Neither customers nor an organization’s representatives wish to be at the receiving end of a bad customer care experience. Customers, myself included, dread the level of effort it takes to handle certain customer care issues that should be relatively easy to resolve. In fact, my husband and I will duke it out (okay, maybe it’s more of a rock-paper-scissors effort) to see which one of us “loses” and gets to call the cable/internet/any company when we have outages or questions.
Well, we are not alone. In a recent move of awkward ingenuity, a new customer service player entered the field, AirPaper, with an intent on easing the burden of the consumer when dealing with a poorly executed customer care organization. First AirPaper target: the illustrious Comcast, a broadcast and cable superpower who has seen no shortage of customer experience (CX) angst and bad press over the past years.
For a mere $5, AirPaper will cancel your Comcast service for you. For highly dissatisfied customers, making that last call to cancel service may be even too much to handle. AirPaper is capitalizing and banking on that emotion. But think about Comcast and other companies that will be targeted in AirPaper’s business model – they’ve damaged their customer relationship and have now lost the chance to repair it, so a new vendor stands tall to help ease that customer engagement burden.
This is not the first time Comcast was held to such low regards. In April 2014, Comcast received the questionable Golden Poo Award as the Worst Company in America from Consumerist.com, beating out Monsato in second-place, and Wal-Mart and Sea World tying for third, as corporations masses loved to hate in 2014.
So how does the world’s largest cable and broadcast company continue to prosper with service in over 27 million homes and businesses and profits rising?
First, their technology is stellar despite service inconsistencies in some areas.Second, their feet on the street –the technical reps who service their clients– are really nice people.
My household is a classic case of inconsistent service, with routine outages and issues in my service area (in fact it happened again as I finished this post), followed by painfully long calls and hold times through a poorly executed contact center IVR and routing process. However, when I get to a rep I generally find them very personable. And when a service technician appears at my doorstep, they are usually knowledgeable, considerate and helpful to the extent of their capabilities.
I know there has been bad press on a number of instances where irate customers had bad encounters with ignorant reps who treated them poorly, some even changing customer account names to insultingly bad words. Let’s face it, that’s a training and hiring issue for a handful of bad eggs who shouldn’t have been on the job to begin with. In reality, Comcast is taking baby steps to improve that reputation.
The reputation of a company truly depends on its individual employees and how they chose to interact with customers – each and every time. What does that mean for Comcast and other enterprises who are struggling with customer engagement challenges?
- Fix your contact center technology and customer engagement processes – pronto! If not, AirPaper, or your competitors will take care of the issue for you.
- Don’t discount your teams at all levels. Train them well, nurture them and empower them to deliver the right level of care so your customers enjoy a positive CX every time.
I recently needed Comcast technical support, so a service technician stopped by last week to solve my issues. This individual, let’s call him “Nick” as an alias, was extremely helpful and informative. You could feel his sincerity at wanting to provide excellent service and help his customer (me). After he completed the service request, I asked “Nick” if he would be willing to answer a few questions to shed some light on his dedication and perspective as a Comcast customer-facing representative.
Customer Representative Speaks Out
Q: How often do you deal with negative reactions when you start a service visit, and how do you respond?
Nick: Unfortunately, I deal with a negative reaction probably fifty or sixty percent of the time the moment I meet the customer. Oftentimes, it tends to be a lot of issues with our call system. It's frustrating to say the least, because oftentimes the call center reps attempt to diagnose the problem without having full insight into the issue. It makes my job a lot harder because customers are given false expectations. Not only that, but the home repair jobs are often mislabeled, so I have learned to arrive at each appointment assuming nothing at all.
I always respond the exact same way whether it's a good reaction at the door or a bad one: Positive and cheery. Truthfully, I don't have any specific things I say to customers, I just be myself. I'm a pretty happy person overall, and I think it rubs off on people. I also try to be as honest with the customer as possible, for better or worse. Lying never makes anything better, and I'd rather just get the problem solved the right way. I'm proud to say I've only had three customers still be upset when I finished up the job over the past couple of years, and it was because of unrealistic expectations from the customer.
Q: Why are you dedicated to your company despite the “bad press” so often reported on its customer service?
Nick: We get a lot of bad press, and we earn a lot of it. I know how frustrating it is to deal with. In fact, I'd argue I get far more upset about it since I deal with it everywhere I go. I have people coming up to me constantly wherever I go to vent about how poor of an experience the service has been for them: at the grocery store, gas station, restaurant, even in a restroom one time(Creepy)! And as someone who takes pride in his work, it really ticks me off because it gives me a poor name by affiliation. With all of that being said though, there are a few reasons why I keep trying to do the best I can:
- First, I do it for my own sake. I have had amazing examples in my grandfather, uncle, mom and dad, and especially my football coaches. They developed my work ethic and demanded quality. I need to be able to feel good about the work I do, because I think it sets me apart from the rest.
- Second, the customer deserves that good experience too. People pay a lot of money for these products, and rightly expect them to work. You cannot do this job without caring about the customers because otherwise you will NOT last. People see right through you otherwise.
- Third, I want to do well for the company, too. They hired me to do my job, and do it right. It also helps that Comcast is a pretty good company to work for overall. A lot of the men and women I work with and under are top notch folks, so it makes it easier to try and do your best.
Q: You were extremely helpful and provided a number of ideas for our household to consider the best solution from Comcast. What motivates you to go that extra mile?
Nick: Really, it's a combination of everything I talked about above. I want to do the best I can at every house, so going the extra mile really doesn't feel like going above and beyond. It's just what you should do. On top of that, most people aren't as educated in this field as I'm going to be just off the basis of it being my job. Most people are completely unaware of the options available to them, and it's my job to try and educate as well as solve the technical problems. One of the other motivating factors for me is I LOVE seeing the results of my work.
One of my favorite experiences is running into customers on my days off. Quite a few times now, I've had customers that make a point to come over and say hi, let me know how their services are working, and thank me profusely. It's an absolutely awesome feeling. It reminds me of how important my job is, as it's not just cable and internet, it's all the personal and memorable times they provide: Sports and movies with your friends, skyping with family, talking to them on the phone, etc.
Q: What one recommendation would you make to Comcast to improve the handling of customer care before your customers receive onsite support?
Nick: My biggest recommendation is something I feel a lot of America could use, to be blunt, and that is to listen. Listen to what your customers want, what issues they are having, and try to solve it in the best way possible. Customer service is all about listening, and sometimes we forget that. The other thing I would really like, though it's probably unrealistic, is to stop having call centers abroad. I have no grudges against the people working across the world for us in the call centers, as they are trying to make ends meet just the same as you and I. But I would love for more American jobs to be made, particularly for a pretty good company to work for. I know this would cost Comcast a big sum of money, but it would improve customer care. I also think it would help garner a more positive image for Comcast, as who wouldn't be glad to see a company staying local and giving people good jobs here in the States? Hell, the ad campaigns write themselves.
Also, I think they should let people know about our Comcast Cares Day a lot more as well. Every year we have a day we completely dedicate to the local communities that we serve across the nation. We do bag lunches for the homeless, building projects, help clean up local parks, you name it. It's an awesome experience, as even the upper management comes out and gets their hands dirty to help the community. I'm proud to be a part of that, and I think the company should be proud to let people know how much good we've been able to do with that.
“Nick’s” insights are so well said, and very impressive. He has a strong grasp of right and wrong for customer service, and takes both broad and singular views on how CX can be improved by his own actions and those across every company we interact with. Plus, he felt it was important enough that he put serious consideration in his response to my request. Great stuff “Nick!”
All in all, employees are the glue that keeps a company strong. And they deserve the best systems and processes in place to support their efforts. And customers are the fuel that brings those systems and services together. Customers have a right to expect the best practices we’ve discussed above and deserve a positive experience – making it a win-win for both parties.