If nothing else, Comcast is adept at being visible, sort of like a narcissistic child drawing attention to itself through negative, outside the dots behavior. An excellent recent blog on the broadly circulated recording of a Comcast save/retention rep interchange with a customer trying to cancel his service (http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/07/18/332339805/better-culture-could-have-prevented-viral-comcast-call) says a lot about the role of customer-centric culture and its influence on process design, employee attitude and behavior, and downstream customer marketplace actions. Comcast has become the poster child for how to do this wrong.
In the blog, Emily Yellin, author of “Your Call Is (Not That) Important To Us”, and an expert on customer-focused service, wrote: “It’s really not that person on the other end of the line’s fault. It’s the company’s fault, And the culture of the company that creates a (sub) culture around this person and makes them do something like this.” As noted in the blog, Yellin suspects that the Comcast retention agent was getting paid more if the customer stayed and did not defect. Her suspicion is, in fact, reality, verified by multiple sources: http://www.businessinsider.com/former-comcast-employee-on-ryan-block-phone-call-2014-7
Branding, and differentiating, experiences for customers has become a significant trend in optimizing loyalty behavior and bonding that customer to the vendor. Understanding, and leveraging, the pivotal role of culture in achieving this goal is a lot like absorbing Latin as a basis for Romance languages. If an organization creates a culture that actively contributes to customer disappointment, rejection and anger, they will get……disappointment, rejection and anger.
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In one of my recent CustomerThink blogs, written just a few months ago, the case for stronger focus on customer-centric culture was presented: http://customerthink.com/essentials-of-cmb-culture-means-business/. Culture is a subject that can feel rather esoteric, even boring, to some; and so, like other of my pieces prepared on culture in the past, it got relatively little readership. That’s kind of unfortunate; and lessons such as situations like the Comcast rep interchange with a defecting customer illustrate the point.
Culture matters. One customer service expert, responding to my comments about this situation in a related blog, said: “Comcast reps have the reputation of ‘doing whatever it takes’ to meet a monetary goal, not a service goal. Only leadership from the top can fix it.” Leadership should be shaping culture as part of their remit, and if the culture they create exhibits little humanity and emotional sensitivity with customers, situations like this will occur on a frequent basis (and sometimes the general public will learn about them).
Here’s the reality of why culture, especially customer-centric culture, should get more attention. Culture – whether dealing with values, processes, experience optimization, or employee ambassadorship – is the business of everybody in the organization, from file clerk to CEO. Customers ‘feel’ the culture, and so should employees – and if they are trained to be bloodless and dispassionate in the interest of dollars, reflecting Emily Yellin’s quote, it is the culture that made them that way
Culture is the stakeholder’s most immediate and visceral response to interaction with the enterprise. If culture and value work, an organization can prosper because of positive customer and employee loyalty, advocacy, and brand bonding behavior. On the other hand, if key elements of the customer experience journey, customer life stage and customer value are not baked into the culture, and into values, process and employee training, culture will fail the enterprise. The fact that this particular customer, Ryan Block, is active online and gave the interaction a long tail, just makes Comcast’s weaknesses all the more public
A culture that is, ultimately, insensitive to customer needs and requirements will cause disaffection, anger, and, ultimately, rejection, just as occurred in this viral example. And, to quote Bill Maher, culture is also the driving force behind both making Comcast too big to fail….and not too big to suck (with customers): http://customerthink.com/too-big-to-fail-but-not-too-big-to-suck/
Assuming Comcast, or any organization, truly wants to move the enterprise to a more proactive and customer-centric culture, the organization first needs to realize that merely reacting to customers, and endeavoring to force them into undesired action and negative emotional territory, won’t get them there: http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/blog/what-customer-centric-customer-obsessed-companies-must-do
In the instance of Comcast’s poor management of what was clearly customer risk, likely loss and, finally, rejection, and despite the protestation of some of its senior executives that the employee’s actions were not representative, the extensive viral result of this call came purely from lack of customer sensitivity nor any consideration of communicating with the customer in a humanistic manner. That’s a fundamental cultural issue. As Emily Yellin noted in the blog: “Companies need to treat the customer service interaction as something more personal, and customers need to treat it more as a business transaction.” Right. These are basics of culture and process, from the customer’s side and the organization’s side, in optimizing the service experience, irrespective of life stage.