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Comcast Exec On That Nightmare Customer Service Call: ‘It Was Painful To Listen To’

By / 07.22.14
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By now you’ve all probably heard, or at least heard about, that viral customer service call in which a Comcast “retention agent” badgered a customer for almost 10 minutes and refused to cancel his service. Listening to it was somehow both shocking and not shocking at all. Cable companies are the worst, as anyone who has ever tried to deal with a them can attest. Especially Comcast. Especially Comcast.

Anyway, back when the call first started making the rounds, many people pointed out that the problem wasn’t really the agent (although he wasn’t exactly a prince here, either), but the policies Comcast has in place that effectively punish the agents for customers wanting to cancel Comcast’s overpriced, crappy service. Well, Comcast has heard you, kind of, as Chief Operating Officer Dave Watson sent out a memo admitting that the company needs to “reexamine how we do some things,” saying “[t]he agent on this call did a lot of what we trained him and paid him — and thousands of other Retention agents — to do” but that “it was painful to listen to this call, and I am not surprised that we have been criticized for it.” Which is nice, I guess.

The full memo, which was “leaked” to Consumerist, is below. I use “leaked” in quotes because it reads much more like a calculated PR mea culpa to customers than an apology/pep talk to employees, which makes me suspicious that the former was the intent all along. It’s almost like I don’t trust Comcast to be honest and forthcoming. I wonder how that happened.

A Message From Dave Watson,
July 21, 2014

You probably know that there has been a fair amount of media attention about a recording of a phone call between one of our Customer Account Executives (CAEs) and a Comcast customer. The call went viral on social media and generated news headlines. We have apologized to the customer privately and publicly on Comcast Voices, making it clear that we are embarrassed by the tone of the call and the lack of sensitivity to the customer’s desire to discontinue service.

I’d like to give you my thoughts on the situation.

First, let me say that while I regret that this incident occurred, the experience that this customer had is not representative of the good work that our employees are doing. We have tens of thousands of incredibly talented and passionate people interacting with our customers every day, who are respectful, courteous and resourceful.

That said, it was painful to listen to this call, and I am not surprised that we have been criticized for it. Respecting our customers is fundamental, and we fell short in this instance. I know these Retention calls are tough, and I have tremendous admiration for our Retention professionals, who make it easy for customers to choose to stay with Comcast. We have a Retention queue because we believe in our products, and because we offer a great value when customers have the right facts to choose the package that works best for them. If a customer is not fully aware of what the product offers, we ask the Retention agent to educate the customer and work with them to find the right solution.

The agent on this call did a lot of what we trained him and paid him — and thousands of other Retention agents — to do. He tried to save a customer, and that’s important, but the act of saving a customer must always be handled with the utmost respect. This situation has caused us to reexamine how we do some things to make sure that each and every one of us — from leadership to the front line — understands the balance between selling and listening. And that a great sales organization always listens to the customer, first and foremost.

When the company has moments like these, we use them as an opportunity to get better, and that’s what we’re going to do. We will review our training programs, we will refresh our manager on coaching for quality, and we will take a look at our incentives to ensure we are rewarding employees for the right behaviors. We can, and will, do better.

Thank you for your support, and many thanks to the thousands of exceptional employees all around the country who work so hard to deliver a great customer experience every day. I am confident that together we will continue to improve the experience, one customer at a time.

Dave Watson
Chief Operating Officer, Comcast Cable

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