comcast remote mascotStephen Depolo via Flickr/Creative Commons

Comcast on hellish customer service call: Rep did 'what we trained him' to do

Comcast is admitting that it needs to review its training programs after a nightmarish customer service call went viral.

The call, in which a Comcast agent spends eight minutes refusing a customer's requests to cancel service, was "painful to listen to," Comcast COO Dave Watson said in an internal employee memo published by Consumerist. (Comcast has since confirmed the authenticity of the memo to Ars Technica.)

But contrary to a previous Comcast statement that basically threw the employee under the bus, Watson seemed willing to share the blame.

"The agent on this call did a lot of what we trained him and paid him—and thousands of other Retention agents—to do," Watson wrote. "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."

Watson added that Comcast will reexamine some of its practices as a result. "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," Watson said.

Further reading: Customer's call shows Comcast must change; will the company listen or hang up?

That last comment may allude to a post on Reddit last week, reportedly from a former Comcast employee, that outlined how Retention specialists get sizeable bonuses if they keep enough customers from canceling service. In other words, representatives have a big incentive not to give up, even when the customer is dead-set on leaving.

That much was evident last week when Ryan Block, a former Engadget editor and current VP of product at AOL, posted the audio of his call on SoundCloud. Block and his wife, tech video host Veronica Belmont, had been trying to cancel their Comcast service, but the agent refused to comply without hearing a reason. Block declined to share his reasoning, and the whole conversation went around in circles for eight maddening minutes. (Block and Belmont had apparently been on the phone for 10 minutes before the recording began.)

The call went viral as it reinforced Comcast's reputation for poor customer service. As Comcast seeks regulatory permission to buy Time Warner Cable—which itself is no stranger to the bottom of customer satisfaction surveys—it's no surprise the company is trying to come out of this looking as responsive and respectful as it can.

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