When Kimberly Williams was 14 years old in Mississippi, her grandmother came into her room slurring her words. The teenager called 911 and saved her grandmother’s life from a stroke.
The Comcast Corp. “retention” specialist, now 32, did it again on Aug. 13 when she answered the phone at the company’s 400-employee call center in Jackson, and heard a customer clearly state his name as “Daniel” -- and then slurred his words as her grandmother had.
With her headset, Williams heard him crash to the floor. She could still hear him slurring his words as the TV hummed in the background on low volume. Linked to the customer’s account through his phone number, Williams saw that he was Daniel Magennis, 65, in the Grand Rapids, Mich., area and 890 miles away.
Williams told her supervisor, Jennifer Clark, 33, and asked to call 911. Do it, Clark said.
But 911 routed Williams to Mississippi dispatchers, not to those in Michigan. And the Mississippi 911 couldn’t transfer. Frustrated but thinking quickly, Williams called the Grand Rapids police department. They told her Magennis lived outside their jurisdiction, in suburban Walker.
Wasting time, Williams became upset. “She was freaking out. I said ‘calm down.’ I went over to her desk where everything was pulled up,” Clark said.
The supervisor Googled the phone number to the Grand Rapids Fire Department. She told them that she thought their customer was having a stroke and “we need help.” A Grand Rapids fire official connected Clark to paramedics and police for Walker.
Police and paramedics found Magennis on his garage floor more than an hour after the original call. Rushed to a hospital 20 miles away, he underwent an hour-long surgery to unclog the artery circulating to the left side of his brain. Michigan neurosurgeon Justin Singer who treated Magennis said that Williams “made all the difference.”
Walker Police Chief Greg Long said on Tuesday that “it took a lot of tenacity for [Williams and Clark] to work through this menagerie of dispatchers,” noting that there are two different 911 systems for the Grand Rapids area -- one for the city and one for the suburbs.
Williams’ fast action has been a publicity boon for Comcast, which has been battered for years about tales of woeful customer service. Internet-service providers and cable-TV companies have the lowest customer satisfaction ratings of any business sectors, according to this year’s report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
The index is based on data from interviews from about 300,000 consumers a year, evaluating 400 companies and 46 industries.
Comcast made strides improving its customer service after regulatory agencies rejected its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable in 2015, partly over customer service problems. But Comcast still ranks third-from-the-bottom among cable-TV companies in customer satisfaction. Comcast does better with internet service, falling somewhere in the middle of the pack.
“We are incredibly proud of her quick thinking," said Comcast spokesperson Alex Horwitz in Mississippi. Michigan and Mississippi newspapers covered Williams’ quick action. People magazine, USA Today, and Today.com, part of the Comcast media empire, also put up stories online.