Comcast Apologizes, With Caveat, To Customer Who Was Fired After Complaining About Service

The cable giant today offered a full-throated apology, with one important exception, in response to its latest customer service-related PR crisis: the case of Conal O’Rourke. He became an Internet celebrity of sorts this week when he told Web publication The Consumerist, and others, that Comcast persuaded his employer, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, to fire him after he complained about a series of billing snafus last year.

On the key point, Comcast’s new SVP of Customer Experience, Charlie Herrin, says in today’s blog post that “nobody at Comcast asked for him to be fired.” The more subtle issue is whether Comcast started the ball rolling by telling PWC that O’Rourke had mentioned his employer to gain leverage over Comcast in his complaints. A lawyer for the cable company told O’Rourke’s attorney in August that it “communicated to PWC that a person claiming to be a PWC employee had called our chief accounting executive’s office with complaints about his cable service and bills, and yelled at our employees who tried to assist him.” O’Rourke denied that he had mentioned PWC by name to Comcast: His lawyer says, in a letter this month to the cable giant, that it “researched him online” and called PWC “with the intent to tarnish Mr. O’Rourke’s good name and cause him to lose his job with PWC. In fact, it was Comcast who was using its ‘leverage’ as a major client of PWC’s, worth upwards of $30 million a year, to cause Mr. O’Rourke to be fired.” He’s seeking “a full retraction and apology, his redemption with his former employer, and $100,312.50” by October 14.

While Herrin steered clear of the legal minefield, he says that the customer service problems that O’Rourke encountered — including a $1,820 charge for equipment he never ordered — were “completely unacceptable.” The company “simply dropped the ball and did not make things right. Mr. O’Rourke deserves another apology from us and we’re making this one publicly….We’re also determined to get to the bottom of exactly what happened with his service, figure out what went wrong at every point along the way, and fix any underlying issues.” He adds that Comcast is “holding ourselves accountable and we are working hard to make real improvements across the board. While it will take us some time, we can and will do better than this.”

Herrin took on his new assignment — to “reimagine the customer experience” at Comcast — last month. Meanwhile the company is lobbying Washington to approve its $45B deal to buy Time Warner Cable. The cable giant was embarrassed in July when tech journalist Ryan Block released a recording of his effort to cancel his broadband service while a Comcast customer retention rep refused to comply and hectored him with patronizing talking points. The company apologized and vowed to use “this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.”

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