customer service lessonsDid I grab your attention with that ridiculous question? YES, it was bad, but it’s not so simple. In case you haven’t seen it, you can view it here.

In this scenario it’s important to understand the customer service backdrop at a company like Comcast. It’s been well noted that Comcast is a notoriously a poor provider of customer service, just look at the industry benchmarks over the past few years:

Temkin Customer Service Rankings





232 of 232
companies evaluated

223 of 235
companies evaluated

169 of 174
companies evaluated

Comcast Internet

232 of 232
companies evaluated

229 of 235
companies evaluated

158 of 174
companies evaluated


We can’t be surprised that something like this happens when the rankings scream there is a problem. But we can clarify the root causes.

If You’re a Customer Service Outsourcer or Run Customer Service at a Company

1. Don’t Throw Stone from Your Glass House. It would be easy to pile on top of Comcast now and point fingers and stand on a soap box railing against the ills of companies like Comcast. Stop, drop, and roll… away from that temptation. Every single contact center, in-house or outsourced, on-shore or near-shore or off-shore, has challenges similar to this one. We all need to tighten our customer-experience-belts and harness technology, metrics, and good practices to train better, monitor representatives better, and provide more optimal working environments so that our employees are more highly motivated to provide optimal customer experiences, that are measurable and replicable across the organization.

As a nearshore contact center with a focus on Spanish call center programs, Callzilla has learned a lot from leading industry peers about how companies better train their representative and utilize technology to make learning and employee engagement more efficient. These practices are on-going and constantly evolving, and we’re proud of the company we’re keeping as leaders in these emerging practices.

2. It’s Healthy to Push Back on the Client. Over the years we’ve handled millions of bilingual inbound customer service and sales call. The insights gleaned from those calls and the “feedback loop” the outsourcer provides is critical. Sometimes desired compensation models proposed are not always appropriate and may encourage bad habits. We don’t know if the Comcast customer service rep worked in an in-house center or for an outsourced provider, but what we do apparently know is that a variable compensation model influenced the representative’s behavior.

The compensation model of how our clients pay for our services and the incentives provided are a double-edged sword that we can live by or literally die by. But we can’t be afraid to have a voice in the discussion of how compensation to the call center and therefore to the representatives can and may influence the outcome of interactions with customers. Compensation is a very slippery slope that when not navigated correctly, will lead to negative outcomes. Queue Comcast call.

In one of our client programs, “Saves” (retention of customers that call in to cancel their service) is a primary KPI. That client is astutely aware of the risk of basing compensation on this metric and does not base our compensation on the Save (retention) rate. This KPI is mission critical, but they are smart enough, (and hopefully we were smart enough as well) to agree that any extra compensation should be tied to Quality scores. If our Quality is high, as defined together with our client, our overall performance is strong across all KPIs, including Saves (retentions). And proudly, our client has trusted us and witnessed the focus on Quality and Customer Satisfaction to reward us with growth. The recipe works; the opposite also holds true: compensation not tied to Quality can be lethal.

3. Call Center in the Palm of Their Hand. The technology playing field has been leveled for a long time, and this is just the latest most well known chapter in “call-center-at-your-fingertips.” The frustrated Comcast customer took the bold step record this call. Ironically, this is what call centers have been doing for years: recording calls for quality and training purposes.

Ryan Block, the Comcast customer who recorded the call could be you and me, with a smart phone or simple digital recorder. When pushed the wrong way, he fought back with simple technology to record a call that (a) at one point in the past would never have been possible, and (b) made it go viral on social media, just like the United Breaks Guitars guy. Consumers will do this more and more when pushed the wrong way. There are no more secrets. Customer service groups need to know that we can’t hide anymore, that all can be known, and most importantly, all can be shared. We better not mess up, or we’ll quickly find ourselves in United Airlines’, or Comcast’s, or Donald Sterling’s shoes.

If You’re Comcast or Any Other Consumer-facing Brand

1. You Get What You Measure. If “Saves” and “Retentions” are what you’re pushing your representatives to generate for you, and if their pay scale is tied (or skewed) towards metrics like “Retention” rate (as reported by an un-named Comcast employee), it’s obvious why a customer service representative went so far so go after the Retention. Until that model changes, the same outcome can and should be expected.

2. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. This isn’t the first time that this has happened. Trainers and Supervisors are likely aware of the pattern. Comcast needs to look at its Training and QA effort to see how many more of these extreme customer experiences there truly are. Consumer brands need to pay close attention to agent selection, hiring, and training as well as address agent motivation. Its possible that that customer service rep was having a bad day, which we all have, but those bad days usually don’t just spring up out of no where and show signs of emerging and affecting the performance.

3. Meaningless Response to the Public. Comcast offered a standard “corporate” apology – read it here. I wonder if they should have offered a refund or something tangible to show they’re sorry. And they probably should have used this story as an opportunity to offer specific ideas to improve perception of bad experience and bad service.

If You’re a Consumer

1. Omni-channel Complaints. Selected Targets. Patience. You have a lot of possible places to voice your complaints: via phone, social media, chat, email, and letter. Companies do need to know about poor service, and deserve to have this information communicated tastefully to them, just as the Comcast customer did. He never raised his voice nor treated the Comcast customer service representative poorly. Phone was his channel of choice, but the impact of his experience would have never been felt had the customer not recorded and shared the recording on social media.

Letter writing and emails also have weight and unfortunately at times need to be written and escalated. A family member had a poor experience with Comcast and only received a response when they wrote an actual letter and sent a copy to various government agencies. In this case, Comcast apologized and offered monetary relief. That whole process took time to understand what to write, whom to write to, and time to receive a response from the powers that be. But like the recently famous customer, my family member also won a small but important battle against Comcast. These battles can be won, but they require tactics. It’s a shame that customer service problems have to become battles, but as they said in The God Father, “this is the world we chose to live in.”

2. Customer Service Reps are People Too. The Comcast rep should be reprimanded. He will likely lose his job and may have difficulty getting a new one. However, that punishment is not commensurate with the crime.

He needs to be trained better and needs to become a better communicator, yet he does not deserve to not have a means to support himself and his family, if he has one. The Comcast environment likely influenced this unfortunate situation. And I’m willing to bet that this representative probably felt significant pressure to retain Comcast customers by any means necessary.

We as consumers, need to always remember that the customer service rep or telemarketer on the other end of the phone, chat, text message, etc. are people and also deserve respect. We may not like the content of their message or how they deliver it, but they are human and have families and have parents. They have difficult jobs that may not have provided them the best training, and we should at least extend them the courtesy of treating them how we would like to be treated. Separating the company with which you have a problem from the customer service representative is helpful at times, no matter how maddening the interaction can be. If we don’t like their company, canceling is just fine, but it should be done with class and grace, just as the Comcast customer did on this now famous call.

3. Participate in customer satisfaction surveys. Many of us don’t like to waste our time with surveys; we perceive them as time wasters and that no one reads the results anyway. That typically isn’t true; the results are read and often times the results influence a customer service reps compensation and ability to continue in their job. Write your comments in the open field at the end. Rate the company on whether you would recommend them to a family member or friend. Companies utilize this data more and more and are actually scared about the results because of the power behind them. While you may not get a response back from the company, even if your feedback is particularly negative, but the data you contribute actually does carry weight.

The Comcast debacle hits close to home for us in the customer care industry. This could happen to any of our companies, and the employees in any of our companies could easily perpetrate these acts. We must take steps to understand the root causes of what happened at Comcast and protect ourselves and our clients and our clients’ customers against poorly trained, improperly compensated, and unmotivated customer service representatives. There is lots to learn from; Callzilla, as a nearshore call center that provides outsourced bilingual customer care, we’re working hard to better define the ingredients of a customer experience, and most importantly, how to make customer experiences optimal and replicable. Because that is the life we have chosen.