Ryan Block called Comcast to cancel his service. An argumentative agent seemingly couldn’t believe this was happening and almost refused to comply.

Here’s the phone call. If you can listen to it all, do so. It feels like a sermon on how not to do customer service.

Plenty of people are writing about this. But is it anything more than a bad agent?

Here’s what I take from it.

Listen to the community

On Comcast’s own forums you can find posts like this one

Click through and read the solution to cancelling your service. The expert that replies completely disregards the telephone and encourages cancelling customers to go in-store. 

Just look at the red text in this excerpt.

comcast cancel service 

If people that really know your brand recommend face-to-face service as the only way to get a problem fixed, then there's obviously an issue.

These forums are set up for customers to discuss Comcast’s service. Sky does a great job of these forums. These are places for customers to resolve some problems (saving the company and the customer time) and for the company to learn about what customers need.

If these forums are full of vexed customers with grievance, it's obvious that something needs to change.

The damage to a brand, however large and infrastructure heavy, of having such a large amount of dirty laundry on show is hard to quantify. Until Google Fiber comes along, that is. 

Learn from past mistakes in search

If you really aren’t concerned about your customers and would rather treat them as conduits of incoming dollar, surely you want your marketing to work.

Comcast used to have big search troubles. At one point, Googling Comcast would retrieve a top result of a Comcast engineer asleep on a sofa (there are lots of these videos).

Similarly, with news highlighted in the Google SERPS, if you do a bit of searching now, you’ll find Ryan’s phone call everywhere. When the Washington Post covers a story, perhaps it becomes real to the Comcast board.

If you play in an industry with little competition, whether telecoms or energy, don’t assume that the service itself is all.

comcast search results

Don’t use hollow words in your copy

Look at the copy below. In some ways it presages the terrible phone call we’ve all listened to.

The sentiment is fine, but it’s not backed up with anything. There are no links from this copy to FAQs or feedback forms or terms of service.

Why doesn’t the cancel Xfinity page link to Xfinity’s customer guarantee

xfinity cancel

Comcast and many others are senseless to prevailing winds

Here’s a list of things consumers now take for granted:

  • Mobile banking
  • Subscription media that can be cancelled at any time with no charge
  • Social customer service
  • Service mobile apps and dashboards
  • Automated call backs for customer service
  • Email receipts and confirmation
  • Hurdle-less commerce via Amazon and others

The prevailing wind is transparency, ease of use, clarity. Internet provision might be behind in this sense, but should it be?

Here Comcast explains one can’t cancel online. In the long run, this may become unacceptable.

For further reading, try Econsultancy's Social CRM Best Practice Guide

Ben Davis

Published 16 July, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (4)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Love this call and yes it makes Comcast look really bad.

But the issue, as I see it, is that the customer remained completely rational, polite and reasonable throughout.

The agent had probably *never* encountered this before and was waiting for two end conditions - either the customer would give in and keep his subscription (win), or he would utterly lose his temper and swear to never use Comcast again (lose).

Because neither of these events happened, the agent thought he was in with a chance and kept plugging along, sticking to the script.

What should we learn from this? Make sure your agents have a time limit for tasks like abandonment recovery.

about 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


Haha, I love that idea.

It would mean the Comcast script explicitly indicates resolution should only be achieved when the customer gets angry. Or maybe when they give a reason for cancellation.

I didn't mention targets in the post, but I suspect they have their part to play.

about 4 years ago


Debra Gallek

Verizon is no better. Sheesh, that some consumer choice - Comcast or Verizon.

about 4 years ago

Neale Gilhooley

Neale Gilhooley, MD at Evolution Design Ltd

I had a very similar experience with Three.co.uk cancelling mobile broadband, not understanding that I had no need for the service any further, except my call (they called me!) only lasted about 4 mins before I blew.

about 4 years ago

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