Four Lessons from Comcast's Nightmare Customer Service Call

John Krautzel
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In July 2014, Comcast customer service suffered further embarrassment and added to its already tarnished reputation when the recording of a call went viral. In the recording, a calm customer tried to get his cable service disconnected because he was moving, only to be faced by a frantic Comcast customer service rep who would not let him go. Any service company can learn four lessons from Comcast's ensuing PR nightmare.

Comcast was not known for great customer service before the viral phone call. As of April 2014, a Temkin Experience Ratings Survey showed that users ranked Comcast's customer service as the worst of all the TV and Internet service providers. Comcast should consider some of the following crucial improvements to its customer service.

Recognize That Customer Service Reps Are the Face of the Company

Large companies such as Comcast often hand customer service duties out to subcontractors. That can mean that a subcontracted employee with no real relationship to the parent company actually serves as the face of the company to the vast majority of the parent company's customers. Subcontracted employees must therefore receive the same training as the company's own employees. Companies must set high expectations regarding treatment of customers, then follow through to make sure those standards are communicated and taught through all levels of customer contact.

Train Customer Service Reps to Accept "No"

Customer service reps must learn to be graceful losers. The Comcast customer service rep who fought to keep a single customer instead found his desperation tweeted to more than 83,000 Twitter followers, all because he had clearly been trained and incentivized not to let a customer go. Give your customer service reps clear guidelines regarding how hard to push, what offers to make and, most important, when to take no for an answer. Letting a customer go gracefully builds good will and allows the customer to feel good about returning to your company in the future.

Revamp Your Customer Service Incentives

The Comcast customer service rep likely had a company-driven incentive to keep a customer at all costs, one which backfired badly. Take a look at your own customer service incentives, and redesign them to reward service reps for rewarding customers. Could your own incentives be interpreted in a way that might cause a customer service rep to harangue or mistreat a customer? If so, change the way you reward your service reps, providing them incentives for valuing customers and making them happy. Happy customers make for good word-of-mouth and repeat business.

Empower Customer Service Reps to Leave the Script

When customer service reps have the freedom to offer true incentives to customers, the customers feel valued and will want to stick with the company. Give your customer service people some autonomy in what they can offer a customer who has a complaint. Depending on your business, that might mean free or expedited shipping, a reduced rate for a short time or a rebate. Provide your customers service reps with the data they need to distinguish high-value customers, adding extra incentives for retaining their loyalty.

Hopefully, the Comcast customer service fiasco will help the company learn these lessons. In the meantime, you can learn from Comcast's awkward disaster, and turn your own customer service in the right direction.

Photo courtesy of mrsiraphol at


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