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  (Source: cmorran123/Flickr)
After throwing its employee under the bus, internal memo indicates Comcast looked to mislead media about protocol

Comcast Corp.'s (CMCSA) embarrassment continues over the case of the published call in which customer Ryan Block is harassed by an "overly needy" Comcast retention specialist. The specialist goes to seemingly insane lengths to redirect the conversation and ignore the customer's requests to cancel his service.  The call was posted to SoundCloud and quickly picked up steam after The Consumerist highlighted it.
In a statement to NPR News, Comcast appeared to throw the employee under the bus, suggesting:

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.

Call center
In an internal memo Comcast acknowledges it does train employees to harass customers to try to "save" them, when they call to cancel. [Image Source: prialto]

However, The Consumerist today published a leaked internal memo from Comcast COO David N. Watson which sheds more light on the matter. Mr. Watson reportedly posted the memo to Comcast's internal TEAM Comcast webpage.

Comcast COO
Comcast COO David Watson

The real truth, he reveals, is that the employee wasn't derailing -- he was doing precisely what he was told.  He comments:

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.

Thanks to Comcast's COO, we know that the employee was in fact mostly sticking to the script, although he could he could have used a little more tact.
Comcastic day
[Image Source: cmorran123/Flickr]

Comcast's almost evangelical way in which it proclaims the importance of "the act of saving a customer", should be eye-opening to anyone who believed this was a one-off incident.  Comcast is clearing training its reps to behave as belligerent hard sellers.  While it says it must try to win them back with "the utmost respect", the memo seems to clearly imply that its script requires its agents to deflect customer requests, and waste their time trying to share facts about how great Comcast is and sales pitches to win them back.
In other words, Ryan Block's experience -- tone of the rep aside -- was an ideal call from Comcast's perspective.
So to recap, Comcast was caught harassing and not listening to its customers via rude retention calls.  It then lashed out at its employee saying they were violating their training.  Then after pointing the finger at the working man, it turned around and told its workers that the employee actually was following their training, and that they shouldn't feel bad.

Comcast doesn't care
Comcast doesn't appear to really care about its customers' wishes and is happy to deflect blame to its employees who are following its policies/protocol. [Image Source: Silence Breakers]

No wonder Comcast beat out a packed field of rivals to earn the distinction of "Worst Company in America" in a public poll by The Consumerist.

Of course for those appalled at such glaringly dishonest business practices, the fun has just begun as Comcast is in the process of acquiring Time Warner Cable, Inc. (TWC) for $45.2B USD.  Time Warner Cable was the second most loathed in 2013 ISP customer satisfaction surveys, behind only Comcast.

If the deal -- currently under scrutiny by U.S. antitrust regulators -- goes through, Comcast will own a dominant stake in the U.S. cable television market just under 30 percent, and a dominant stake of just less than 40 percent in the U.S. cable internet market.  With roughly 2 in 5 Americans connected by Comcast, and with Comcast and Time Warner being the only two options in some regions a deal would leave many Americans with no other option for service.

South Park -- Comcast
Many Americans could soon be forced to use Comcast. [Image Source: Viacom's Comedy Central]

But with corporate America encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent rulings to exercise its "free speech" by paying off America's elected officials, hope of overturning the deal -- widely acknowledged as anticompetitive -- is waning.  Comcast has started a political action committee and is looking to make key payments to both individual candidates and the Democratic/Republic National Parties, looking to lubricate the deal and slide it through the backdoor.  As the saying goes, money speaks.  Thus many Americans may soon have to begrudgingly deal with this kind of antics.

Sources: Consumerist [1], [2], NPR News

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RE: I think you're reaching here
By JasonMick on 7/22/2014 6:14:00 PM , Rating: 0
In tone and the amount of time spent perhaps, but not in content. If you read the memo, the general bent of his tactics were approved of and part of Comcast's internal policies (to "educate" the customer and try to "work with" them to "save" them).

Certainly this is a far cry from Comcast's initial claim that its employee's approach was wholly inconsistent with "how [Comcast] train[s their] customer service representatives."

In other words, the employee might have been a particularly annoying salesman, but he was only giving the company line.

Had he "saved" the customer via his persistence/obnoxious "education" attempts, do you think Comcast's internal review would condemn this kind of behavior?

By retrospooty on 7/22/2014 6:22:06 PM , Rating: 2
"Certainly this is a far cry from Comcast's initial claim that its employee's approach was wholly inconsistent with "how [Comcast] train[s their] customer service representatives."

OK point taken. Obviously there are incentives to not let them drop.

"Had he "saved" the customer via his persistence/obnoxious "education" attempts, do you think Comcast's internal review would condemn this kind of behavior?"

I see your point, but it's a hypothetical that could not have happened. Even following a forceful policy, the guy needed to realize much sooner that this customer was already lost and there was absolutely no changing his mind. I said after 3 or 4 times he should have realized, so maybe that was too soon. After 8 times? 15 times? It was too many to count but I am guessing that recording I heard had the guy saying please just cancel my account at least 30x, and we didn't get even get the beginning of the call. We only got the part where the customer was already fed up and started recording it.

RE: I think you're reaching here
By rudolphna on 7/22/2014 7:33:17 PM , Rating: 3
Short answer: Yes. QA IS a thing, and attitude and interaction with the customer is a huge part of what happens when they QA a call.

RE: I think you're reaching here
By MrBlastman on 7/23/2014 11:27:46 AM , Rating: 2
In Comcast's case, it is them trying to take advantage of the customer. I feel for some of the service employees working for them. They are basically told to follow a script. If they don't follow the script, they are fired.

I just got off the phone with them, actually!

I was checking my monthly account debits and noticed my Comcast one. See, over a year ago I cancelled Cable from them. I don't watch television much so it doesn't matter to me. Antenna is all I need IF I watch it. (I'm one of those rare people that prefers to read all their news). Back in May I found a way to reduce my bill, increase my internet speed AND managed to convince them to remove my modem surcharge (i.e. "persuaded them" to give me the modem I had been leasing). Since then, I've been watching my bill like a hawk. Comcast is known for pulling sneaky things with these.

So lo and behold, my most recent debit went up by $1.75. Yeah, not a lot of money, right? $1.75 is what it costs me to see a movie at the "dollar" theater. But still, that's an increase for no reason and is above and beyond what we agreed upon.

That should be simple to fix, right? Comcast is nice--they verify your account when you call in automatically. The system detects my phone and references it with my account. Then they verify my name.

At least, this is how it has always been done. I call in, tell them about the rogue bill increase and all of a sudden... everything I normally give them is not good enough! They now want an account number!

Look, I don't read paper bills. I don't bother logging in to get account numbers. I've never had to give it to them before. I didn't last month. I shouldn't now, right? Well, they insist I give it to them. The guy is nice enough. I being angry, let him know it isn't him--it is the company he works for. Basically they wouldn't let me talk to them without jumping through lots of unusual hoops I normally wouldn't have to contend with, just to dispute a $1.75 charge.

My answer--I told them I want to talk to management. I'm now waiting for a callback. We'll see if that happens. Yeah, I could look up my number on a computer, but why should I? Their system verifies me automatically like it always has. I've always only had to give them my full address and zipcode, maybe date of birth and I'm in. Why, all of a sudden, do they need the account number, and only the account number when they have it on a screen to verify I am me when I am calling from my personal cellphone which they verified already as being authentic?

Comcast sucks. I refused to give them a number out of principle. Yes, I'm being a bit of a douche but so are they. I hate Comcast. Don't ever support them.

Oh, and sign the petition here with the FCC to block their merger:

http =14-57

RE: I think you're reaching here
By Ahnilated on 7/23/2014 1:54:58 PM , Rating: 2
I would bet money that you will never get a call back from someone claiming to be management, I haven't in over 20 yrs of working with these companies. You see, you are still paying for the same crappy service no matter if they call you back or not.

RE: I think you're reaching here
By MrBlastman on 7/23/2014 4:05:28 PM , Rating: 2
To their credit, they did call me back. They also informed me the CSR agent should have been able to verify the last four digits of my social instead of insisting I give them the account number. He said he couldn't see the number on his screen but his boss said he should have been able to.

As for the 1.75... well, in all due fairness, it was because I had a credit applied to my previous bill.

Oh well. You have to stay on top of this stuff!

RE: I think you're reaching here
By JDHammer on 7/23/2014 7:58:19 PM , Rating: 2
Can i just facepalm? =P

RE: I think you're reaching here
By MrBlastman on 7/24/2014 2:26:10 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah. :P

RE: I think you're reaching here
By sorry dog on 7/24/2014 12:13:27 PM , Rating: 2
I am familiar with the software that Comcast uses. All he had to do was click on another tab that would show personal info including the last four of your social (if you ever gave it, BTW- it XX's out the first 5 digits). Either your guy was a complete novice to using CSG or he was trying to stonewall you. I leave it up to you to decide which.

RE: I think you're reaching here
By Labotomizer on 7/22/2014 9:46:10 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, they would condemn this type of behavior if the customer still complained. I've been transferred to these retention agents before. They're not so bad. It is absolutely no different than any other salesman on the planet. If I go to a car dealership they're going to do their best to make the deal before I walk out the door. If I go look at furniture, same thing. In fact, I talk to the retention agents every year when my first half of my contract is up. I tell him the service has gotten too expensive and that I'm okay with paying the ETF and they always, always make a better deal and start it over and keep my rate about where it was.

Also, people are blaming Comcast for one guy. I don't leave a restaurant where a waiter was awful and think "Well, I guess Olive Garden trains their waiters to be douchebags". There are people like this everywhere. Blaming Comcast for this is insane. Yes, they try to convince you to stay with them. Do you expect a company to say "Oh, that's fine. We're okay with you leaving. Have a great day!"

RE: I think you're reaching here
By Piiman on 8/16/2014 10:18:58 AM , Rating: 2
" Do you expect a company to say "Oh, that's fine. We're okay with you leaving. Have a great day!"

Or they could offer some sort of incentive to stay. Not send you to a person that doesn't take no for an answer

RE: I think you're reaching here
By W00dmann on 7/23/2014 4:21:47 PM , Rating: 2
Good grief Jason! I've seen you reach before, and I've seen you sensationalize before, but holy cow... I've never seen you this desperate. You state something as fact in your headline when it clearly is NOT fact, no matter how hard you may wish it.

Read it again: "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."

Did you catch the part where he said "did A LOT OF..."? In other words, he performed his basic job of trying to save a customer, he just went about it in a hyper-aggressive way. And the memo carries on to talk about being respectful, courteous, and resourceful.

If you think the memo from Mr. Watson somehow admitted fault, sit down and ask yourself - what is it exactly you think people do in the customer retention department? Why, they try to retain customers. How do they do that? They try to engage the customer in a conversation to find out what they are unhappy with, and hopefully solve the problem and keep them as a customer. Hence, "customer retention".

Honestly Jason, I hope Comcast sues you for libel. Your time has come. You've earned it.

By NellyFromMA on 7/25/2014 9:44:04 AM , Rating: 2
Seriously, the "leaked" memo is actually well written, addresses the concern, and respectfully tries to reaffirm the purpose of many peoples jobs while also reiterating that respecting the customer is key.

I re-read the memo several times and there isn't ANYTHING to support this article.

I dislike virtually all telecoms for the anti-competitive industry they have lobbied and established for themselves, all while harming consumers, but this is probably the single most pointless and misguided article I've ever read on DT. In fact, it's straight up misleading IMO.

There isn't anything in that memo that implies that what went on in the original incident is in any way "exactly what they are trained to do".

The memo was professionally written and doesn't state or imply anything you suggest. If you don't like Comcast and want us all to know, perhaps delete the contents of this article and just put "I hate Comcast" and I'm sure everyone here would respect the contents of the article exponentially that much more.

It's kind of embarrassing, actually.

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