Comcast on Tuesday was scrambling to repair the damage after a phone representative’s rude treatment of a couple trying to disconnect their service went viral, thanks to a recording they posted on the Web.
The couple — former Engadget editor Ryan Block, now at AOL, and his wife, TV host and writer Veronica Belmont — called Comcast over the weekend and asked to cancel their service over the phone.
Instead of simply fulfilling their request, however, the Comcast representative repeatedly demanded an explanation for their decision, becoming so verbally aggressive that Block asked at one point if it was a prank.
“Help me understand why you don’t want faster Internet,” the rep said.
“Help me understand why you can’t just disconnect us,” Block replied.
The recording begins after about 10 minutes of conversation already had taken place, Block noted, but the last eight minutes or so were captured. Block posted it on SoundCloud on Monday, followed by a note confirming that his service had, in fact, finally been canceled.
‘Unacceptable and Not Consistent’
“We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and Ms. Belmont and are contacting them to personally apologize,” Comcast said in a statement provided to CRM Buyer by spokesperson Jenni Moyer.
“The way in which our representative communicated with them is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives,” the company added. “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,” Comcast said.
In April, Consumerist named Comcast the Worst Company in America in 2014.
‘Like a Bad Joke on Late Night TV’
“Wow — this is an astonishing call,” technology industry analyst Jeff Kagan told CRM Buyer. “It’s like a bad joke on a late night TV show. This is an astounding example of not connecting with the customer — of actually ticking off the customer, countless times over a long period of time.
“I have had plenty of bad experiences with Comcast, but I have not faced a situation like this one,” he added. “Then again, I never called to cancel.”
Nevertheless, the example is not unique, Kagan suggested.
“Customer care has gone downhill at company after company over the last few decades,” Kagan noted. “Some companies still do a great job, but this is an example of how other companies do a lousy job.”
Meanwhile, the cable television industry is “under intense pressure as it loses market share to new competitors,” he added. “The reason the cable television industry is losing market share is because they never really took good care of their customers — and they charge too much.”
Comcast, in particular, has “always been more focused on the investor than on the customer,” Kagan said. “This is a frightening example of that position.”
While the customer service rep in question “desperately needs a course in talking with customers,” Kagan added, that’s not the perspective customers will take. “Whether this is Comcast or just the rep is not the question, because to the customer, this is Comcast.”
In the meantime, “you have to wonder whether this was a stray sheep or whether they are trained not to let go, sort of like a pit bull,” he concluded.
‘Like a Pit Bull on a Pork Chop’
The call was “unbelievable,” agreed customer service expert, professional speaker and bestselling author Shep Hyken.
The representative was “like a pit bull on a pork chop,” he told CRM Buyer.
Still, this type of problem is not specific to Comcast, Hyken said.
“The cable industry has been marred by a lot of negative customer service and a lot of comments about it,” he observed.
Depending on the type of business, it’s common wisdom that between eight and 12 good things have to happen to customers to wipe out the effects of one bad one, Hyken noted.
So, for Comcast, he concluded, “it’s going to take a long time and a lot of good to wipe out the bad.”