Someone Left Digital in My Yard

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Comcast (Personalized Experience)

Size matters and when companies want to create personalized digital experiences for customers they better follow the bouncing ball.    Everything is supposed to be easier and better right?  The problem is when companies like Comcast invest money in making it easier to have self service transactions which amounts to (saving money for themselves ultimately) they are not dealing with their customer service problems.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said “What unfortunately happens is we have about … 350 million interactions with consumers a year, between phone calls and truck calls. It may be over 400 million and that doesn’t count any online interactions which I think is over a billion. You get one-tenth of one-percent bad experience, that’s a lot of people – unacceptable. We have to be the best service provider or in the end, this company won’t be what I want it to be.”  

That was in December of 2013 where he was quoted in an article about constantly being on the worst companies in customer services list .    That was 3 years ago.. Comcast consistently has the bad rap of being “worst”

Comcast wants to clean up its notoriously messy act, and the telecom company plans spend $300 million and hire thousands of new employees in a bid to improve its awful customer service. 

You Left “A” Digital in My Yard

Comcast dug up my yard, not unusual I know but what they left me with was a horrible digital and physical experience that amounted to me self servicing my own yard.  In other words,  I am having to take care of their mess and pay for it.   I have a nice web interface that I can pay my bill through though.   All this digital strategy and poor customer service feels like I am talking to the television through my old 1985 remote asking for a channel change.   So as I talk to myself I will replace the dirt, grass and holes in my yard.

They Choose

Let’s examine for a moment what they could have done and how the experience could have leveraged a “Digital” strategy effectively without leaving me .. with a hole or in my case a series of holes in my yard.

  1. Notification –  They simply could have their work system tied to their customer systems in the same way they deal with outages.  “Good day, Comcast will be performing some routine maintenance in your area,  if you have any problems or concerns please go to www or dial xxx to let us know.”
  2. Follow Up –  They have contractors perform various aspects of digging and maintenance, probably a good idea to have at least one company representative at least have a quick check on the work.  Why wait for a problem?   There is an associated cost but the savings and the returns due to “world class” customer service will pay off.
  3. Follow Through – If a customer calls you, keep your promises. (They didn’t)

In 2014 Comcast spent 3 Billion on advertisement. I sure wish I was an advertising company as maybe they would pay more attention to me.   The reason a company that in some cases is the only service provider to millions (you get that) has to pay that amount of money in advertising is because something is wrong.

This Isn’t About Digital?

Sure it is…  When consulting companies tell you about the “Digital Experience” what are they saying?

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Oh.. yeah.. this is about the “Customer Experience”

Companies are treating and buzzing about this like it is a new thing.  It isn’t a new thing, it is taking care of your customers and striving to be the best at it.   It is leveraging whatever tools and technologies you have in place to make for a better experience so customers stay or come back.  It is working hard to “delight” and “serve” them.   If a wait staff spit in your dinner and threw it at you or ate some of your food, served it up and asked you to pay them more money than what was on the menu, you would walk out.  In this case, you are dining at one of if not the only place to eat in town.   You think it isn’t costly?
Here is my message to Comcast…

Ok, you got me…  funny right?  It is costing me a lot of money to fix what you damaged but it will be my absolute pleasure from here forward to donate my time to anyone who wants to “cut the cord” in fact, I will help people make antennas to get high quality digital signals over the air.

Cord cutting 101: How to quit cable for online streaming video

http://time.com/money/3767927/cable-tv-without-paying-bill/

http://www.popularmechanics.com/culture/tv/how-to/a6608/build-your-own-digital-tv-antenna/

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-choose-the-best-over-the-air-antenna-for-free-hd-1569752514

Cutting the Cord 2015 (Happy New Year)

A few years back we had television through cable.   I was frustrated by the fact that the cable company kept raising the rates.  They charged us for every box, they charged us for channels that I wanted to watch in the form of packages.  They charged us with confidence that we were either too lazy or incapable of finding other options.

The alternatives seemed just as bad.   Going to DirectTV or Dish would have cost the same or more.  I thought I wanted FIOS but when I called Verizon the options felt the same.  Additionally, I wouldn’t be able to get FIOS until it becomes available sometime in 2030 or never.

The cable bill was about $130.00 dollars at the time which to most folks that seems pretty inexpensive except it isn’t.   I can think of a lot of other things I can do with a $130.00 dollars.  The reason it wasn’t $200.00+ was because my wife kept calling the cable company negotiating the number.

Today our cable bill is for internet alone.  We do have a bill but it is a lot less than $130.00 and we have more options.  There are a few tradeoffs but for our family none of these impacted us to an extent that were lasting.

While there are many ways to cut the cord, I will give you a short list here of what worked for me.

This was my first post about cutting the cord. RaspberryPizzle.jpg

By the way,  I went online and did a search about cutting the cord.  What I read was mostly garbage that directs people to use services like Netflix or Hulu.

Getting it..

I have 4 televisions.  Two have what I would call full functionality and the other two are limited.  The two that are limited are only limited because I didn’t care to run a wire.   I have less local channels on those two.   At this time I can watch all local channels in my region and I have some augmented abilities to watch on demand content.

I was located in Virginia Beach when I started trying to figure this all out.   I used http://antennaweb.org/address.aspx to enter my zip code.  It tells you what tv stations are in your area and what kind of antenna will work best for you.   I also used https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=potkay.tvantennahelper.free which helped me point the antenna in the right direction.   For me antennaweb worked fine and was enough to get me in the right direction.  Although, I did play with the app.

Since I was within 30-50 miles of the tv stations, it was easy for me to go with small fractal antennas like http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-fractal-antenna-for-HDTV-DTV-plus-/ or http://www.htpc-diy.com/2012/04/diy-flexible-fractal-window-hdtv.html

I bought the flat panel Mohu Leaf but I wouldn’t recommend it as being better than most of the other products I played around with.  As a matter of fact, the best results came from antenna built by my friend Rob.  As shown in the first post about cutting the cord.

I decided to run all my testing on one television until I could get comfortable with the results.  Ironically, the television I chose was the one that was used most often.    After a few adjustments on a clear Sunday morning, I was “dialed in” and  had about 30 local channels.   Where I am today, I have about 50 over the air (OTA).

I wanted to have some on demand capabilities as well and I didn’t want to miss out on our Sunday football games.   Generally in Virginia I couldn’t watch my football team every Sunday unless I had an NFL package which my cable company didn’t offer.  I would have to go somewhere else or watch over another device.

In order to get on demand I did something like this http://lifehacker.com/5929913/build-a-xbmc-media-center-with-a-35-raspberry-pi which turned a little computer into a media center for me.  It was about $50 bucks all said and done but it was sluggish and I had to do a lot of work to make it the way I wanted.  The plugin I use for on demand sports is “SportsDevil”

No doubt I wanted to stay with XBMC which is now called Kodi but I wanted it to respond faster and I didn’t want to have to work hard to watch anything.  Some folks like to just use Netflix, Hulu or Plex (http://www.htpcbeginner.com/plex-vs-kodi-comparison-guide/) from here but I wanted a little more flexibility.

I used the Amazon FireTv and sideloaded the Kodi application on it http://kodi.wiki/view/HOW-TO:Install_Kodi_on_Fire_TV

Here are some other links to devices and options for Kodi http://kodi.wiki/view/Devices

What is Kodi? http://kodi.tv/about/

The easiest way for me to put it is.. an open source operating environment that allows you to have a very custom multimedia experience.  You can stream content or gain access to content on demand.  You can use preconfigured software packages like TVMC or you can customize it yourself.  The only limit on what content you have is the amount of time you want to invest playing around with it.

You can actually purchase preloaded systems too. http://www.amazon.com/LYNEC-M6-Android-Pre-loaded-Streaming/dp/B00PC5XVPO  I am not recommending this one, it is just an example.

For me it was easy to sideload the FireTV but I realize that folks may not have time or desire to load it on there and it isn’t straight forward.

It isn’t perfect 100% of the time and since it is a customized experience some results will vary but I would trade what I had with cable for Kodi any day.  In fact, I probably watch more media than I did in the past because I have access immediately to content I am interested in.   I think my favorite is being able to look at content around the world and get a glimpse of how others live.

Happy cutting.. if you choose to go down this road.  Post questions if you have any.. I am happy to answer.