Important Lessons From Comcast's Customer Service Disaster

By Marty Schneck, July 18, 2014

It’s viral. Comcast messed up. They have a classic customer service crisis on their hands.

If you haven’t heard yet, it’s pretty entertaining. You can listen here:


Essentially, instead of cancelling the customer’s service as requested, the Comcast customer service agent continued to ask for the reason why for the entire phone call. By the end of the eight minute recording, the agent complies, saying “It's really a shame to see you go to a company that can't give you what we can.”

For those who didn't listen to it, it’s pretty hard to summarize the condescending tone of the employee, who insisted that the customer stay with the “number one internet and phone provider in the country.”

And apparently, that’s recorded after 10 minutes on the phone already, after the caller’s distressed wife handed him the phone.

Now, Comcast has long been known to have awful customer service. Business Insider has them as the number four most hated company. But the viral phone call takes poor customer service to a new level.

But with every failure comes a learning experience. Let’s look into what we can learn from this devastating customer service disaster.

Lesson 1: Listen

“You don’t want something that works? Why don’t you want something that’s a good service, something that works?”

At this point, the caller has tried for six minutes (plus 10 minutes before the recording began) to get his service disconnected. It took half the recording just to get the employee to say that disconnecting over the phone was possible.

So this is a prime example of the customer service agent

In customer service, it's vital to listen to the customer’s problem, and respond with a solution. Sure you can ask for a reason for leaving, but the extensive prodding of this employee is beyond asking. It’s more demanding than anything.

In short, it’s not your place to question the customer’s problem. You’re there to give the best assistance you can. Dodging the solution makes people angrier, and making them angrier only aggravates the problem.

Lesson 2: Positive Tone

“How is that helping you, though? Why is that what you want?”

The employee says this in a condescending, matter-of-fact tone that's a big no-no for customer service. I actually felt embarrassed for him.

When you offer service for your customer’s problems, you have to approach everything in a positive light. Positive tone is a huge part in this. You don't want to make the customer feel at fault, and you want to make it sound like you’re offering a simple solution to the problem.

By talking to the caller like this, the employee is chastising the customer, questioning his motives, and coming off as very unapproachable and unhelpful.

No wonder he wants to disconnect his service.

Lesson 3: Stay Calm

“If you dont want to talk to me, you can definitely return to the Comcast store and disconnect your service there.”

Most customer service agents get angry when they're getting yelled at by irrational customers. This employee gets angry even though that's definitely not the case.

I am personally shocked that he said this. I can see what he’s saying--if you go to the Comcast store, it’s easier for you to cancel and return your things. But it’s put into a very negative, irritated tone.

If you don’t want to talk to me, then go to the store.

A customer service agent’s job is to listen, apologize for any problems, and ally himself with the customer (Tweet this). This agent very clearly divides himself from the customer and creates two sides: the company and the customer.

The customer politely says that all he wants to do is disconnect his service without answering the prerequisite questions. The agent should have then politely agreed. But he failed to remain calm, and took the opposing side of the consumer.

No bueno.

Lesson 4: Limit Persistence

“So, I mean, being we are the number one provider of internet and TV service in the entire country, why is it you do not want the number one internet, the number one tv service, available?” “What is it about this other internet provider, this other TV provider, that makes it sound better than the number one provider available?”

All customer service agents are taught to be persistent to an extent. Some guides even note persuasion and persistency as important customer service skills.

But we can all agree that this guy goes beyond persistent, to the point where he becomes demanding and refuses to take no as an answer.

This highlights something that usually doesn’t have to be said: don’t be too persistent. There’s a limit, where the customer begins to become annoyed and agitated, and you do more harm than help.

This guy should have stopped at the second why, but he continued for far too long. And that's perhaps the most notable mistake of this phone call, and why it has gone so viral.

Did They Do Anything Right?

Well, the guy did apologize. It wasn’t very sincere, and it was in the middle of his rude-toned comments, but he did apologize, and that’s a start.

Perhaps the only true glory is Comcast’s great crisis management skills. They essentially followed all the appropriate crisis management steps, like acknowledging the incident and apologizing for it, claiming to take further steps to investigate.

It’s a textbook response to a negative viral crisis.

So yes, Comcast at least did that right.

But most of the customer serviced dished out in that recording was a terrible example of what should have happened. Hey, at least that wasn’t us. And at least we can learn great lessons from it, lessons that apply to any form of customer service (over the phone, in person, or social media).

Now, hopefully, none of us will make a similar mistake again.

Oh, and before I let you go, I have to give props to the guy for saying exactly what we were all thinking in that phone call.

“This phone call is actually an amazing representative example of why I don't want to stay with Comcast.”

Marty Schneck

Marty Schneck

Marty is the former Digital Content Specialist for eZanga and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied marketing. He thinks he’s a reality show superstar. (We think so, too.) Marty describes himself as a “foodie, beer ethusiast, coffee connoisseur, and Kardashian.” Not necessarily in that order. More Articles by Marty Schneck