Move over United, Comcast customer experience debacle goes viral

Reposted with permission from the Interactions blog

by Bob Sullebarger

There are at least a dozen ways to create a customer service nightmare, but none will get you there faster than a customer with 82,300 followers on Twitter. 

Meet former tech editor, Ryan Block, who recorded and uploaded his experience as he attempted to cancel his contract with Comcast on Tuesday this week. The 8-minute recording has now amassed nearly 4 million plays and is probably just getting started.   This puts the Comcast event on a pace to be in the company of customer experience classics like United Breaks Guitars, which has driven 14 million views to date on YouTube.

By this time, Block’s audio clip has likely been played during Comcast’s weekly executive team meeting and caused a major firestorm across the customer care organization.  It’s even possible that the agent involved is “no longer with the company.”

But despite all the best intentions, bad interactions like this inevitably happen when humans are involved.  Contact center employee satisfaction rates are notoriously low - it can be a tough job to listen to and manage hundreds of potentially unsatisfied customers while striving to hit tough performance metrics.  This drives high turnover - rates as high as 20-40% annually are not uncommon.  So the cycle of constantly recruiting, hiring and training agents without fixing worker dissatisfaction issues can only add to the likelihood of a “bad” customer service interaction like this one.  

And it’s interactions like Block’s experience with Comcast that inevitably go viral, causing significant damage to brand and reputation that is hard to recover from.  I have no doubt that Comcast sincerely intends to deliver a consistently great experience, even on tough retention calls like this one.  But with call center operations on the scale of Comcast, quality assurance is a major daily challenge.  

One place to start is a fresh look at the metrics and tools that drive the contact center.  By focusing on building better customer experience and ensuring that agents are fully trained, empowered to make the right decisions and supported by tools that improve their workflow, organizations like Comcast can start the shift from purely meeting cost metrics to better supporting the customers they have.  

Could the customer service agent changed Mr. Blocks mind even with a more positive approach?  Definitely not.  But ending the relationship happily would have left the Blocks with a better impression of Comcast and saved the company from this unfortunate viral publicity.  And isn’t that what everyone wanted?