Is Comcast Running Unethical Poll in Quest to Improve Public Image?

Consumer advocacy site and publication Consumerist has brought to light that Comcast may be running a “push poll” in Philadelphia — after a survey this spring received 99% unfavorable opinions on the area’s primary cable and Internet service provider.

A push poll is one that guides respondents toward a specific answer — in this case, one that puts the company in a better light.

Consumerist was first alerted to the potentially manipulative practices by a tweet from Eric Rosso, the political director for Pennsylvania Working Families, that asserted he’d taken a “ridiculous push poll” from Comcast “trying to garner results that favored them as a corporate citizen.”

Consumerist staff then contacted Rosso to learn more details about the survey. He said that although he didn’t have a recording of the call, he remembered it transitioning from standard questions about service quality to ones that suggested a particular agenda. For example, a question regarding Comcast’s employment of thousands of people in the Philadelphia area was worded such that a low score would imply that Comcast should employ fewer people, rather than that the respondent had concerns about the company’s employment practices.

Chris Rabb, a professor at Temple University’s business school, also took part in the poll. He told Consumerist that questions about Comcast’s relationship with the city never presented the option that the company should have to absorb expenses as part of the cost of doing business.

“All of the questions related to the franchise agreement were geared around the idea of ‘Do you believe you should have to pay for new expenses that we would tack on to your bill? Do you believe that you should pay for this?’” Rabb said. “They tried to make it seem like their profit margin is so thin that they can’t absorb any of the additional cost.”

The publication contacted Comcast hoping to look directly at the survey in question, but was told that was not possible.

Despite repeated promises to provide better customer service, Comcast remains extremely unpopular after the publication of several high-profile customer service gaffes in the past year. In addition to more frequent complaints such as long hold times (one survey of more than 2,500 consumers found that nearly 60% believed a minute of hold time to be excessive), several consumers have recorded hours-long calls in which they attempted to cancel or modify their services and received maddening responses.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index, released at the beginning of June, found that TV and Internet providers were tied for last place in public opinion — and that their scores had fallen to a seven-year low.

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