Outsource Consultants' Blog

The Importance of Culture: Learning from Comcast

By now you may have heard the story of Ryan Block and his humorous/tragic attempt to have his Comcast internet service discontinued. Geoff Schaadt, a management consultant, elaborated in a recent article posted on LinkedIn. The summary of that article can be found below:

Ryan Block isn’t “real life” famous, but he most certainly is “internet famous”. Just check out his Twitter handle: @ryan. Not that any of this really matters for the story at hand, but it explains why the story got real legs. Ryan told the Internet, and the Internet went nuts.

The Backstory

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here is the nutshell version…

Ryan and Veronica wanted to cancel their Comcast Internet service. As any of us would do, Veronica called the Comcast customer service number. And, as everyone expects these days, she was immediately shunted to “customer retention”. After 10 minutes of frustration, she handed the phone off to Ryan who went an additional eight minutes – but he recorded it.

You don’t have to listen to the whole thing, 30 seconds is plenty. The rest is more of same.

The Aftermath

As of this morning, that SoundCloud clip has over 3.3 million plays and has resulted in stories on The Washington Post, The LA Times, Good Morning America, and Huffington Post, to name just a few – not the kind of publicity that a corporation trying to execute a merger that the public largely opposes is looking for.

The Response

Comcast would like you to know that they take this situation very seriously. In fact, Tom Karinshak, SVP, Customer Experience, Comcast Cable, released this statement:

“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.”

The Lesson

So what is the lesson that you, Mr./Ms. Senior Manager, should take away?
Rogue employees happen – this was just a crazy circumstance where someone with a platform happened to record a bad call with a bad service rep.

Nope.

This is just one of those “cost of doing business” events - Comcast has issued an apology, the employee will be fired, everything will blow over in a few days, and all will be back to normal.

Nope. 

Here is the lesson…You reap what you sow.

The Culture

The culture of your organization dictates the actions of your employees.

If you have an internal culture where your employees simply understand that everyone is to be treated with respect – both customers and co-workers – and that bullying, harassing, disrespectful acts will not be tolerated, then events like this will never happen.

Mr. Karinshak and his peers on the top floor should be embarrassed. They should be embarrassed that the curtain has been pulled back on the corporate culture at Comcast.

Service reps never have insane conversations like this unless the culture of the company forces them to. I, for one, would love to see the metrics that their call center tracks. I would wager that this rep’s salary is directly impacted by the number of cancellations that happen on his shift – even in situations where he is helpless to effect any change. And he certainly has a checklist and a script that he is accountable to. Why was he so adamant about finding out why the customer was cancelling service to the point of ludicrous bullying and harassment? Because the script says he has to or his wages will be docked. (And, most likely, his supervisor’s pay will be impacted too.)

Don’t ever expect your employees to conduct themselves with humanity and respect when you yourself create and maintain a culture that celebrates and rewards revenue and KPI's at the expense of humanity and respect.

You get from your employees exactly what you model for them.

*****
UPDATE:

From LinkedIn Comments:

From Jatin Sheth, Founder & CEO at Trecon Global; Certified Corporate Trainer:

In his press statement, the Comcast SVP states, "The way in which our representative communicated with them is... not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives." The unspoken other half of this statement is, "...but it is totally consistent with the way his incentives are designed."
*****

UPDATE 2:

And apparently the folks at NPR "Morning Edition" agree... Better Culture Could Have Prevented Viral Comcast Call

Want more call center industry news and articles? Check out the blog on Outsource Consultants’ website!

Outsource Consultants is a call center referral and advisory firm that helps companies find the best call center and BPO outsourcing solution. We can assist in finding solutions for inbound and outbound call centerslive web chatcloud based call centers, and outsourced email support services in various industries. We will save you significant time, reduce your outsourcing costs, and help minimize your risk when switching or selecting a new call center partner.

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