Random Thoughts – Randocity!

How not to run a business (Part 7.1): Learn by Example

Posted in best practices, botch, business by commorancy on July 29, 2014


The above is a real customer call between Ryan Block and a Comcast customer retention representative. Keep in mind that Ryan Block’s significant other had previously been on the phone for 10 minutes prior to this conversation, who then got frustrated and handed Ryan the phone. In Ryan’s quest to cancel service, the 8m 14s conversation that ensues is an amazing listen.

To Comcast’s credit, they have issued an apology to Ryan. However, the above may indicate a newly emerging industry trend that may need to be identified within your own organization. Heavy handed tactics only lead to bad customer PR and, again, the above is a prime example of ‘What Not To Do’.

In the spirit of this series of articles, this call is also a prime example of how not to run customer service within your business. Let’s explore.

Do not allow your telephone representatives to run amok

Record all your customer facing calls and review these calls daily, preferably with the representatives in question. After listening to a call of this nature, the supervisor should have pulled this representative aside and called out this insane performance. This representative should have been immediately pulled from the phones and sent back to remedial training on how to work with customers. If this behavior continues, further disciplinary action should be taken.

What’s not completely clear is how much of this agent’s behavior and line of questioning was of his own volition and how much was a managerial and/or company mandate within his local organization or Comcast as a whole. It’s clear that Ryan seems to think this behavior is not by this agent’s own accord. He believes it to be wider problem within Comcast and this ARS technica article shows that this may be true.

Do not teach or reward your representatives’ bad behaviors

No matter where this type of behavior spawned, it is not welcome in any organization. If a customer calls to request service closure, it’s fine to ask a few questions to understand the nature of the request. However, if the customer declines to answer reason type questions, simply make a note of that in your records. Then, promptly accept and follow through with the request. Representatives are not there to argue, banter, delay or in any way hold the customer hostage by not following through with the service closure request.

If your representatives refuse to follow through with the request for closure, this is tantamount to extortion. Refusing to stop service may also be illegal and may also be considered in breach of your contract. If the customer has followed all contractual obligations to you for notifications and payments and your representative will simply not stop service, you should also expect a call from a lawyer.

Do not expect your customer retention team to act like this representative

This call underlines a lot of things all at once. Once thing it clearly underlines is this conversation method is not the path to customer retention or customer satisfaction. Customer retention is about offering a deal or set of deals to keep the person as a customer. Customer satisfaction is earned supporting requests, if possible, timely. When the customer declines all offered deals, there is nothing else with which you can barter. Your retention team’s job is done. At that point, the service closure should proceed unhindered per the customer’s request.

In a memo that was leaked via The Consumerist, Comcast Chief Operating Officer Dave Watson writes:

“[I]t 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.”

Though he also admits:

“The agent on this call did a lot of what we trained him and paid him — and thousands of other Retention agents — to do.”

Of this behavior, ARS Technica writes:

“Comcast employees have financial incentives to act the way the agent on the call did. An anonymous reddit user who claimed to be a Comcast employee wrote that “these guys fight tooth and nail to keep every customer because if they don’t meet their numbers they don’t get paid.”

Bottom line, do not pay your representatives to act in this way.

Do not allow your representatives to bring bad PR to your company

Another thing this call underlines is just how badly a call like this can backfire on your organization. With call recording technologies, internet sharing sites and viral media, your organization can now suffer a swift backlash. If you’re trying to keep your brand relevant, popular and selling, such bad public relations can easily bring your brand down and, along with it, bad press and legal ramifications.

Do not underestimate the power of social media

Social media is the new billboard and can make or break the reputation of your business. It only takes a one or two viral backlash campaigns and your company’s reputation is tarnished for at least a year. It will take that amount of time to rebuild your company’s brand, quality and reputation. In other words, don’t expect to get any J.D. Power awards after such a negative media event. Just as one bad email campaign to the wrong set of email addresses can tarnish your marketing reputation, one bad customer service experience posted to social media can tarnish your customer service reputation and with it, your brand, products and services.

Social media is a great white shark and those teeth hurt a lot when they bite you unexpectedly.

Part 7 | Chapter Index | Part 8

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