It has been a couple weeks since Ryan Block tried to cancel his long-standing contract with Comcast. It has also been a couple weeks since Block's recording of that call went viral and all manner of businesses, news sites, individual bloggers, and social media participants began speculating why the Comcast customer service representative would act in a hostile manner toward someone who simply wanted to cancel his account.
In the call, listeners can hear that the representative -- a "retention expert" many have called him -- try to keep Block on the line by asking him repeatedly for an explanation regarding why he wants to leave the company. To those requests, Block responds, "I am declining to state why we are leaving Comcast because I don't owe you an explanation."
"Please proceed to the next question, and we will attempt to answer that if possible," he continues.
The representative does not let him off the hook, however, and continues to push for an explanation. TMC previously discussed how businesses can learn from this practice by properly training their employees and focusing less on monetary incentives by placing customer happiness above all else.
Recently, The Verge reached out to current and former Comcast employees to receive insider opinions on what the customer service culture is like with the company. It begins its analysis by prepping readers with the information that, regardless of the issue, they should expect a sales pitch when they call Comcast customer service. It then lists a sampling of statements from those employees.
"We locked down the ability for most customer service reps to disconnect accounts," said a Georgia-based billing systems manager who worked at Comcast from 2008 to 2013. "We queue the calls for customers looking to disconnect to a retention team who are authorized to give more deeply discounted products to keep subscribers."
"The pay was great," said a Massachusetts sales representative who worked at Comcast from 2011 to 2014. "Everything else about the job was a nightmare."
A different sales representative from Florida who was a Comcast employee between February 2014 and July 2014 said sales jobs depended on selling Xfinity Home security systems.
"You can only fail one scorecard. Then you're fired," the sales representative said. "Most people live in permanent fear, checking their numbers after every call. I decided to quit before I shot myself in the head out of desperation."
The sorts of reactions The Verge printed are largely negative. They spread an image about Comcast that do not appear to do the brand any favors.
TMC reached out to Monica Girolami, the head of Marketing North America with NewVoiceMedia, to get a business insider's opinion about the call.
She described NewVoiceMedia as a company that provides business contact center solutions that help to streamline the customer service process. It can help bring together different departments and send customer information to appropriate parties so representatives can view a complete picture of any customer's situation.
"Looking at this from a high level," Girolami said, "[I ask]: Are they really responding to the event correctly?"
"[Businesses] have a responsibility to route your email and phone calls to the appropriate representatives," she said, and she speculated about whether or not Comcast had done that in this situation.
Indeed, Block may have been speaking to an agent with which Comcast wanted him to speak, but that agent may still have been inappropriate, or inappropriately placed, for Block's situation.
NewVoiceMedia products can help businesses track user experiences to provide employees at all levels information about customer experiences. It is possible -- though speculatory like much of the fallout from this incident is -- that Block's recording does not demonstrate his first interaction with a Comcast representative, and it may not demonstrate his initial frustration with Comcast as a brand.
Things could have come to a head during that call because the “retention expert” asked Block his reasons for wanting to switch out necessity either through his job description or because he did not have the information in front of him. NewVoiceMedia products, for instance, could have shown the agent the previous calls in which Block engaged, and that information could have replaced the need for queries about why Block wanted to cancel.
Instead of letting him get to a heightened state of frustration, Girolami continues, Comcast could have been more proactive about the situation as a whole. Once Block called once or twice about the same issue, Comcast could have used information gathered from Block's past calls and proactively reached out to him to make sure things were running smoothly.
There is a huge difference between agents being proactive about current problems and agents attempting to pick up the broken pieces of failed relationships. In the latter situation, retention agents are often seen as being the bad guys, but it is possible that their actions are not entirely bad. If allowed to be proactive, retention agents could work toward making customers happy by proactively addressing their needs instead of waiting for things to fall apart.
"My feeling is that Comcast needs a better customer service vision," Girolami concluded.
Agents should work to make their customers happy, not plead for them to stick around after things have gone sour.