Why the Comcast Customer Service Nightmare Happens


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The corporate culture in customer service at large corporations is often toxic and this type of behavior is pervasive when call center agents are pressured by overbearing policies or when jobs are on the line based on arbitrary metrics beyond the agents’ control.

The Comcast agent was clearly wrong. But why did he become so belligerent in his approach to a simple cancellation request?

If you were told that your job was on the line if you couldn’t save the next customer requesting a cancellation, wouldn’t you do the same thing?

Service providers often tie employee compensation with negative behavior. Many large-scale call centers measure their agents based on metrics determined by the organization or a client’s contract. Service levels are arbitrarily determined and a certain percentage of agents are automatically terminated on a monthly basis based on their performance.

Outsourcing often increases poor customer service

This is especially the case when outsource call centers receive contracts from larger organizations. Billing, account recovery, and other less critical service tasks are often prime areas where service is outsources to 3rd party call centers. Though not the case with Comcast, the performance-based metrics still apply whether the agent is hired directly by the organization or an outsourcing service provider.

When you call into the IVR (the 1800-Comcast that makes that clicking noise) and you answer the prompts (1 for TV, 2 for high speed Internet, etc. then 1 for new service or 2 for a problem, etc., etc.) you get routed to a specific department.

Reddit user TXMADISON recently his insight into the process of working customer service in a large corporate environment like the one at Comcast:

I’ve been an employee of Comcast for almost the last 9 years, as an SBA in BI, NE&TO, Customer Service and Marketing. I worked for Comcast Corporate (meaning the headquarters in Philly) so I dealt with all of our divisions and regions for the US, because of my position I was frequently in budget/planning meetings and was handling data for subscribers for the same.

I’ve seen down to the penny the monthly earnings for years, I know how much goes to tax, how much is pure profit, I know what the total payroll cost for the company is, etc – I wasn’t a high level executive or anything, I’m a data analyst, I analyze [things]. I left the company a few months ago, so I’m not really worried about saying anything (I also never signed anything requiring me not to disclose anything I’ve said or am about to say.)

Your job is to NOT do what the customer asks for

When you call in to disconnect, you get routed to the Retention department, their job is to try to keep you. The guy on the phone is a Retention Specialist (which is just a Customer Account Executive who takes primarily calls from people disconnecting their service.)

If I was reviewing this guys calls I’d agree that this is an example of going a little too hard at it, but here’s the deal (and this is not saying they’re doing the right thing, this is just how it works). First of all these guys have a low hourly rate. In the states I’ve worked in they start at about $10.50-12/hr.

The actual money that they make comes from their metrics for the month which depends on the department they’re in. In sales this is obvious, the more sales you make the better you do.

In retention, the more products you save per customer the better you do, and the more products you disconnect the worst you do (if a customer with a triple play disconnects, you get hit as losing every one of those lines of business, not just losing one customer.) These guys fight tooth and nail to keep every customer because if they don’t meet their numbers they don’t get paid.

Service providers often tie employee compensation with negative behavior, and the entire corporate culture is often toxic. This type of behavior is pervasive in corporate customer service and continues to take place.

Be a jerk or you won’t get paid

Comcast uses “gates” for their incentive pays, which means that if you fall below a certain threshold (which tend to be stretch goals in the first place) then instead of getting a reduced amount, you get $0.

Let’s say that if you retain 85% of your customers or more (this means 85% of the lines of businesses that customers have when they talk to you, they still have after they talk to you), you get 100% of your payout – which might be $5-10 per line of business. At 80% you might only get 75% of your payout, and at 75% you get nothing.

Save the next customer or you’re fired

The CAEs (customer service reps) watch these numbers daily, and will fight tooth and nail to stay above the “I get nothing” number. This guy went too far, you’re not supposed to flat out argue with them. But organizations often provide an incentive for this kind of behavior. It’s the same reason peoples bills are always messed up, people stuffing them with things they don’t need or in some cases don’t even agree to.

Comcast wasn’t always that bad, I watched the steady decline over the years I was there – and the attitude that is pervasive in customer service flowed over into the other departments like a cancer. There is a giant propaganda machine at Comcast focused on the employees, they send out emails and brochures and have the bigwigs come in to talk about things like why net neutrality is bad and encourage the company (via emails to every employee) to speak out against it.

I left because the culture there is disgusting, there is nothing redeemable about the behavior, and it’s just headed in a worse direction. The people who try to advocate for customers are liquidated.

The customer service trend doesn’t look good

I say it as a loyal Comcast employee for almost a decade, if you have Comcast – you have reason to be concerned. They’re are reasons to believe that service costs are going to increase your bill 3-5% twice a year, it’s part of the annual budgeting process even though provider costs actually go down.

The Internet business (as in, high speed customers) is almost purely profit, and speeds are turned down on purpose. Comcast has DOCSIS 3 capabilities and the infrastructure to support it in most major areas (this means gigabit speeds, by the way) – it can be activated simply by pushing the proper bootfiles out to the modems. This can be evidenced anywhere they have competition, they can respond overnight.

If there’s not a serious change in legislation or regulation, I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Terrible customer service is the standard for too many large corporations and the trend appears to show that it’s hear to stay.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Flavio Martins
Flavio Martins is the VP of Operations and Customer Support at DigiCert, Inc., a leading provider of enterprise authentication services and high-assurance SSL certificates trusted by thousands of government, education, and Fortune 500 organizations. Flavio is an award-winning customer service blogger, customer service fanatic, and on a mission to show that organizations can use customer experience as a competitive advantage win customer loyalty. Blog: Win the Customer!



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