The Don’t List of Customer Service: How to Avoid Comcast’s Mistakes


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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.


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