Customer service is at the heart of any good marketing plan, or so the story goes. Nevertheless, anyone who has done business with the cable giant Comcast knows that good customer service is not essential to a business’ success. Despite commanding 25 percent of the broadband market, Comcast’s customer service record is abysmally poor. A July 2014 article in The Verge explains a great deal about why this is the case.
In an industry fraught with customer service woes, Comcast has been considered the worst in its class for years. Ranked at the very bottom of American Consumer Satisfaction Index, Comcast has been awarded the Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” title twice, first in 2010 and again in 2014. The Verge’s “Comcast Confessions” series examines some of the reasons behind the company’s dismal performance and ranks high-pressure sales tactics as high on many consumers' lists. Further, the report reveals that the pressure on consumers to buy more services is the result of an employee-training strategy and performance metrics that come straight from the top. Former Comcast employees report receiving financial incentives for upselling customers and poor performance ratings for failing to do so consistently. Some report that supervisors routinely instant message employees while they are on customer service calls, urging them to push the customer more aggressively towards a sale.
Comcast executives deny that the high-pressure sales tactics exist, but documents obtained by the Verge seem to contradict their protests. According to a call scorecard for customer service representatives obtained by The Verge, sales are worth between 18 and 27 percent of an agent’s performance evaluation, and sales are mentioned explicitly as one of eight performance areas the company uses to assess a customer service agent’s success. Even a call to cancel service doesn’t spare the customer an aggressive sales pitch. According to Comcast’s Pinnacle performance metrics, an agent who politely accepts a cancellation request without attempting to save the customer is rated "unsatisfactory.” Only in rare cases, such as when a customer is irate or delinquent on a bill, are representatives allowed to forgo the hard sell.
As the Federal Communications Commission considers the proposed merger between Comcast and the nation’s second largest broadband provider, Time Warner Cable, concerns about Comcast’s service loom large. The new Comcast/TWC conglomerate would command a whopping 40 percent of the Internet market and wield enormous control of broadband traffic and TV programming nationwide. Further, many consumers believe that the merger would effectively eliminate the incentive for Comcast to improve. As of August 2014, over 43,000 consumers had submitted public comments on the merger to the FCC, which in July appointed Hillary Burchuk, a former U.S. Justice Department antitrust division lawyer, to review the proposed deal. Nevertheless, Comcast executives, including Executive Vice President David Cohen, apparently are following their own performance metrics, working hard to sell consumers on the "TogetherIs Better” approach.
The cable industry in the United States is laden with problems, from high-prices to unreliable performance and customer service woes, and the cable giant Comcast would seem to be largely to blame. Comcast executives are promising a better cable experience and better customer service. Whether those promises will become a reality remains to be seen.
Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart at Flickr.com