Ryan Block, a VP at multinational mass media corporation AOL and former technology editor at Endgadget, generally had a good experience with Comcast Internet until, that is, he decided to cancel his service.
An outraged Block posted the phone conversation on the internet during which he tried to disconnect his service while a “belligerent” customer service agent refused to do so.
However, the responses that followed not only criticized the Comcast employee, but also revealed how multinational internet corporations pressurize their staff to do anything they can to prevent a cancelation.
“The representative (name redacted) continued aggressively repeating his questions, despite the answers given, to the point where my wife became so visibly upset she handed me the phone. Overhearing the conversation, I knew this would not be very fun,” the tech blogger wrote on SoundCloud.
“What I did not know is how oppressive this conversation would be. Within just a few minutes the representative had gotten so condescending and unhelpful I felt compelled to record the speakerphone conversation on my other phone,” he added.
Although the entire process shouldn’t have taken long, Block said it took him around 20 minutes to reason with the rep why he wanted to terminate his connection.
Somehow, he managed to record 8-10 minutes of the hilariously tedious phone call and later decided to post it on the Internet to share his story with others and it actually worked.
The audio link on SoundCloud received more than 4 million plays in just two days thereby prompting an apology from Comcast.
“We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and Ms. Belmont and are contacting them to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with them is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives,” the Internet corporation wrote on its website.
When Comcast said that they were investigating the situation and would “take quick action,” Block replied by saying he didn’t want the rep to be fired since the problem wasn’t the “individual employee.”
1/ I want to publicly reiterate my asking @Comcast not to terminate the rep. My first job was in tech customer service. Not fun. Further...— Ryan Block (@ryan) July 17, 2014
2/ It's clear the rep had a strong incentive (or threat) not to disconnect our service, and felt an inappropriate level of pressure.— Ryan Block (@ryan) July 17, 2014
3/ It belies a dysfunctional system that pits call center reps + customers against one other for the benefit of the company.— Ryan Block (@ryan) July 17, 2014
Block’s comments were followed by people – several of them former employees of Internet companies – criticizing how multinational tech giants create a culture where employees are sometimes forced to behave in an aggressive manner.
@ryan as someone who works in a similar company, while that rep was excessively aggressive, we're trained and held accountable to do that— Fabian Cruz (@aguilo) July 15, 2014
On Reddit, a user who claimed to be a Comcast employee explained that retention representatives are compensated based on how many cancelations they prevent.
If they fail to reverse at least 75 percent, they get nothing.
“In retention, the more products you save per customer the better you do, and the more products you disconnect the worst you do (if a customer with a triple play disconnects, you get hit as losing every one of those lines of business, not just losing one customer.) These guys fight tooth and nail to keep every customer because if they don't meet their numbers they don't get paid,” wrote txmadison.
Turns out, it’s not really the representative at fault here, but Comcast's culture as a whole.