“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Posts Tagged ‘comcast’

Comcast Security…or Something Moronic? You Decide

Posted by direwolff on February 2, 2010

{NOTE: what follows is my rant against this morning’s experience with Comcast.  If you’re having a great day, you may just want to skip reading this.}

Comcast = FAIL

A month ago my wife and I decided to begin paying our Comcast bill from our bank’s online bill payment service.  For some reason, Comcast was one of the few bills for which we were still receiving dead trees over snail-mail and it didn’t make any sense given the convenience of paying online like all the rest of our bills.  From my bill payment service I elected to receive Comcast bills directly there and to be notified when these arrived.  With other bills we do this, clicking on the “View Bill” link displays the invoice with all of the details, in other words, convenience to the max!

Today was the first time I received the notification that the Comcast bill had arrived.  As with other bills, I went to the site and clicked on the “View Bill” link, however the ensuing pop-up didn’t show me the invoice and details, instead it asked that I sign in to the Comcast site to view the bill.  Well, that was going to be tricky because we don’t use the Comcast email account for anything nor do we login to the site ever.  Heck, just remembering the email address that Comcast had designated to us was tricky.  Fortunately, I managed to get a customer service agent on their chat system to help in this matter.

Sure, it took 15 mins to wait for an agent, but that was a small price to pay, and when the agent came on, they were very effective in helping resolve our account info.  Strangely however, he tried to up-sell me on the Comcast phone service…which we already have.  Reminded me of the follies of behavioral advertising, offering stuff I don’t need or already have.  Almost like what’s the point of having all of my information if you don’t know or are not going to use it properly.  So here I thought, our trials were over and I could proceed to complete my bill payment transaction.  Well, I thought wrong.

After logging into the Comcast system a screen offered me to update my account information.  I clicked on this and was faced with questions about needing to provide my “Security PIN” with an option of changing it, as well as provide yet another security question (beyond the one for the normal login).  Decided to cancel out of that process figuring I could leave well enough alone.  Once again, I would be wrong.  From then on, any procedure to see my bill or check email would result in that same Security PIN screen popping up.  There was a link to have the Security PIN resent to my email address…the one on the Comcast site of course.  I clicked on this, went to the site, and could see that indeed that email was there (that page shows the subject line of the last 3 emails you’ve received).  Clicking on the email brought up the Security PIN screen….WHAT?!  I have never seen a bigger case of circular security logic than this flawed process.  In order to get the Security PIN from the email, I would need to have that Security PIN…huh?!

Called Comcast customer support and while I got a very nice and polite young lady on the phone, and despite providing to her all of my account information that she needed to be assured that I was the account owner, she could not change the email on file for me.  The Security PIN would be snail-mailed to me in 4-5 days.  In explaining that I couldn’t pay my bill because I couldn’t see it, she suggested that I pay it by phone.  As happy as I would have been to do so and get past this hassle, there was no easy way to get the itemization of what we owed.  Now she is snail-mailing the bill too.

There’s something ironic in trying to reduce the use of dead trees, and by doing so increasing its use by two or three fold.  However, clearly Comcast has issues to think about with their security system, that is so impenetrable that you can’t even get to the information you were meant to access in the first place.  Not to mention that they’re just a cable company, it’s not like my life savings is sitting in their vaults somewhere.  Even my most secure online banking service, with multiple levels of security, let’s me register and get to my money online whenever I want to from day one.  What Comcast has derived here is clearly not security, it’s moronic but I leave it to smarter minds than mine to figure this out.

Frank Eliason, if you’re still out there in cyberspace doing the good work for Comcast, you might want to intervene in this one, they need a solid mind to get involved here and you understand this stuff more than most.  Please jump in and save Comcast from itself.


Posted in Security/Privacy | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »


Posted by direwolff on May 2, 2008

A few days ago, after reading an article about a guy named Frank Eliason at Comcast keeping up with Twitter and RSS feeds on any mention of Comcast, I decided to try to get his attention on a problem that had stumped their tech support and made life difficult for me and Lil’ Pinot. I wrote the following blog post, “Frank Eliason from Comcast, can you hear me”.

Well wouldn’t you know it, Frank responded the very next day. I hadn’t checked my e-mail so I only got it tonight and responded to him. Also updated my post to note that he had gotten back to me. It gets even better, after my note back to him elaborating on the issue his next response was the perfect answer and solved our problems!!! Two e-mails and the guy nailed it, all from me posting it on my blog. While there’s plenty of bad things we can say about Comcast, it’s clear that we need to differentiate between the institutional issues and the people, because when it comes to the people it’s clear that some care a lot about the customer. Note, Frank’s interactions with me occurred from 10:30pm to 11:00pm on a Friday night. That blew my mind and really forces me to rethink how I consider this company. It’s clear that some people there totally *GET IT*.

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Frank Eliason from Comcast…can you hear me…hear me…hear me…

Posted by direwolff on May 1, 2008

Just got done reading the Social Media Insider e-mail newsletter from MediaPost titled, “All A-Twitter About Comcast’s Twitter Guy“.

It’s a great post about how Frank Eliason from Comcast has been tracking RSS feeds and Twitter to keep up with commentary on the company. It’s very cool and innovative, so I’m going to give it a try by talking about them here about a specific nasty little problem that’s developed with our use of Comcast at our home/office. It all started on April 3rd of this year when all of a sudden my wife called me while I was on business in New York to tell me that she couldn’t send e-mail. She was receiving e-mail just fine, but was getting errors in sending e-mail. My first thought was that she’d gone and done something weird and just needed to reboot and everything would be fixed. That didn’t work. Then I went and looked at our domain service and our hosted e-mail service to make sure those were operational, and sure enough they checked out. On my end, I was having no problems sending and receiving e-mails to my Crackberry so I knew the basics were working just fine.

When I got back home a day later, my computer got on our wi-fi network without a hitch and I was able to get on the Internet and was receiving e-mails with no probs, but guess what? Sending e-mails wasn’t working. Actually, the more I diagnosed things the worse it seemed. Not only could I not send e-mail to the SMTP servers from our domain but I couldn’t send e-mail through Yahoo! Mail or Gmail from her machine or mine. Note, she’s using a MacBook with Microsoft Entourage and I’m using a PC running Vista and Microsoft Outlook 2007. This was nutty. So I booted up my old PC with XP and Outlook 2003 on it to see if that would work, and surely that too didn’t work. Note that the POP protocol was working fine since we could receive e-mail, but sending through SMTP both where it was secured and where it wasn’t didn’t work.

In calling Comcast support, I knew this would be out of the league of a general support person as this was a very nuanced problem. Considering we have been living in the same house for nearly three years without a problem other than the occasional reboot of our computers, the wi-fi router or the cable modem, and all of a sudden computers using three different operating systems and three different mail clients stopped working, it wasn’t going to be easy to diagnose. He recommended that we try our Comcast mail account which we had never used. It was easy enough to add it to the list of e-mail accounts and once again, this too was able to receive e-mail through the client apps but not send any. Yikes!!! He then mentioned that they didn’t support Outlook, only Outlook Express, which sounded like an immediate cop out. For Pete’s sake, given the dominance of the Outlook platform, you’d have to be an idiotic company not to support your users’ use of all flavors of Outlook. More importantly, it was clear that it wasn’t the problem since we had been using our e-mail clients for nearly three years without incident. I did also try to “ping” the e-mail servers and in a twist of irony I could ping all of the SMTP servers and get responses except for the Comcast SMTP server. Too funny, but weird at the same time. Why can I get a response off of “ping” but not from the Outlook test sends to the accounts. Hmm…

Well, since this fiasco I’ve been relegated to using Gmail through the Web client which is perhaps a good thing as it’s helping me virtualize my system and reduce my dependency on my PC’s software, basically I’m now working off the cloud ;) However, it is frustrating having to change my organizational system.

With this said, I hope Frank catches my blog post so that I too can write about the awesome Comcast service that I’ve grown accustomed to and have found to be reliable. My wife is not as pleased with the virtualization experiment, so it would be helpful to resolve this issue so her life could be made easier since she finds using the Web e-mail clients impractical for keeping track of her e-mails.

Frank, can you hear me?!!! Please…

*** UPDATE 5/2/08: I hadn’t had a chance to check my e-mail yesterday, but Frank responded with some thoughtful consideration.  We haven’t fixed it yet, but at least we’re in a dialog.  This guy ROCKS!!!  That he saw my post and responded shows that Comcast has some really bright people who understand and care about their customers.  Some times bureaucracy gets in the way of people being able to do the right thing, but every now and then a few get together to overcome this and do the right thing.  Frank and whatever team he has working with him on keeping up with these channels of communications deserve a big fat round of applause.  I’m totally blown away that this story about Frank is actually true and someone at Comcast is helping me get through a really tough time.  This is how to keep a customer, and in an age where customer acquisition costs are growing rapidly and making a switch to another service is fairly easy, this kind of behavior will always be rewarded with loyalty and a story I will tell any friend who disses Comcast.

Posted in reviews, Technology | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

Cool Aussies and a discussion about Plaxo

Posted by direwolff on April 22, 2008

While at the SocialMedia Happy Hour this afternoon met some cool Aussies, one of which I knew while the other two became new acquaintances. One of them is involved in some of the social media standards work going on behind the scenes, but for the purposes of this post, it’s not necessary to mention who they were.

As we discussed the various social media services we somehow got to Plaxo with me stating that since the beginning of Plaxo’s release, I was always impressed with the service. But while I found it theoretically elegant and worthwhile, I was never able to get past the point of distant admiration to the point of becoming a registered user. For the life of the service and the changes and evolution that they have undergone, it’s teams have always been bright, but some how that just wasn’t enough to get me over the hump of adoption. Even where I’ve been an early user of just about every social network that came out during the initial years, services like Ryze, Friendster, LinkedIn, Tribe, MySpace, Vox and Facebook once it opened up, Plaxo was just never an option.

In discussing this with my acquaintances, I was surprised by the fact that both of them echoed the exact same sentiments. Both praised the service yet neither one of them was a member. Now with Comcast having acquired them, or so the very persistent rumors go, it’s not likely to be a choice for any of us at all, but what was it that kept us away, I wonder. It’s very perplexing to me how many folks I’ve talked to who understand the service (pre-Pulse), who thought it was a useful service, who thought highly of folks like Joe Smarr, but who never joined or leveraged this power to maintain their address book in this distributed service. It’s something I’m going to ponder further, as it’s requiring me to be very introspective about what seems like it should have been a natural choice application for me.

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