Comcast admits service rep did what he was trained to do

In an internal memo, Comcast's chief operating officer says a customer service call recorded by tech journalist Ryan Block was painful to listen to. He promises changes.

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Will it change its ways? CNET

When you don't have a leg to stand on, it's best to sit down and take stock.

This is what appears to have happened at Comcast after a customer service call, in which a retention agent made a customer want to retain a hammer and bang it very hard, went viral.

Last week, tech journalist Ryan Block posted part of a conversation he had with a Comcast customer service representative. Block simply wanted to disconnect his service, but the rep tried everything, and I truly do mean everything, to persuade him into staying.

While Comcast initially apologized for its rep's behavior, an internal memo -- first obtained by the Consumerist -- reveals the company at least understands why it was criticized. A Comcast spokesperson confirmed to CNET that the memo is indeed genuine.

In the memo, Chief Operating Officer Dave Watson admitted: "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."

Watson said it was "painful to listen to the call," and he added that respecting "customers is fundamental, and we fell short in this instance."

Continuing a tone of mea culpa, Watson said: "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."

All too often, though, customers' needs seem to be put last. In the call with Block, the corporate need to retain was expressed far above that of any need the customer might have had. Boasting you're so great, as the rep did in the recorded call, while a customer is politely explaining that he's already made his mind up to end service, has all the joy of a date from hell.

Watson makes all the correct noises: "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."

Yet how many calls like this weren't recorded by Comcast customers? Comcast, the largest cable operating in the US, has around 20 million customers. When a company has what seems like a near-monopoly on cable service, isn't it an idea to offer a little more charm and a little less annoying hubris?

Will anything change? Perhaps it'll show in the retention numbers.

You can read Watson's full memo below:

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 managers 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

Update, 1:45 p.m PT: Adds full memo and confirmation from Comcast.

 

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