Comcast Seeks Customers’ Good Graces Through Amazon Sales

Comcast on Monday announced that it would begin selling its Xfinity TV, phone and Internet services through Amazon.

The services debuted on the new Amazon Cable Store Web page, which promises to help customers choose a cable TV plan. All of the plans offered include high-definition and DVR services, along with more than 30 Xfinity products and services, including Comcast’s flagship video product, Xfinity X1.

Pricing offered on Amazon is identical to what customers can find via Comcast’s existing sales channels.

“Amazon is not only the biggest online retailer and a place where millions of our customers shop every day, but it’s also a brand that’s unrivaled when it comes to customer service,” said Charlie Herrin, executive vice president of customer experience for Comcast Cable.

Addressing Customer Service

The partnership could help Comcast overcome one of the lingering problems it has faced in recent years, namely poor customer service, according to Abid M. Chaudhry, senior director of industry strategy atBIA/Kelsey.

“While Comcast has one of the lowest customer satisfaction ratings for a consumer service provider, Amazon is still one of the most loved and trusted brands when it comes to customer service,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Xfinity purchases made on Amazon will be supported by a dedicated Comcast team at its new call centers in Spokane, Washington, and Tucson. Agents have been trained to handle questions related to billing, installation and more, and they will work across various communication channels, including phone, email, chat and social media.

“One of the major advantages customers will have with being able to purchase their cable/Internet services through a channel like Amazon will be the ease of use and familiarity of the process,” Chaudhry said.

It’s “a way for Comcast to tap into a younger customer demographic through e-commerce and sidestep away from their poor reputation by partnering with Amazon,” he added.

“The pricing of packages is the same regardless of which channel you subscribe from, so the benefit really is in being able to have the same smooth customer experience you get with Amazon when you want to sign up for cable, Internet, phone — a process that is known to be cumbersome and problematic otherwise,” Chaudhry said.

Synergy Between Amazon and Comcast

The announcement could be just the beginning of greater connectivity between Amazon and Comcast.

“Offering Comcast and possibly other cable services is Amazon’s way of forging closer relations with cable systems,” said Josh Crandall, principal analyst atNetpop Research.

“Cable companies provide strategic infrastructure into Amazon customers’ homes, connectivity that Amazon relies on not only for their shopping activity, but more and more frequently, their media streaming experiences,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“By leveraging its position as the world’s biggest retailer to increase sales of key cable companies, Amazon is doing what Amazon does best — sell things,” added Crandall.

Cable on the Tablet

For Amazon, it may also be a way to provide more content — as in Comcast’s offerings — to its devices.

“Amazon wants to further integrate channel packages into its Fire TV service, and so they are doing whatever is called for to ingratiate themselves with Comcast,” said Rick Moss, president ofRetailWire.

“Currently, via Fire TV, consumers can bolt on apps from HBO, Showtime as well as from the major networks,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

The partnership could take that further, allowing the so-called cord-cutters a way to see TV programs without having to subscribe to cable TV.

“Consumers who have unplugged from cable have missed the shows they once enjoyed. Now, they are able to design their own content lineups in a manner more akin to the Web than TV,” Moss said.

“Perhaps both Comcast and Amazon see the writing on the wall and are preparing for the eventuality that will see an end to wired cable services,” he added.

Just Another Product

The partnership is an extension of Amazon’s reach into new markets.

“This move with Comcast could be an initial step by Amazon to create a new incremental revenue source without too much heavy lifting on its end,” said BIA/Kelsey’s Chaudhry.

“A Comcast bundle is simply another SKU, or item, in their warehouse,” noted Netpop Research’s Crandall.

“Amazon’s vast experience selling complex products and services online is a unique advantage that should result in increased cable subscriptions, higher revenues and BFF status with cable companies,” he added. “This, in turn, should guarantee the best service possible for Amazon users delivered through Comcast’s coaxial and fiber infrastructure.”

Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and fitness-related trends for more than a decade. His work has appeared in more than three dozen publications, and he is the co-author of Careers in the Computer Game Industry (Career in the New Economy series), a career guide aimed at high school students from Rosen Publishing. You can connect with Peter on Google+.

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