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Customer's call shows that Comcast must change; will company listen or hang up?

Philip Michaels | July 21, 2014
We've all had our share of frustrating customer service calls, but until further notice, Ryan Block is probably the leader in the clubhouse after his exchange with an especially aggressive Comcast employee went viral this week.

We've all had our share of frustrating customer service calls, but until further notice, Ryan Block is probably the leader in the clubhouse after his exchange with an especially aggressive Comcast employee went viral this week.

The debate now is over whether that sort of Comcast interaction is typical — anonymous former employees of the company have surfaced online this week to say that is; a Comcast representative I talked to insists it isn't. But the facts of the matter are these: Block — a former Engadget editor who now works with AOL — wanted to cancel his Internet and cable service. The Comcast employee on the other end of the line, though, had a different idea, subjecting Block to the kind of interrogation one rarely finds outside of scripted police dramas. And that's only what we heard in the eight minutes of the call that Block recorded; the preceding 10 minutes of Block and his wife pleading to carry out a simple cancelation request were sadly lost to history.

How jaw-dropping was the Comcast rep's behavior? Staggering enough that the public outcry moved Comcast to issue a public apology.

"The way in which our representative communicated with [Block] is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives," Tom Krainshak, Comcast's senior vice president of customer experience, wrote. "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."

The last bit of Krainshak's apology could be heartening to Comcast subscribers if the cable and Internet giant uses this as an opportunity to re-examine how it interacts with its customers. However, the cynics among us — the polite term would be "realists," thank you very much — might question the first part of the apology, the bit about how it's "not consistent" with the way Comcast does things.

I think the story of Block's Comcast interaction resonated with so many people because it squared with their own experiences. I've recounted my own Comcast horror story in an earlier TechHive article, and while I wouldn't say it's in the same ballpark as what Block had to endure, it's at least in the ballpark's parking lot. There's a reason Comcast enjoys the subterranean reputation among consumers that it does, and no, it's not that people taking these customer satisfaction surveys are not just a bunch of haters.

And in the wake of Block's call going viral, a couple reports have surfaced that may make you wonder just how atypical that call was. On Reddit, a poster claiming to be an ex-Comcast employee painted a picture of the company's customer retention department where the people taking those calls from disaffected customers are heavily incentivized to keep them from unsubscribing.

 

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