Some companies have bad reputations. Often times those reputations come as a result of a few very vocal customer’s opinions or a few poorly trained customer service reps actions and are not a reflection of the company as a whole or their values. Other times, their poor reputations are earned.
At some point, I think Comcast VPs sat around a table and wrote into their company manifesto, “Thou shall not satisfy the customer at the expense of company profit”, and made it the centerpiece of how they interact with customers. When you run a near monopoly in the markets you are in, you can often get away with that type of policy.
I wanted to share a chat transcript from a chat that I had yesterday with a Comcast rep that illustrates my point.
The Comcast On Demand Story
Late one Saturday evening (a few years ago now), I decided to watch The Wrestler (great movie, btw) with my wife through Comcast’s On Demand service. If you’re not familiar, it’s basically a way to pay to watch newer movie releases through your cable box. The rental cost $2.99 for that movie.
We press ‘buy’ to watch the movie, and 2 seconds into the opening credits the program freezes. It won’t restart, so we give up and watch something else.
One day later, we try again. Risky, I know. But, this time, it worked.
I had a hunch I might get billed twice, even though the first time didn’t work (side note: it’s kind of ridiculous that you would have to pay twice to watch the same movie one day apart).
I get my bill for that month a few days ago. I’m charged twice for the same movie. I decided to chat in to get one of the charges credited to my account.
A Few Caveats & Lessons
- This isn’t the first experience like this I’ve had with Comcast. A few months ago I upgraded my broadband speed. For some reason, the higher speeds didn’t kick in for 10 days, but I was charged for the upgraded speeds from day one (I was using a bandwidth tester daily to verify this). The rep. didn’t issue a credit until I threatened to cancel my service because, in his words: “you still had service”. Comcast also has a history of charging surprise modem rental fees and consistently raising their rates.
- I went in to the chat not looking for a fight and things started off nice and pleasant (I recommend this as the best way to initially approach customer service reps.). When it was clear a nice guy approach wouldn’t work against their customer service policy, that’s when I had to harden up a bit. Issuing a $2.99 credit doesn’t look good for a rep., but having a customer cancel their service and giving you a poor survey REALLY looks bad.
- As I mention in the chat, $2.99 wasn’t the issue. It was the principle that they would not issue a credit when their service did not work as it should have.
- You always have the power, as a customer, to leave. Don’t be afraid to use it, particularly if you are right about something and not getting what you are asking for.
- I have changed the reps name to protect their identity. I don’t like to see anyone get fired and since I’ve had similar experiences with Comcast, I believe this particular experience is a systematic Comcast issue, not a particular service rep. issue. And for that, I’ll change the rep’s name to “CR” (customer rep) to protect his anonymity (because I’m a nice guy).
The Comcast Chat
- G.E. > Hi, how are you CR?
- G.E. > CR, That’s a nice name.
- CR > I’m doing great today, G.E.. Thank you for asking.
- CR > How about you?
- G.E. > Not bad, have the day off work.
- CR > Hope you are doing fine today.
- G.E. > Question – on my latest bill, I had two charges for The Wrestler, On Demand
- CR > That’s good to know, G.E.
- G.E. > The first didn’t work, so when I went back, it charged me a second time.
- CR > My sincere apologies for the inconvenience.
- CR > No worries G.E., I will be glad take a look at your account to confirm all information and take care of your concerns regarding your Comcast bill now.
- G.E. > OK.
- CR > Thank you.
- CR > G.E., thank you for waiting.
- CR > If I may ask, were you able to contact us when the first Wrestler on Demand did not work?
- G.E. > No, I just went back in to it a second time b/c the first time didn’t work.
- G.E. > it worked the second time.
- CR > G.E., only we can consider removing the charge if you were able to contact us on the exact date that you found out that the show is not working.
- CR > G.E., are you still with me?
- G.E. > Hmm… I didn’t know about that contrived rule.
- G.E. > and I didn’t think I’d be charged in the first place since the movie never worked
- G.E. > why would I pay twice for the same movie knowingly?
- CR > I understand, G.E. however those shows were ordered on separate dates. If you were able to contact us, we can somehow consider removing the charge.
- G.E. > I am contacting you now to tell you.
- CR > I am referring on the date that the show did not work,
- CR > Since the charge is system generated.
- G.E. > The movie did not work. Your service did not deliver as promised, so I should not have to pay for it.
- G.E. > It’s only $2.99, but it’s a matter of principle.
- CR > G.E., i really understand how inconvenient it is spending out money. However, it was really not a problem considering a credit or removing the charge if it was brought to our knowledge the exact date of order and the show was not working.
- CR > If we take a look at it, today’s date is really beyond and is far from the date of the order.
- CR > Our system won’t even recognize that the show was not working since the order was successfully processed.
- G.E. > Look, I know you have the power to extend a courtesy credit. It should not matter what date this happened. This is poor customer service. If you do not extend a credit for this, I’m going to cancel my Comcast service right now. I’ll give you the choice.
- G.E. > Credit or Cancel. Up to you.
- G.E. > $2.99 credit, CR. Make it easy on yourself and do the right thing.
- CR > If this happened to be just a misapplied payment or something that is an error on Comcast side, then we’ll be gladly honor a credit on it.
- CR > But G.E., I do hope you understand that the order was made successfully and it’s already beyond or very far from the date the order was made. <G.E. Note: I had just received the monthly bill for these charges the day before I chatted in>
- G.E. > It does not matter what date this happened or when I am telling you about it.
- G.E. > OK, go ahead and cancel my service. I’m tired of Comcast’s poor customer service and I don’t want to give you guys any more of my money.
- G.E. > I’m also going to give this chat a poor rating when I’m done.
- CR > Alright, G.E. I know you are upset about this. I am glad we are able to clarify that if this thing happen again, we expect you to contact us in time.
- CR > I’m here to help you with this, G.E..
- CR > I know it is a risk for me, but, being a valued customer, I will take the risk to give you a credit this time.
- CR > How would you like it, G.E.?
- G.E. > Yes. That is what I’ve been asking for.
- CR > That’s alright, G.E. Let me do the process and I hope this would make you feel better.
- CR > G.E., thank you so much for patiently waiting online.
- CR > I have successfully processed an inconvenience credit on your account for $5.00
- G.E. > Thank you.
- CR > Just to set the right expectation, the credit will be posted on your account on the next billing cycle.
- CR > You are most welcome, G.E.,.
- CR > We always value you as our customer.
- CR > I hope this will make you feel better this time.
- CR > My sincere apologies for all the inconvenience.
- CR > G.E., I am glad we are able to clarify that if this thing happen again, we expect you to contact us in time.
- CR > Before we finish up, I’d like to just take a minute to review what we have done so far. We have resolved your concern by processing an inconvenience credit on your account to compensate with the Wrestler on Demand show which did not work on your initial order.
- CR > It was my pleasure to help you with your billing issue today, G.E.. Thank you for your patience. Do you have any other questions or concerns today?
My Message to Comcast
Comcast, I am assuming you don’t give a damn and probably won’t have someone comment here, but I wanted to extend a few points of feedback to you in hopes that this trickles up to someone who has the power to set customer service policy:
- Give your reps (even the outsourced 3rd party ones) the power to extend courtesy credits ESPECIALLY when the customer is right and <hold your breath to embrace this> even when the customer is wrong. That is how you create customer loyalty. Encourage your reps to do this – don’t make them feel threatened if they are to do so, that is bad policy. Do you really want to lose a customer who pays you over $1,000 a year for a $2.99 charge? Happy customers increase your profits and your brand value. Why is that so hard for you to figure out?
- Don’t insult your customer by telling your reps to make up B.S. excuses to not issue a credit like “you still had internet” (even though it wasn’t faster as you were paying for) or “you should have contacted us the day of” (even though it was at 9 PM on a Saturday evening and you were settling in for a bottle of wine and a movie with your wife, and even if you had contacted us, we probably wouldn’t have been able to do anything for you until your bill was issued anyways).
- Stop outsourcing your reps to third parties in other countries. CR’s real name was Russian and “i really understand how inconvenient it is spending out money” is not something compassionate Americans say. If you want your customers to have the best experience, give them the experience of talking to someone from their own country who isn’t thousands of miles away in a warehouse somewhere and bring those jobs home.
- Despite all of your TV messaging around how archaic AT&T’s service is, it no longer is. Everyone who has it raves about it and its speeds. And there are always streaming services to switch to. Even though you think people are attached to your cable wires, we are not. Now that you have competition, maybe it’s time that you tried the “happy customer” approach, no?
And another thing. Why not reward your loyal customers instead of making them do the every-6-month song and dance to negotiate a better rate? It’ll help you avoid switching costs for those customers who jump to another provider who has a nice shiny promotion like the ones you entice new customers with. And you get to keep them and their money. Something like $1 off your bill every month until you reach our new customer rate, for example. Run the numbers, factoring in lost revenue from customers who switch and come back and those who re-negotiate anyways. You might actually see improved profits BEFORE you delight your customers and have them want to spend more with you, stick around longer, and start to sing your praises and improve your brand value. A win-win with customers? Imagine the possibilities.