Comcast Botches Service Failure Apology


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Comcast issued an apology last week for a service failure that went viral.

The apology stressed that the employee’s actions were not consistent with how Comcast does business. They promised an investigation and swift action. The statement declared Comcast’s commitment to always treat customers with the utmost respect.

They got it all wrong.

This service failure wasn’t the employee’s fault. He was doing his job exactly the way Comcast designed it. Heck, he should probably win employee of the month. 


Comcast subscriber Ryan Block called to cancel his service. By Block’s estimate, he was ten minutes into the call and getting nowhere, so he decided to record it

In the recorded portion, you can hear the Comcast employee repeatedly badgering Block about his decision to cancel. It goes on for over eight painful minutes. 

The story went viral when Block posted the recording online and has since received national media attention.

Failure By Design

Contrary to Comcast’s apology, this situation was failure by design.

Imagine you are a Comcast customer like Block and want to cancel your account. Chances are, you go to the Comcast website to find out how to do it.

The account cancellation instructions are intentionally buried on the website. There’s plenty of information about adding services or even troubleshooting a problem. Canceling your account is a different story. Entering “cancel account” into their website search box yields all sorts of results except for how to cancel account. 

I finally found the directions after doing a Google search. Comcast offers multiple options for contacting them about most issues. However, if you want to cancel, you have to call:

Notice this description.

The instructions make it clear that Comcast wants you to call so they can try to persuade you not to cancel your account:

We want to make sure we’ve done everything we can to give you the best experience, price and package.

That’s exactly what the Comcast employee did on the call with Block. He repeatedly asked Block why he didn’t want the best experience or the fastest internet. He questioned Block for walking away from the best price and the best available channels. 

Early in the recording, the employee made a very telling statement that described how he viewed his role:

My job is to have a conversation with you about keeping your service.

The employee didn’t see his job as canceling accounts or making customers happy. He clearly understood that his job was preventing accounts from being cancelled.

It’s hard to blame the employee for thinking this way if you understood how Comcast has designed this particular job.

Here’s an overview from a former Comcast employee:

  • These customer service reps are called Retention Specialists. As the job title implies, their role is to convince customers not to cancel their accounts.
  • Retention Specialists receive incentive pay based on the amount of business they save by discouraging customers not to cancel. 
  • If a certain percentage of customers still decide to cancel their service, a Retention Specialist’s bonus will go to zero.

Executive Disconnect

Comcast’s apology was issued by Tom Karinshak, the Senior Vice President of Customer Experience.

Karinshak is the executive responsible for this whole mess.

He’s not just responsible for the behavior of his employees who handle account cancellations. He’s responsible for the entire system. This includes the way cancellation information is posted on the Comcast website, the requirement that customers have to call to cancel their service, and the Retention Specialist job description and incentive plan.

From Karinshak’s statement, it’s apparent there’s a severe disconnect from reality. Here’s his official statement, posted on the Comcast website:

We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and are contacting him to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with him is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.

Now, let’s look at reality:

  • The entire cancellation process is intentionally difficult.
  • The employee Karinshak is referring to is incentivized to avoid canceling accounts.
  • Comcast routinely provides horrible service.

It’s this last point that should really capture Karinshak’s attention. In the past year, Comcast’s already dismal customer satisfaction ratings have been dropping like a stone.

Here are their latest satisfaction ratings on the American Customer Satisfaction Index:

  • Internet: 57% (second worst, -8.1% from 2013)
  • Cable: 60% (second worst, -4.8% from 2013)
  • Phone: 67% (second worst, -5.6% from 2013)

This isn’t event Comcast’s first viral service failure. Do you remember the video of a Comcast technician who fell asleep on a customer’s couch while on hold with his own company? You can revisit it here

Karinshak shouldn’t blame the employee. He should blame himself.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Totally agree, and well-stated. Comcast’s process and execution failures, which became public in this case, stems from a complete lack of customer-centricity within the culture: And, SVP Karinshak shouldn’t necessarily be blamed because his actions, and the training and scripting that has been given to the save/retention rep, are a direct product of the insensitive, profit-at-all-costs enterprise culture. Culture is the reason why Comcast has lousy customer satisfaction scores and negative Net Promoter scores.

  2. Thanks, Michael. I think you are spot on about Comcast’s culture.

    And, your point about Karinshak is well taken. Of course, that begs the question – if a Senior Vice President isn’t a steward of the company culture, then who is? Is it really only the CEO and the BOD?

    I also blame Karinshak 100% for throwing a single employee under the bus.

  3. ‘Name and blame’ deflection, erroneously calling this an isolated incident, is a characteristic of cultures that are customer-naive.

  4. Jeff – agree. I believe that most of the time, behind every poor customer service or sales interaction is a manager (or management) who fostered the infraction. This is particularly true for automobile salespeople, long the lightening rod for complaints about ‘pushy techniques,’ and poor customer experience.

    Sadly, very few people go beyond the perennially negative stereotype, “car salesperson” to explore why this is the case. Does automotive retailing just attract abrasive, aggressive people? Or, does the culture encourage – I mean, require – them to behave that way? Did manufacturers play a role when they saturated territories with dealers, forcing price to become a major differentiator in the customer’s mind? Or what about when manufacturers created dealer quotas for selling certain model vehicles so that other, more coveted and profitable models would be provided to them? The industry created the monstrous image of the cliche car salesperson – not the other way around.

    Similarly, for front-line service employees, do communications companies just attract the worst-of-the-worst? I think you have clearly exposed the answer. Before Karinshak impugns his own employee, I think he owes all Comcast customers an apology for creating the environment that made this horrible conversation take place to begin with. This conversation was no anomaly. It wasn’t an from an “accident” or from an employee with substandard social skills.

    What astounds me is how long these poor management practices have persisted. Back in 2008, I wrote about a similar incident in a blog on CustomerThink titled, “Honor Thy Customer Before He Leaves – Not After.” After this latest debacle with Comcast, I can only conclude that providers wouldn’t reinforce these unpleasant practices if they didn’t work – for them!

  5. Thanks, Andrew.

    Yes, it is astonishing this is still going on. In 2006, Vincent Ferrari recorded his cancellation call with AOL. He posted it online and it went viral. There was plenty of analysis and the conclusion was AOL created the situation with their policies. A deeper searched revealed AOL had even faced several lawsuits (going back to 2004) over their cancellation policies.

    Ryan Block’s Comcast call is strikingly similar in so many ways. Hard to believe this is still happening eight years later!


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