Comcast Exec on Torturous Customer Call: "We Fell Short"

Listening to the customer call heard around the world, it's hard not to sympathize with both parties. Ryan Block, the caller, just wanted to disconnect his cable service, but the nameless Comcast rep on the other end was only doing what he was trained to do: break customers down, bit by bit, until they crawl back into the company's welcoming arms.

An internal memo from Comcast COO Dave Watson (above) that was leaked to Consumerist today acknowledges that corporate policy may have played a role in the debacle. The company's retention specialists — tasked with making sure existing customers don't cancel their service — are paid a commission based on the number of people they convince to stick around each month. With a paycheck on the line, why wouldn't they hang on for dear life?

"This situation has caused us to reexamine how we do some things," Watson writes, adding that "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."

Nothing is offered in the way of concrete solutions, however, and it's unclear whether anything will actually change. Comcast has a monopoly on cable and internet service in many of its markets, meaning there's little incentive for good behavior. Even the occasional traumatic service call might not convince you to run off if you've got nowhere else to go.

The full memo is 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.

Dave Watson

Chief Operating Officer, Comcast Cable

[Image via Comcast]