Comcast apologizes after agent goes too far during phone call

DALLAS – Comcast never wants a customer to go — but says one of its representatives went too far trying to convince one account-holder to stay.

On Tuesday, the cable company apologized to Ryan Block and his wife, Veronica Belmont, after the couple’s attempts to cancel were stymied by a phone call with a customer service representative that Block called “straight up belligerent.”

The incident garnered attention because Block and Belmont posted a partial recording of the conversation on the Internet.

In the eight-minute recording, the unnamed Comcast employee badgered Block with questions such as “Why is it that you’re not wanting to have the No. 1-rated Internet service, No. 1-rated television service available?”

In the employee’s defense, he explained one of the reasons for his questions: “If we don’t know why our customers are leaving, how are we supposed to make it a better experience for you next time?”

The recording went viral Tuesday morning, partly because the prominence of Block and Belmont. Block, a former editor of Engadget, works for AOL, and Belmont is a Web show host and writer.

In a statement, Comcast said it was “very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and Ms. Belmont.” The company said it was contacting them to “personally apologize.”

“The way in which our representative communicated with them is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives,” the statement said. “We are investigating this situation and will take quick action.”

Block responded on Twitter: “I hope the quick action you take is a thorough evaluation of your culture and policies, and not the termination of the rep.”

Of course, setting aside specific tactics like the pestering experienced by Block and Belmont, customer retention is a critical component of the cable and satellite business.

Comcast, DirecTV, Verizon and other companies work hard to keep “churn” — a term for customers coming and going — as low as possible.

This has been particularly important for cable-based companies such as Comcast, which have been losing television subscribers in recent years to satellite (DirecTV) and fiber-optic (Verizon).

Overall, TV subscriber totals have remained pretty consistent despite pressure from alternatives such as Netflix, but there’s been significant share-shifting from cable to newer forms of distribution.

Comcast recently impressed Wall Street by reversing the trend . For the past two quarters, it has actually gained small numbers of TV subscribers, after shedding them for years.

On its first quarter earnings call in April, after it gained 24,000 video subscribers, the company credited “improved products, improved customer support and better retention efforts.”

Separately, Comcast has been growing its base of broadband subscribers rapidly. It is the country’s largest cable company. It is awaiting government approval for its merger with Time Warner Cable, the country’s second-largest cable company.

Comcast’s statement on Tuesday said that within the company, it would use the recording made by Block to “reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.”

14 comments

  • JIm

    AOL did the same kind of things when the dialup industry was dying. I spent over an hour on the phone trying to cancel an AOL account back in 2000.

    • katt

      Customer service reps are trained to upsale…..and to discourage customers to go to the competitors. …he was only doing his job……he has a quota to meet and doing cancelation’s of service will couny against him at the end of the quota period……I worked for Comcast, and several banking call centers and we do not want to offer the customers extra. …..we have too or we will loose our jobs.

  • t

    It would probably help not t lose customers if Comcast wouldn’t advertise one price then 3 months later double it. Then up your bill about 10 bucks every 2 months or so….then also take away channels without any notification…and when u enquire about those channels not being available anymore.. They say you can get them back by upgrading to the next package for 30 bucks more per month….its outraging what we put up with and pay just for TV and internet packaging. Currently for digital starter package and internet which is 10 bucks through school but billed through Comcast…currently 130 bucks a month… See what you get for being a loyal customer….and we started out with a bill of 60 bucks per month. We now have half the channels we started out with as well!!!! Worst company ever!!

  • Dee

    I’m not surprised. Comcast has always had the worst customer service. It’s the very reason I left them 3 years ago for VerizonFIOS. The FIOS service costs more but I wouldn’t go back to Comcast even if their service was free. It’s about time their Customer Service issues are addressed. I hope it’ll make a difference.

  • buzzbye

    When you listen to the agonizing 9 minute speal from this customer service guy it appears commycast has fixed nothing and is more of a reason to drop them and not have the time warner merger go though since they are the largest donars to Obama and the democrat party

  • Richmond Va Customer

    I have been with Comcast for years and this year was my worst experience EVER!!! First off we set up a new package back in 2013. Six months later our bill went up and we called and found out a credit that was supposed to be on for the full 12 months was taken off with no notice. So I wanted them to do something with our bill due to their error. It took me FOUR separate calls to get something done. They kept telling me they would check with their supervisor to see what they could do but never called back. On the forth call I told them I wasn’t getting off the phone till something got done! Two hours later we ended up getting a new package which locked us into a two year contract. A tech was sent to our place to swap out boxes but HE NEVER SHOWED UP!!! It ruined our Sunday cause we planned our day around the time the tech was supposed to show. We called about 3 times trying to figure out why he didn’t come. They tried to say we rescheduled our appointment which was a complete lie!! They even gave a name of the person we supposedly talked too. We had to reschedule our appointment for the next day and I had to use my lunch time to meet the tech. They was supposed to call me 30 minutes before arriving but of course that didn’t happen. They called my girlfriends phone while the tech was sitting out front of our place. So she called me and I had to rush home before they left. WORSE EXPERIENCE EVER!! I was real close to telling the tech to take every piece of equipment out of our house and take it with him and cancel our service!!

    • t

      So they toss great prices at new customer to reek them in…then put them through the wringer..over and over…doesn’t take long to figure out you’re getting raped…

  • katt

    Customer service reps are trained to upsale…..and to discourage customers to go to the competitors. …he was only doing his job……he has a quota to meet and doing cancelation’s of service will couny against him at the end of the quota period……I worked for Comcast, and several banking call centers and we do not want to offer the customers extra. …..we have too or we will loose our jobs.

  • katt

    Every time you call Comcast or any call center……you get a different call center located in another state. ….if the customer is irate towards certain reps…..they will schedule your appointment at a different time other than discussed. …..place notes on the account that will state something totally different than what was discussed……that is not rights. ….but it happens. ….this rep could possibly loose his job…..and that is not fair……he was only doing what he was trained to do…….all calls are monitored and scored…..had he canceled the service he would have gotten a low score and coached…..and if he has too many coaching …..will be terminated. ….call and complain on their customer service polices to corporate office…….they are the ones who pass down what the reps can and cannot do for the customer.

  • Jack

    I worked for Comcast briefly as one of those annoying people that will knock on your door at dinner time to try to sell you internet service. If you currently have Comcast, and are not on a promotion do this: take all of your equipment to a Comcast service center in person. That way a line of people will be waiting behind you. The process goes a lot faster after the long wait in line. At least there’s no hassle, and you get a receipt for the equipment you would have to turn it in anyway so you save an extra step. Next, either find one of those people walking around the neighborhood knocking on doors, or wait a week or so and one will probably knock on your door to win you back. At this point, you not only get the best pricing but the salesperson is not paid until the service is successfully installed and they lose their commission if you pull the service within the first few months. You can contact them directly with problems and they will work them out for sure. Hope this helps!

  • Abhi Thakar

    personally i will never go to comcast .bad bad experience cancelling my service . i was about to keep them but they took 10 days to fix my internet issues , call centers are bad they just put you on hold and hang up on you and then no resolution oh well!! went to comcast center in here and felt racism 5:55 pm certain race people can get in and i been told its closed . that guy on door was ridiculously racist no white no asian only once race can get in . i was on phone with verizon i got them i am happy and comcast can scratch my @##… .

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