The Comcast customer-service call that went viral last week is still lighting up the internet. The call, which a customer recorded, captures a frustrating (okay, let’s just say it – hellish) conversation that he had with a Comcast customer service rep. For those of us who work in customer service, this type of call is exactly what we want to avoid. The call pretty much touches on every “don’t” that we work so hard to stay away from, and, unfortunately, it is calls such as these that give the industry a bad reputation.
We talk a lot on this blog about how to improve customer service – all of the “do’s” – so, to help us avoid Comcast’s fate, let’s look at what happened in the call, and talk about the “don’ts.”
Don’t #1: Don’t use retention techniques that are disrespectful
If you listen to the call, the Comcast customer service rep repeatedly tries to upsell and convince the customer that Comcast’s services are the best in the industry, and he repeats this stance even as the customer emphatically says he doesn’t want to keep his service going.
Before we vilify the customer service agent, we need to first look at why the agent acted the way he did. According to an article that examines Comcast’s culture, Comcast employees are taught to use retention techniques – even when it’s clear that a customer no longer wishes to use Comcast’s services. In the call, the customer service rep does this, repeatedly, and the more the caller objects and takes the stance that he wants to cancel his service, the more the rep tries to upsell. Ultimately, the customer service agent acts disrespectfully toward a customer who simply wishes to cancel service.
Don’t #2: Don’t try to work around what the customer actually wants
The customer in the call is very clear about his desire to cancel service and return his cablecard to Comcast, but the agent refuses to accept that this is the caller’s purpose of the call. Instead, the Comcast agent tries to talk the customer out of cancelling, and when the customer doesn’t budge, the Comcast agent goes so far as to insult the customer by making the customer feel bad about cancelling service from the “number one internet and TV service provider.” The agent tries every trick up his sleeve to convince the customer not to leave, and then he even shames the customer for wanting to leave.
At no point does the Comcast agent attempt to actually help the customer and give the customer – without an argument – what the customer really wants. Clearly, the retention and upselling techniques that Comcast encourages went way too far in this call. Instead of listening to the customer, using empathic skills, and helping to solve the customer’s problem, the agent is trying to keep the customer’s business – at all costs.
Don’t #3: Don’tuse financial incentives that change how your employees treat customers
You may be wondering why a Comcast agent would be so insistent that a customer not leave. Is it because Comcast’s service really is that good, or is there something else going on? Well, it turns out that Comcast pays agents a commission when they keep customers, or when customers upgrade their service. In doing so, Comcast has created a culture where employees are not attempting to offer the best customer service; instead, the employees are looking after their own interests, which is to make money off of sales.
Don’t #4: Don’t foster a work environment that isn’t customer-centered
Comcast, as the recorded call clearly shows, is not a customer-centered work organization. The company pushes upgrades, cross-selling, and they use kickbacks to encourage their customer service reps to retain subscribers. Instead of being a customer-centered organization, Comcast trains their customer service reps to sell and retain – even when that’s not what the customer wants.
The organization’s culture and training do not empower the agents to work for the benefit of the very people who subscribe to their services, buy their products, and keep the company going. By being strictly a sales-driven company, the agents are caught in a culture where they’re not encouraged to do the best by their customers.
If there is a bright side in this story, let’s hope that this customer’s recorded call will help Comcast change their customer service culture to one that seeks to serve customers, instead of one that attempts to sell at all costs. For the rest of us, we have a whole new list of “don’ts” to learn from.