Comcast Names Herrin SVP Customer Experience

Comcast, deep in the throes of the regulatory approval process for its pending merger with Time Warner Cable, and still licking its wounds after a few high-profile service stumbles in the past, has named company veteran and X1 developer Charlie Herrin senior vice president, customer experience.

In his new role, Herrin will report to Comcast Cable executive  vice president and chief operating officer Dave Watson and CEO Neil Smit and will work with execs across all business units, including customer service, technical operations, sales, marketing, training and development, and product innovation.

Herrin’s appointment was announced by Smit via a company blog posting Friday and come as Comcast has been knee-deep in criticism concerning its pending merger with Time Warner Cable. Smit has been a big proponent of improving customer service.

Herrin is an unusual choice as a customer service executive – his experience has been primarily in product development – but that was intentional, according to Comcast. Herrin’s position is a new one in the company – SVP of customer service Tom Karnishak and SVP field operations Patrick O’Hare will continue in those positions  -- and it is believed that he will bring a fresh perspective in developing an overall  better customer experience.

Already Comcast is beginning to do that – it is converting customer service centers throughout its footprint to XFinity stores – similar in look and feel to Apple stores – where customers can view a variety of Comcast products while exchanging their set-top boxes or paying their bills. The idea is to address customer service more like a product.

And that is an area where Herrin has a lot of experience.

As SVP, product design and development -- a role he will hold as the company looks for a replacement -- Herrin led the design team behind the popular X1 platform and spearheaded the company’s initiative to deliver a consistent user experience across platforms.  Herrin and his team received the 2011 Emmy Award for outstanding achievement for the XFinity TV iPad app and a 2013 Emmy Award for the X1 user interface.

“X1 was a breakthrough for us, and we need the best customer service to accompany these great products,” Smit said in the blog posting. “Charlie will bring the same passion for customer-focused innovation that he brought to developing products to this new role.  Charlie will begin his new role immediately, but will continue to work with our CTO, Tony Werner, and his current team until a new head of product design and development is in place.”

Comcast has made some significant strides in customer service over the past few years – it was the first cable operator to guarantee 1-2 hour appointment windows, introduced new self-service apps and made improvements to its service centers across the country. At the same time it has endured a few black eyes on the service front, including viral You Tube videos of sleeping techs and difficulties in disconnecting service.

Smit, who takes the customer service aspect of his job very seriously, is well aware of the problems and believes the company is ready to take the next step. But he also asked customers to have some patience.

“Transformation isn’t going to happen overnight,” Smit said in the blog post. “In fact, it may take a few years before we can honestly say that a great customer experience is something we’re known for.  But that is our goal and our number one priority … and that’s what we are going to do.”