In an effort to squeeze more value from its service divisions, Comcast, the largest cable operator in the U.S., is expanding its service-in-the-field offering. Its many thousands of “cable guys” won’t just work on cable and Internet hookups — they’ll be able to troubleshoot and fix almost any home-technology issue, from iPads to Internet-connected TVs. Comcast’s offering follows a larger industry trend set by Best Buy’s Geek Squad to monetize service, offering managers an interesting template for how to drive more business from service.
The new subscription-based, 24/7 service model, named Xfinity Signature Support, is a departure from the company’s current service model in which a technician isn’t really equipped to handle peripheral problems beyond cable or Internet installation. Comcast hopes the new model will put its techs in more homes to help consumers properly install and use the proliferation of devices in the home. The new service is also likely a hedge to help Comcast defend its turf as outside devices such as Apple TV, Boxee and Roku push content directly to consumers’ TVs.
The Xfinity service plan will launch in the Twin Cities, Atlanta and Chattanooga, followed by a nationwide rollout throughout 2011. According to Leslie Brooks Suzukamo of Pioneer Press, monthly subscriptions will cost between $5 and $20, and one-time charges will cost between $79 and $150, depending on the job.
Brooks Suzukamo writes that Comcast’s program is part of a larger “trend driven by digitally connected homes packed with computers, smartphones, iPad tablets and gaming consoles. While embracing the devices, most of us are more than a little spooked by the idea of trying to get them to work together.” Comcast clearly saw an opportunity to draw more value from its service branches, and the company leapt at the opportunity.
Technicians will first attempt to fix problems remotely through the Internet by connecting to users’ computers. If that’s unsuccessful, a technician from one of two contracting companies that have partnered with Comcast will be sent to the consumer’s home to address the problem.