Comcast’s very bad day of customer service

Comcast is trying significant damage control today after a customer posted audio of his attempt to cancel Comcast’s Internet and cable service in his home.

Ryan Block, the former editor of Engadget and owner of a start-up he later sold to AOL, posted the last 8 minutes or so of his phone call with a Comcast rep. He did so after surveying his Twitter followers on whether he should. It doesn’t help the Comcast PR machine that he has 80,000 followers.

He writes:

This recording picks up roughly 10 minutes into the call, whereby she and I have already given a myriad of reasons and explanations as to why we are canceling (which is why I simply stopped answering the reps repeated question — it was clear the only sufficient answer was “Okay, please don’t disconnect our service after all.”).

Today, Comcast released a statement and apology:

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. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.

Block responded by asking the rep not be fired. The problem is deeper, he suggested.

  • Kassie

    Same thing happened to my father recently when he tried to cancel his satellite TV. They refused to cancel it unless he could give the code he set up 10 years before. He had no idea what it was. They told him he could get it online, but he doesn’t have internet access. He was on the phone for something like an hour and had talked to supervisors and managers. He thought it was cancelled, but got the bill again the next month. Cable/internet providers are all sharks, no offense to sharks intended.

  • jon

    It’s not how we train our customer service reps, but it is the behavior that we generally reward.

  • Ralphy

    Reminds me of when I cancelled my land-line with Qwest about 15 years ago. At one point I was actually asked “What if you fall down the basement stairs and are laying there, injured on the floor?” My reply, “I don’t think the phone on the kitchen wall would be much help.” The rep also pointed out that my land-line phone answering machine wouldn’t work with a cell phone…

  • Dave

    “I hope the quick action you take is a thorough evaluation of your culture and policies, and not the termination of the rep.”

    Are you kidding me. Sure, you hope they don’t fire her, but you made public the recording, knowing damn well it’ll end with someone being sacked. I’m no fan of Comcast, but please.

  • Dan Voltz

    It’s like watching a Samuel Beckett play.

  • Gary F

    Dumped them years ago. It got so bad that finally a field tech gave me his business card and said that since my house was easy to get to on his way home, just to call him.
    My dad died in February, and canceling his Comcast service was more difficult than closing some bank accounts/insurance policies.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    I listened to about 3 minutes of the recording. Personally I think Mr. Block was trying to make Comcast look silly. (Does he have an interest in one of their competitors?) If the recording starts 10 minutes into the call, was that 10 minutes spent on hold or was it spent arguing with the CSR about cancelling his service? Why when the CSR wouldn’t move on did he not ask to speak with a supervisor? There has to be someone available for immediate escalation, there always is in a call center. This usually will get your issue resolved quickly or the call will mysteriously get disconnected. When you call back you might get a better CSR or you could ask to speak to the supervisor directly because of the dropped call and the wasted time.

    • X.A. Smith

      Listen to the whole call.

      • Libby

        I tried getting a supervisor with comcast a couple of times when I was getting the run-around and was told I couldn’t speak to one. I kept asking over and over, and they refused. So, this would probably not have worked either. My bad experience with them started when I moved and told them that I had to have service the day I moved in because I work out of my home. When the technician got here to set things up, there were still movers in the house. He said it looked like it was hectic so he’d be happy to come back later in the day. I told him it was up to him, but that it would be fine with me. Instead of coming back, he reported that I had canceled my installation. When I called to ask why no one had shown up, I was told that I would have to wait several days to get back on the calendar. Even though he seemed to believe that I was telling the truth, he yelled at me and told me it was my fault because I should have had the installer do the installation when he was there. This was just one of several problems during this time (which took several hours of my time to fix).

    • Kristopher Henry

      There is not always a supervisor immediately available. I worked for a Telecom and can say that managers were normally available only in the mornings and only did call backs, they did not get calls transferred to them. Odds are, if there process was anything like where I had worked he would have called in, said he wanted to cancel and would have been transferred to a department for customer retention, their whole job is not to lose a customer to keep them on the line until they agree not to cancel (horrible career in my mind).

  • Marty

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. I switched to Comcast because it seemed cheaper. They neglected to tell me that their cheaper fee didn’t include tech support for wireless connection to internet. When I suddenly had a problem, they told me that to get tech support for wireless connection, I had to sign up for their advanced tech support, which was to be paid for by a non-refundable enrollment fee (which is pure gravy for them) plus a monthly charge. Comcast claims that its people are all in the US, but for some strange reason they all have Indian accents. Hmmm. I eventually told the supervisor I was arguing with that I did not want the advanced support program, and was transferred back to basic tech support. They sent out a serviceperson, who discovered that the problem was caused by a switch that had been moved, a physical problem that couldn’t have been solved by their advanced tech support. When I got my bill, I discovered they were still charging me for this advanced tech support. I spent hours trying to find someone to deal with about this, and finally cancelled all my Comcast services. They kept telling me that I might as well pay the fee to avoid being hassled by bill collectors. When they sent me to collections for the enrollment fee, I told the collections agent that I wasn’t going to pay it, and after I said it ten times, he finally got the message. I would never do business with Comcast again.

    • jon

      I worked with several folks of Hmong ancestor (some born here, some not) in a support center. I was told several times by our user base (all in the US) that they were routed to India and talked to some one with a name they couldn’t pronounce. I’d laugh and tell them that he sat next to me, in Minneapolis. Having an accent doesn’t mean foreign and in the case of my co-workers did not mean incompetent (the majority of them were very good at their jobs, I’d say we had better luck hiring people from the Hmong community than we did hiring from the Caucasian community.)

      That being said, Comcast and the like can’t pay people less than the minimum wage in the states, and they can’t even find people willing to work for that, but they can bring people over here on H1B Visas, people who if they loose their job, get deported from the country. People they hired to run a small call center in India originally, and were paid very well in India, and received no raise when their position is moved to the US, despite the cost of living increases. People who are basically indentured servants for the period of their work visas. I don’t know if Comcast does this for sure, but I suspect they would… every other tech company does.

  • bri-bri

    I’ve found the most efficient way to cancel Comcast is to provide a reason no customer retention specialist can counter. I said I was moving to Japan. No doubt this will lose effectiveness as the blight of Comcast eventually covers the earth, but it works for now!

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    I’ve had spotty luck with them on the phone unless I tweet them and DM for a local person. Then it’s been great.

    • Kassie

      The phone is SO MUCH BETTER than online chatting though. It took me 90 minutes of Instant Messaging to get my address changed. And they screwed up by a) not actually adding internet to my new house and b) somehow just creating a new account for me so I can’t pay my bills online or view my account. I can view an account, just a closed one.

      • kevinfromminneapolis

        You just have to have the right touch Kassie. #therighttouch

  • Wonderful…I am planning on ditching my Comcast TV (but keeping the internet) in the next few weeks…

    • I tried that a few weeks ago. I keep basic cable only because it makes the Internet price go down. By cutting cable TV, the price increase in the Internet mostly was hire.

      They’ve got it all figured out. I wish you could get the Internet with rabbit ears.

      • kevinfromminneapolis

        I did this last fall. Took my bill from $150 to $100. I terribly miss live sports on ESPN and FSN but am surviving.

      • Joe Internet

        You can… in Minneapolis by going with their municipal Wi-Fi service. It’s nowhere near as fast as Comcast, but definitely far cheaper ($24/mo). I ditched everything some time ago and had nothing but an Xcel power line coming into my home and a wad of saved cash each month. I recently had to switch to something faster as I now work from the home and needed something with higher speeds. When it came time to cancel, the nice people at USI said “thanks and hope to have your business again soon.”

      • Jim Hartmann

        We are paying Comcast $41 for internet only. Have resisted all offers of upgrades.

        • This is what drives me crazy. I pay $67 for the same thing. And that’s WITH the cable TV for $10 a month that I don’t really want but it brings the total bill down by $5 a month.

          • Kassie

            I play over $75 for internet only. How are the prices all over the place? (I also paid the exact same amount when I had basic cable and internet. They did the thing where the cost of internet went up when I cancelled the cable.)

          • Jack Ungerleider

            See: Airlines, seat prices.

          • joetron2030

            It depends on which service level (speed) you’re paying for and whether or not you’re “renting” the broadband modem or any other equipment from them.

            When I had Comcast, we had “naked” broadband (no TV or phone service). We were on the “up to 50 Mbps” tier and didn’t rent any equipment from them and paid roughly $70 per month.

  • bjnord

    Remember this is the company that (for several years running) beat out the IRS, and everyone else, for the bottom spot in a nationwide customer service survey. I had Comcast internet for a brief time and my experience bore that out; when it worked, it was fast and great, and when it was slow or broken, calling them for support was a wretched experience.

    • X.A. Smith

      And while your’e on hold, the recorded voice tells you that they are giving you excellent customer service.

  • X.A. Smith

    The best thing about an asteroid wiping out human civilization is that it would end Comcast.

    • X.A. Smith

      I don’t think anything else would fix that.

  • cags777

    If you think Comcast is bad, try CenturyLink. My fiancee was transferred to five different agents to answer one simple question about service. The first person she spoke with, a guy named Steve out of Boise, Id., was more argumentative and combative than helpful. I only wish these companies would remember the true meaning of customer service instead of treating consumers like the enemy.

  • joetron2030

    I guess I’ve managed to be lucky so far with Comcast’s customer service group. I had Internet-only service through them for nearly a decade. I cancelled it last Fall and got no guff from the rep I spoke with on the phone. They asked why and I told them that I was going to get very similar speeds through CenturyLink for less than they were charging me. And, with that, service was cancelled and the last bill was paid with a check.

    For comparison with others who currently have it, when I did have Comcast broadband (Internet Plus w/ Blast), our monthly bill was a bit over $70/month. We didn’t rent the modem or anything else from Comcast.

  • Dilt

    Comcast employees are trained to deceive, wait… make that outright lie to you. I recently began service with them, and I have not had an interaction with them where I was not lied to. i was promised an expedited installation date, NOT DELIVERED. I was promised return phone calls, NOT DELIVERED. I was promised specific programming for a specific price, NOT DELIVERED. When I call to ask why I’m not getting the programming that I was promised, they are happy to turn on the programming for $xx.xx per month, but refuse to connect me to the rep who made the promises.

    Having been down this road before, I had requested the rep’s direct call back number during our original conversation. When I call it, it transfers to a un-named voice mail account before it rings once. Multiple voice mails left there have never been returned. The game is rigged from the beginning!

    This is EXACTLY what lack of competition brings! They know that your only other choice is to do without. I am rapidly becoming more comfortable with that choice.