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Comcast does a U-turn, admits rep from retention call was doing "what we trained him to do"

By Himanshu Arora · 24 replies
Jul 23, 2014
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  1. After that excruciating recorded call between AOL product manager Ryan Block and a Comcast customer rep went viral last week, the cable company quickly apologized noting that's not "how our customer service representatives are trained to operate". But as many already...

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  2. WangDangDoodle

    WangDangDoodle TS Addict Posts: 199   +71

    I really shouldn't be surprised that "Retention Representative" is a job description, though they might as well call it "Phone Bully." I would have lost it completely if I was at the receiving end of such treatment. This is a plain terrible business practice.
  3. cmbjive

    cmbjive TS Booster Posts: 777   +139

    Of course he was: Every company that sells a subscription service has a retention department whose job it is is to prevent people from terminating service. When I worked for Qwest and VZW, if there was any customer who wanted to terminate service you had to do everything possible to prevent that from happening. If your spiel didn't work, you were required to transfer them to the "Save" department. The "Save" department employs every tactic available to try and keep business, up to and including belittling or berating the customer. I never understood how they thought such tactics would be viable for retaining customers as it is more likely to just piss them off.
  4. You have to maintain control of the conversation when dealing with these people. Once you make it clear they won't be "retaining" anything, they've no choice but to comply with your demands. The trick is taking the wind out of their sails by being blunt, mercilessly confident in your tone, and demonstrating superior patients. People tend to give up quickly when you FedEx them a message demonstrating they don't stand a chance.

    Source: Personal experience shutting down aggressive sales people.
    Burty117 and cmbjive like this.
  5. cmbjive

    cmbjive TS Booster Posts: 777   +139

    Absolutely. People who go in saying "They don't want nothing" usually end up not only keeping their service, but end up getting additional ones as well (in my experience). Those who play it cool and are confident in their request are the ones who get their services terminated.
  6. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 3,160   +1,413

    I still think the most shocking thing about this entire story has been it's longevity. So a sales rep was a d!ck in trying to retain a customer. This same call is happening right now in every customer service department in the country.
    cmbjive and davislane1 like this.
  7. insect

    insect TS Evangelist Posts: 349   +132

    Uh - you're making it the opposite of easy. It was obviously a pain in the *** to leave and even worse to "choose" Comcast in the future. Also, you have a retention queue because TOO MANY people want to leave, a sign of poor service. Just having a retention department in the first place should be a cue that you're doing something wrong...
  8. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,935   +3,987

    What the heck are they trying to achieve here? Let's examine the possibilities.

    1: Hoping that no one will ever try to get their cable shut off again, or

    2: committing business suicide, as no one will want to potentially face that situation in the future, or ,

    3: (and my personal favorite), ripping a page from the Catholic Church's playbook, by trying to foist off the time honored/worn out, concept, "admission absolves guilt", on a naive, unsuspecting, public.:D
  9. We have gone from "The customer is always right" to "The customer doesn't understand how superior our products are, so lets educate them and get them to realize the mistake they are making by leaving". The first statement has to do with service and providing a product/experience for the customer knowing you will be rewarded in the long term. The second statement is one of a large egotistical company sucking the money any way it can.
  10. Our country, Brazil, is a mess in many aspects, but there is some sort of new law going on over here and I guess it´s a very nice one: if you want to get rid of some phone/cell phone/internet provider, when you contact them by phone, there is a specific number for getting rid of their services WITHOUT talking to any representative, so you don´t have this kind of annoyance anymore.
  11. Whatever happened to using the carrot instead of the stick to encourage the horse to go where you wanted them to go?!?!?

    Does anyone remember the movie "Miracle on 34th Street"? Remember in the movie when Santa Claus told a parent (customer) that they could find that particular toy cheaper across the street at Gimbels, and the parent was so impressed that she told the Macys store manager that she will become a Macys loyal customer.

    Lessons to learn.

    - HamGuy
  12. Renrew

    Renrew TS Enthusiast Posts: 253   +19

    Actually, he'd make a great used car salesman.
  13. Renrew

    Renrew TS Enthusiast Posts: 253   +19

    In my country we still go the cheap route and blow a whistle into the phone.
    Hexic likes this.
  14. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,935   +3,987

    Because when you own the only horse in town, you can do whatever the f*** you want with it, carrots be damned. Carrots cost money.

    Besides, what many of you have failed to appreciate, is the caller WORKED for AOL, and he was milking the situation for all it was worth.....
  15. Lionvibez

    Lionvibez TS Evangelist Posts: 1,463   +633

    Very true but a retention department is mandatory in a Government assisted Monopoly!
  16. tonylukac

    tonylukac TS Evangelist Posts: 1,376   +72

    You should see how hard it is to port land lines to internet lines. This one woman in my extended businesses, for winch installing ooma internet phone I gave up on, tried to port her number and it takes 3 weeks, first of all. Then when the date came, comcast didn't do it. There was some type of retention statement asking why, but the next port date three weeks later they did it for some reason. Dissolving the att land line/dsl service was just as tedious. The reason I got att to do it was that they thought I was ordering another dsl internet line. Finally, I gave up installing internet phones because when you have the dsl coming in on the same line, the entire condo has to be rewired with difficulty.
  17. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,969   +2,274

    All it would have taken is the guy calling up to cancel telling the rep that he is cancelling the service, and if they do not comply, that he would report them to his credit card company for credit card fraud. End of conversation.
  18. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,935   +3,987

    OK, you apparently missed this; the guy who was trying to cancel, works for AOL.

    Now, why do you think Comcast's employee was the sole antagonist?

    I'm pretty sure this guy was aiding, abetting, and manipulating the conversation to his advantage. He obviously got his, "15 minutes of fame", and then some from this call.

    FWIW, Comcast is still a greedy, ruthless corporation, so don't take this post to mean I'm sticking up for them.

    You should have tried to get AOL disconnected at one of their Indian call centers. That was practically impossible.
  19. Welcome to the brave new world where "salesmanship" is waaaaay more important than quality of service and/or product.

    If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with the excrement of a male bovine creature.
  20. Gleowine

    Gleowine TS Rookie

    Whats sad is services are so over priced... How many of us call to cancel service just to get a reasonable discount.
  21. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,969   +2,274

    A strongly worded post - but nothing personal...

    As I see it, It is not outside of the realm of possibility that even though the guy works for AOL, his ISP was Comcast. You do not need AOL as an ISP to have AOL. My wife's father has an arrangement like that, just like Earthlink is my ISP but my "internet carrier" is TWC. My wife's father's internet carrier is TWC, too, but his ISP is AOL.

    The point of my post was that all anyone has to do is say to an abusive rep (no matter what company the rep works for) like that is, "I'm cancelling my account. If you do not cancel it and keep billing my credit card, I will contact my credit card provider and tell them that I cancelled my account and that you (insert company here) are fraudulently billing my credit card."

    Even in the case you cite, AOL and their Indian call centers, that is all that needs to be done. Once any subscriber tells any subscription service, "I'm through with you, my account is closed, you are no longer authorized to charge my credit card" it is legally binding.

    There is nothing in any service agreement that says that cancellation has to be mutually agreed on, and that is not to say that if there is an agreed on term that has not yet expired that cancellation charges will not apply, either.

    It is to say that there is no clause in any service agreement that says that both parties have to mutually agree to cancellation of the account because it would be against the law at least in the US. In the US, the FTC would be all over such a contract from any business entity like killer bees if it contained such "fine print."

    From my viewpoint, it is about the perception of power, and reps like the Comcast guy are trained to keep asking "why" which is manipulative. The power is in the hands of the people who pay for the service, but there are people out there who simply do not understand this when "challenged" by an abusive rep like this, and that is what the whole idea of a "retention expert" is based on, as I see it - challenge the fickle customer, attempt to sound like an expert to regain the confidence of the customer and/or break down their reason for leaving, and as a result, retain them.

    I also dealt with a "trained retention expert" after TW slammed my 88-year old mother onto their phone service. I wish at that time that I would have been able to record it. It was amazing. They cut and removed phone wires to the previous phone service that made it unlikely that it would have been a simple service call to the previous provider to restore that service. I know they did this because I wired the existing telephone. The rep had the audacity to tell me "we would not do something like that" and "we do not make mistakes," and finally, out of his frustration he said, "Everything I say is supposed to calm you down, but with everything I say you are getting angrier." So, the guy was reading from a script. There's a law in NYS that says that if a service change is not changed back within 30-days that it was desired. From my experience, TWC is attempting to game that law with those who are not technically astute or "street wise," or just plain slow.

    If it was a plan on AOL's part, then it needed to be done, IMO, because this goes on everywhere, but I highly doubt that this was a publicity stunt by AOL to attempt to bolster their business. At this point, as I see it, the media has made it about Comcast's abusive practices and not about AOL or the guy trying to cancel service.
  22. Come on, that clown from Comcast has issues that are well beyond his moronic attempt to "save a customer". He turned it into a pissing contest and he came off looking and sounding like the jerk we all know him to be. Comcast needs to fire the guy and anyone else that pretends they are Cable-God and ever treat another customer like that again. A truly disgusting prick.
  23. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,399   +627

    What if his billing was not through his credit card? I may have missed it but in this particular case I didn't see any reference to a credit card.
  24. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,935   +3,987

    The only point I intended to make, was that any one of us, "could be herded or provoked into a pissing contest, given the confluence of circumstance".

    I have Verizon for ISP & telephone. And while the on top of the leader board with respect to customer satisfaction, I've still heard nonsense, evasions, and outright horse poo, from their billing office and street technicians over the years.

    I have no intention of placing myself into the shoes of the gentleman whose phone call started this thread. Why? Because I'm happy with this provider, in spite of the fact they've managed, on occasion, to have me grumbling to myself for days.

    With that being said, I think there are a lot of fools in the world, abandoning land line phones and OTA TV, thereby placing themselves at the mercy of robber baron mentality corporations such as Comcast.

    In circumstances where "rules" haven't been written with respect to cellular phones and internet, you can bet the ranch providers won't necessarily set limits in favor of the consumer.

    Nor did I, but sometimes I skim. In any event, dealing with an entity as notorious as Comcast, it is foolhardy not to use your credit card. It costs about $35.00 to stop payment on a check, and nothing to call your credit card company's dispute division. Once you've done it, they'll give you the direct number for disputes in the future...:)
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2014
  25. Spect

    Spect TS Booster Posts: 33   +24

    10-15 years ago when AOL was the cool thing to have I used to call up and and speak to AOL's "retention agents" every 2-3 months and threaten to cancel service just to get the 2-3 months of free AOL dial-up. I did this for almost a year, until the service wasn't even worth getting for free anymore. AOL was no better then Comcast and would be employing the same tactics if they actually had customers today.

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