TV satisfaction by 92 points and Internet satisfaction by 77 points.

Let’s break this paragraph down, shall we?
1. “[S]ome of the more recent surveys were conducted by groups like Consumers Union, which have been actively lobbying against the proposed merger from the start.”

We’re not going to speak for our colleagues at Consumers Union — which is the advocacy and public policy division of Consumer Reports — but we’re pretty sure that Casey is referring to CR’s annual telecom survey, which recently ranked Comcast and Time Warner as the worst-performing of the large cable companies (only one, minor, regional provider had a worse showing).

Thing is, while those survey results were made public in March, weeks after the merger, the actual national survey of more than 80,000 Consumer Reports readers was finished long before Comcast announced its intentions to merge with TWC.

Additionally, both Comcast and TWC have historically performed poorly in CR’s annual survey, so the recent results are no anomaly tied to a merger announcement that didn’t happen until after the survey was completed.

2. “Others, like Consumerist, are designed more for media headlines than accuracy or insight.”

This is a common complaint from companies involved in Worst Company voting, but one that is never really backed up with any evidence.

Consumerist is not ad-supported, so this notion that we run the WCIA tournament every year for pageview or visit spikes is a non-starter; there is no financial benefit to the site or to any of the staffers.

Where were all the big “media headlines” surrounding Comcast’s win? There were no TV or radio appearances made regarding this year’s tournament results, and only a handful of mentions in major online news outlets. Unlike Comcast, which blasts out press releases — presumably in the hopes of getting headlines — for every minor development at the company, we didn’t send out a release or make an announcement to the media about this year’s tournament.

We received significantly more media attention for previous WCIA wins by BP and EA; of course neither of those are the nation’s largest cable operator/ISP and operators one of its largest broadcasters and media networks.

We run the tournament because it’s a fun and interesting way to test the waters to see what’s ticking off consumers. If lots of people vote in or read about the WCIA tournament, the only benefit to us is the satisfaction in knowing that more people are discussing the topic. And if your company repeatedly makes the bracket, you’ve only your low customer satisfaction ratings to blame.

And Comcast should not throw stones when it comes time to question anyone’s commitment to truth and accuracy.

• This is a company that took advantage of decades of antiquated regional exclusivity deals to become a massive pay-TV and Internet provider with local monopolies in almost every market in which it operates, but whose CEO (and son of the company’s founder) now points to those same arrangements and complains that his only solution for expanding the company is to acquire another monstrous pay-TV player.

• This is a company that not only managed to shove a merger with NBC Universal down regulators’ throats, but then had the gall to almost immediately hire away one of the FCC commissioners that championed the deal and give her a job as a high-priced lobbyist.

• This is a company that repeatedly boasts that it is the only ISP that is guaranteed to oblige by the recently gutted net neutrality rules, while leaving out the little part about how Comcast is legally obliged to follow those guidelines through 2018 as part of its deal with regulators for approving the NBC merger.

• This is a company that has started testing data caps around the country, but refuses to use that term, instead calling them “data thresholds,” mostly because a cap would imply that you can’t go past that limit, while a threshold can be passed (and the customer can be charged extra).

And speaking of Comcast’s dedication to truthiness, let’s look at the final claim made in the above paragraph:

3. “We have seen steady improvement on other large-scale, credible customer service surveys, including ones from the internationally-recognized J.D. Power & Associates, where since 2010, Comcast has improved more than any other provider in the industry, boosting overall TV satisfaction by 92 points and Internet satisfaction by 77 points.”

Notice how Casey mentions “surveys” but only cites the J.D. Power results? Notice how he doesn’t link to those results or show how Comcast fared in relation to its competition? There’s a reason for that.

As we pointed out in our dissection of the New York Times’ misleading love letter to Comcast and CEO Roberts, Comcast may indeed have improved in the J.D. Power ratings, but it still has average or below-average scores across the board in every region.

Just check them out for yourself here and here.

In all seven categories, across all four regions, Comcast’s pay-TV service failed to score anything better than an “about average” rating from J.D. Power. The only companies to consistently fare as poorly or worse were Time Warner Cable and Charter, coincidentally the two companies that Comcast is currently in a menage a merge with.

Comcast’s Internet service performed slightly better, in that in one single category in one region it scored a high rating. All the other categories in all regions of the J.D. Power survey were “about average” or worse.

So this is like me bragging that I’ve improved by free-throw percentage by 25%, without telling you that my baseline free-throw shooting is so bad I might as well be tossing a medicine ball one-handed while blindfolded.

And Casey, like all his kin at Comcast, completely omits the work done by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, whose surveys put Comcast dead-last among ISPs and second only to TWC as the worst pay-TV provider.

Is Comcast actually the Worst Company In America? Consumerist voters said yes; that’s just as valid as a handful of foreign press reporters picking Golden Globe winners or silver-haired movie industry types selecting the Best Picture Oscar-winner.

If CR or Consumerist had done a survey that found Comcast to be among the best in its industry, you can bet that Casey and his fellow execs would be itching to use that to market their products (Thank god for a good No Commercial Use Policy).

But since we didn’t, the only thing they can do is try to discredit us. Better luck next time.

For those interested, below is the entire letter from Casey to the 24,000 Comcast staffers under his umbrella…

Dear Northeast Division Comcaster,

When we announced our intentions with Time Warner Cable on February 13, I asked you to work to stay focused on the tasks at hand, despite the inevitable distractions. I can’t be more proud of the laser-like focus you’ve demonstrated, and thanks to the teamwork, ownership and accountability of each and every one of you, we closed out a terrific first quarter of 2014 and met or exceeded virtually all our Northeast Division goals.

As you’ve no doubt realized, there’s a great deal of “noise” surrounding the Time Warner Cable deal, and this is only going to increase over the coming weeks and months as the review process continues. I am again asking you to remain focused on the day-to-day operations of running our business and on the areas we can each personally control – but I also want to acknowledge how difficult it can be to read negative stories about our Company in the press, to see things posted to social media, or to just hear friends and family commenting on reports they’ve seen or heard.

Criticism of any deal is normal, and I can assure you our government affairs and public relations teams across the Company are working around the clock to address inaccuracies and educate key audiences and stakeholders. It’s a reality that the bigger and more successful we are, the more we become a target for people and organizations with various special interests, sometimes unfairly, and we just need to have a “tougher skin.”

There is one area in particular, though, I want to address head-on with you, and that’s the recent coverage of our customer service. Every one of us has been working to improve our customers’ experiences and we have made significant progress reducing trouble calls and truck rolls; increasing first call resolution; ensuring on-time appointments; giving our customers more control over how they do business with us through self-service options; and improving overall customer satisfaction. We are continuing to make significant investments to transform the customer experience, and though we all know we are not yet where we want or need to be, we also can’t allow ourselves to get discouraged by surveys or polls that place us toward the bottom of customer rankings.

We cannot make excuses for even one bad experience, but you should know that some of the more recent surveys were conducted by groups like Consumers Union, which have been actively lobbying against the proposed merger from the start. Others, like Consumerist, are designed more for media headlines than accuracy or insight. We have seen steady improvement on other large-scale, credible customer service surveys, including ones from the internationally-recognized J.D. Power & Associates, where since 2010, Comcast has improved more than any other provider in the industry, boosting overall TV satisfaction by 92 points and Internet satisfaction by 77 points.

We are investing billions of dollars to transform the end-to-end customer experience through highly skilled and empowered employees, improved care and tech tools, self-service options like the recently launched My Account app, and innovation in our back office systems. In addition, we continue to invest in our network and in product innovations, the results of which are faster speeds, additional Cloud DVR markets, further X1 enhancements and much more over the coming weeks and months.

We have many things to feel good about this year, and I want to thank you for your passion and dedication. Let’s keep focused on the things we can control and I’m confident we’ll continue to make good progress toward our goals.

Regards,
Kevin Casey
President
Northeast Division

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  1. wsuschmitt says:

    You at Consumerist continue to stand up for us, the little guys… the consumers. We, as individuals, have very small voices and it is very hard to get a large corporation to take the time to listen to us because we are just one, whereas a business customer may be dozens or thousands and THEIR voices are heard and responded to before OUR individual voices are heard.

    THANK YOU for continuing to help educate us as to what we need to be looking out for in the big, crazy world that is modern consumerism. There are those companies that are subtly manipulating laws and lawmakers to THEIR advantage, making it worse for US. Please, keep up the good work!

  2. Liberal says:

    To the author. That received way more of a response than their crap deserved. Do not take it personal when a cruddy company takes swipes at you. Think how those employees must have felt knowing that only a cruddy company would take those type low shots in a captive audience that needs to eat. That’s what they do so well is deceive! Kinda a badge of honor of be noticed. Who knew a corporation could read? We know they have no moral compass. Good job.

  3. StevenB says:

    ^5 Chris. Touché! That was such a good and fun read. Comcast is full of it. I’m glad Consumerist is around.