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 suspected, turns out that's not true.
Taking a complete U-turn, the company has now admitted that the rep was doing what he was trained him to do. The statement came as part of a memo issued by Comcast's Chief Operating Officer Dave Watson to employees.
"It was painful to listen to this call, and I am not surprised that we have been criticized for it", Watson said, adding that the agent "did a lot of what we trained him and paid him — and thousands of other Retention agents — to do". He recognized the lack of sensitivity to the customer’s desire to discontinue service.
The bitter reality behind the way these employees act is that their pay relies on how many customers they lose and how many they keep from leaving. "These guys fight tooth and nail to keep every customer because if they don't meet their numbers they don't get paid", said an anonymous reddit user who claimed to be a Comcast employee.
Although those incentives (or penalties) aren't likely to go away, Watson said that the company will re-examine the way these retention calls are made and ensure that they are rewarding employees for the right behaviors.
He also accepted that Retention Representative jobs are tough, and said that he has tremendous admiration for Comcast's Retention professionals, who make it easy for customers to choose to stay with the company.
You can read the full memo below:
A Message From Dave Watson,
July 21, 2014
You probably know that there has been a fair amount of media attention about a recording of a phone call between one of our Customer Account Executives (CAEs) and a Comcast customer. The call went viral on social media and generated news headlines. We have apologized to the customer privately and publicly on Comcast Voices, making it clear that we are embarrassed by the tone of the call and the lack of sensitivity to the customer’s desire to discontinue service.
I’d like to give you my thoughts on the situation.
First, let me say that while I regret that this incident occurred, the experience that this customer had is not representative of the good work that our employees are doing. We have tens of thousands of incredibly talented and passionate people interacting with our customers every day, who are respectful, courteous and resourceful.
That said, it was painful to listen to this call, and I am not surprised that we have been criticized for it. Respecting our customers is fundamental, and we fell short in this instance. I know these Retention calls are tough, and I have tremendous admiration for our Retention professionals, who make it easy for customers to choose to stay with Comcast. We have a Retention queue because we believe in our products, and because we offer a great value when customers have the right facts to choose the package that works best for them. If a customer is not fully aware of what the product offers, we ask the Retention agent to educate the customer and work with them to find the right solution.
The agent on this call did a lot of what we trained him and paid him — and thousands of other Retention agents — to do. He tried to save a customer, and that’s important, but the act of saving a customer must always be handled with the utmost respect. This situation has caused us to reexamine how we do some things to make sure that each and every one of us — from leadership to the front line — understands the balance between selling and listening. And that a great sales organization always listens to the customer, first and foremost.
When the company has moments like these, we use them as an opportunity to get better, and that’s what we’re going to do. We will review our training programs, we will refresh our manager on coaching for quality, and we will take a look at our incentives to ensure we are rewarding employees for the right behaviors. We can, and will, do better.
Thank you for your support, and many thanks to the thousands of exceptional employees all around the country who work so hard to deliver a great customer experience every day. I am confident that together we will continue to improve the experience, one customer at a time.
Chief Operating Officer, Comcast Cable