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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.

First of all these guys have a low hourly rate. In the states I've worked in they start at about 10.50-12$/hr. The actual money that they make comes from their metrics for the month which depends on the department they're in. In sales this is obvious, the more sales you make the better you do.

In retention, the more products you save per customer the better you do, and the more products you disconect the worst you do [sic] (if a customer with a triple play disconnects, you get hit as losing every one of those lines of business, not just losing one customer.) These guys fight tooth and nail to keep every customer because if they don't meet their numbers they don't get paid.

Comcast uses "gates" for their incentive pays, which means that if you fall below a certain threshold (which tend to be stretch goals in the first place) then instead of getting a reduced amount, you get 0$. Let's say that if you retain 85% of your customers or more (this means 85% of the lines of businesses that customers have when they talk to you, they still have after they talk to you), you get 100% of your payout - which might be 5-10$ per line of business. At 80% you might only get 75% of your payout, and at 75% you get nothing.

Business Insider found its own former Comcast employee to dish on the company's customer retention. That ex-Comcaster heard nothing out of the ordinary happening in Block's recording. "That was an average retention representative he was on the phone with," the source tells Business Insider.

Now both these accounts come from anonymous sources, so take them with however many grains of salt you care to have on your person. I tried verifying the accounts with sources of my own, but my contacts weren't familiar enough with the inner workings of Comcast's subscriber retention program to say one way or the other about how accurate those reports are.

I did, however, get a hold of a Comcast spokeswoman who maintains that "the majority of compensation" for employees tasked with keeping Comcast subscribers in the fold comes from a fixed hourly rate. There are commissions, the spokeswoman told me, but retaining customers is only a portion of that; employee commissions are also based on what the spokeswoman called "the quality of interaction... being responsive to customers at all times and in all situations."

We can sit and parse the meaning of all that — one person's "portion of a commission" is another person's livelihood. Taking Comcast at its word here, there's some amount of compensation tied into keeping customers on the books — enough so that the employee fielding Block's call felt incentivized to do a one-man Good Cop/Bad Cop routine. And that should give Comcast cause for concern beyond the embarrassment felt when this call went public.


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