How Comcast Makes Friends and Influences People

It ensures they get good customer service.

Long story at the Washingtonian over the weekend about how David Gregory,the former anchor of NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday-morning news snow, lost that gig. But it’s got a few insights into how Comcast operates — and specifically how it tries to win influence when it goes about the hard work of influence to people who can do things like (say) decide whether its merger with Time Warner Cable might go through.

There’s all the usual stuff about lobbyists, donations to minority-advocacy organizations, and the like. Then there’s this:

Comcast also had an even more personal way of sucking up to Washington. Its government-affairs team carried around “We’ll make it right” cards stamped with “priority assistance” codes for fast-tracking help and handed them out to congressional staffers, journalists, and other influential Washingtonians who complained about their service.

A Comcast spokeswoman says this practice isn’t exclusive to DC; every Comcast employee receives the cards, which they can distribute to any customer with cable or internet trouble. Nevertheless, efforts like this one have surely helped Comcast boost its standing inside the Beltway and improve its chances of winning regulatory approval for its next big conquest: merging with the second-largest cable provider in the country, Time Warner Cable.

Probably many companies do this, actually, but those companies don’t all have Comcast’s reputation for bad customer service. The company might make even more friends and fans if it gave everybody the good service it gives VIPs, no?

Update: Comcast responds in a blog post.

There has been some buzz around our ‘We’re On It’ program and we’d like to clarify a few details.

“We’re On It”– formerly “Make it right” – is a 4-year old program that gives every single one of our 80,000+ employees an opportunity to quickly help anyone dealing with a particularly challenging, unresolved billing and repair issue with their service. A “We’re on it” card includes a phone number to a no-wait customer service hotline, as well as a QR code that takes you to a website that can provide additional assistance.

The cards are available to all Comcast employees– no exceptions – and are used entirely at their discretion. We distribute them to our employees across the country every year. The card is not used to target specific customers or parts of the country … and it does not put people at the front of the line, it’s simply another option to get an issue resolved.

Across the company we are putting a huge amount of effort behind resolving our customer’s issues the first time and giving our employees the tools to get these issues resolved. But, when something goes wrong and we don’t get it right, we want all our employees to have the ability to help fix a customer’s issue wherever they encounter them – whether it’s at a neighbor’s house, or at their kid’s soccer game. It’s just one piece of a larger effort to give all of our employees the ability to help our customers.