Progress, it’s about making life better in some way. For a product, that usually means your users lives, but bizarrely we seem to keep finding the opposite when companies release new upgrades. For example, the latest version of Microsoft Office totally broke the user interface I’d learnt to use over the last 15 years without giving me anything in return. It’s as if they felt they had to keep releasing things to show they weren’t dead.

Anyway, here’s an example that happened to me last week. I received my latest Comcast bill in the post a couple of weeks ago (which was odd, as I’m sure I opted for electronic billing) which looked a little high. As a satisfied Comcast Internet user I don’t find much opportunity to visit their site or support pages, but I remember logging in to setup the automatic payment a year or so ago. I tried to sign into my account and I was redirected to a Security Page which asked me to link my account to my COMCAST.NET account. There was an OK or Cancel, and as I had no idea what a COMCAST.NET account is I just clicked Cancel. This took me to their “customer central” portal, which told me my account was locked and I would need to update my security details to continue.

Yes, of course we are based in the USA. I am very much liking your apple pies and your college footballs.

Great. Clicking the link to update my security info I’m taken back to the page which asks me to link my COMCAST.NET account. I give up and try to contact the helpdesk, which conveniently I can do via online chat. The girl in the chat window takes my details and tells me that from now on I can’t log in with my own email address, I have to use my COMCAST.NET email address. But I don’t use Comcast email I tell her. “It’s ok,” she says, “one has been created for you.” I’ll just have to reset the password so that I can log in. To reset the password I need my COMCAST PIN that was sent to me in the mail when I first signed up for cable service.

Ack. As politely as I can I explain that an unsolicited PIN code I received in the mail over a year ago which was never required to use my Internet service is unlikely to be easy to locate. At this point I was expecting that they would want to send another copy in the mail and my case would be closed. But no, amazingly they have another service to reset your PIN. Which can be used to reset your password. Which can be used to revalidate your account. Blimey.

A charming gentleman with a refined Indian accent called me on my home number within 60 seconds and asked me to confirm my name and address. Once this had happened the girl in the chat window spilled the beans – out came my PIN, my password and my login details. Huzzah.

Good news: I can log in. Bad news: all the charges are valid. I owe them several hundred dollars.

And my experience of the all new “Customer Central” well, I used exactly the same function I did before – I checked my bill. I wonder how many Comcast customers are actually going to use any of the new functionality – online voicemail, DVR programming or ordering caller services? I suspect that most people will use their existing voicemail, program the DVR from the sofa, and stick with the caller services they have. In the meantime, every user of Comcast Internet who does not use them for email will need to spend a half hour with customer care before they can pay a bill online, likely costing Comcast between $30 and $100. Now that’s progress.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by SamD on November 26, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Office 2007, or have you got the beta of the new one?

    Sounds like updates and new features driven by the marketing department. Stab them all in the face.


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