Comcast Launches Sleek New Stores to Repair its Ailing Customer-Service Reputation

They're taking a page out of the Apple Store model. But will it change the company's perception in the eyes of customers?

The new Xfinity store in Havertown.

The new Xfinity store in Havertown.

Comcast has unveiled a new weapon in its fight to repair its reputation on customer service — sleek new retail stores. Much maligned for its handling of customer interactions, the company has responded by launching several Xfinity stores in the Greater Philadelphia area. One is a new 4,000 square-foot pilot store in Havertown that has plenty more bells and whistles than the others.

Nestled in a busy shopping center off West Township Line Road (rather than tucked away in an office park someplace) the Xfinity store features comfy couches, big-screen TVs and customer-service reps that chat with patrons at picnic tables rather than making them languish in line while waiting for service.

It’s also the first time that Comcast is selling ancillary items like HDMI cords, routers and headphones. It’s even selling 32 -inch Samsung TVs for $219.95, universal remotes for $249.95 and Minions plush toys for $19.95. There are also stations that allow customers to test out products like the Xfinity Home security system, as well as pay bills and exchange equipment.

There are six different cashier stations and two self-service kiosks. Soon, Comcast reps will be armed with iPads so they can handle transactions anywhere in the store. There are also areas for customers to explore smartphone apps and get step-by-step instructions on installing equipment like cable boxes and routers.

Comcast is certainly taking a page from the crisp, clean Apple Store model — which is quite a difference from the old Comcast store model, where staff was plunked behind glass walls and could only really handle billing questions and exchanging cable boxes.

The company didn’t add retail items so it could make extra money but instead to provide an “add-on to the customer experience,” said Jennifer Bilotta, senior director of public relations for Comcast.

The stores are certainly a sign that Comcast knows it has to repair its dreadful customer-service record. It’s hoping that by facilitating human-to-human interactions — rather than having customers talk with phone operators — it’ll sway its customer base back into its favor. It also hopes that once subscribers get their hands on new technology — like the X1 operating system, voice-activated remotes and apps that let users DVR shows or stream live TV — they’ll have a different view of the company.

Think about it. If customers learn to install cable boxes, modems or other equipment themselves, that means less time on the phone and avoiding a Comcast tech coming to your house.

“It’s not their favorite thing to have a tech come into their house, so many people will ask to do it themselves,” said Bilotta. “We’re seeing a great reduction in reports of self-install kit failures because of this pre-education.”

Store Manager Earl Thornton said that customers have been pleasantly surprised by the welcoming environment.

They’re just wowed by the look and that we can do a lot more than just swap boxes,” said Thornton. “It changes the whole perception for the customer. I think going from the old legacy store to here, the customers are a lot happier. It’s more of a conversation. We’re discussing more than just services and there’s kind of a ‘mom and pop’ feel. I think we’re on the right path.”

Will it help convince customers that Comcast has turned a new leaf? Customer Shalonda Tate was certainly impressed when she visited the store earlier this week.

“I think it’s clean, organized and the greetings were warm when I came through the door,” she said. “They’re moving forward, that’s what I like.”

Store Manager Earl Thornton.

Store Manager Earl Thornton.

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Check it out. Comcast employees aren’t behind glass anymore!

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This customer lounged on a sofa watching TV while waiting to chat with a Comcast rep.

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Here’s a bunch of retail items Comcast is now selling. Those headphones cost $169.95. The 32-inch TVs cost $219.95.

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Here’s an area to demo Xfinity Home.