As customers publicize bad experiences, Comcast apologizes


    Just about everyone has had a maddening experience with customer service. Two Comcast customers recently used the Internet to publicize particularly bad interactions with call center reps.



    There was the guy who wanted to cancel his service and was put on hold so long that Comcast was no longer open.

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    And the customer whose repeated requests to cancel his service were rebuffed by a phone representative with lines including, “OK. Help me understand why you don’t want the faster Internet,” and “My job is to have a conversation with you about keeping your service.”

    Wharton School marketing professor Jonah Berger said these sorts of incidents can cost companies real money.

    “There was a video a few years ago called ‘United Breaks Guitars’ about someone who had a terrible experience with United [Airlines] and the share price got hurt over $180 million after that video came out,” he said. “The video got over 100 million views.”

    Berger said the potential damage has prompted companies to pay much more attention to these incidents than in the past.

    He doesn’t just know about customer service from his academic studies. He, too, is waiting for Comcast to address a problem he’s had with a bill.

    “I think many people have these experiences,” Berger said. “But seeing how bad others’ experiences are makes people say, ‘Well man, Comcast is really bad at customer service. They really don’t seem to care about their customers … maybe I should move somewhere else.'”

    Comcast has apologized for the incidents, saying they are not the sort they want their customers to have.

    Of the customer who waited on hold in vain for hours, Comcast said in a statement:

    “Under no circumstances is this the experience we want our customers to have.  Our goal is to be respectful of our customers’ time and fix any issues the first time.  We take this very seriously, and after investigating [the customer’s] situation, we have apologized to him and acknowledge that his experience was completely unacceptable.”

    And of the customer whose efforts to cancel his service fell on a representative’s deaf ears:

    “This is not the type of experience we want our customers to have. We have spoken with the customer and apologized to him. Our policy is not to charge for service visits that are related to problems with our equipment or network. We are looking into this to understand what happened and why it happened.”

    Striving for excellence

    Jay Sinha, an associate professor of marketing and supply chain management at the Fox School of Business at Temple University, called the incidents, “a major failing for Comcast.”

    Customer service is “the rock on which American business was built,” he said. “To have such a failure, it just shows the company in a poor light. It affects branding negatively.”

    While bad customer service incidents have given other companies concern because of falling share price and fears about lost customers, Sinha doesn’t expect Comcast will fee a flood of fleeing customers. Why not? He said subscribers simply don’t have many other options — even if they want to leave Comcast.

    Meanwhile, Berger said, some companies are trying to set a different example — using excellent customer service to separate themselves from the competition.

    “Zappos is an amazing customer service company. If you have a product that you order from them, and there’s any issue with it, they’ll take it back right away,” Berger said. “Offline, Nordstrom’s, it’s the same thing. You can even have a product you’ve had for two or three years, if you’re unhappy with it, you bring it back to Nordstrom’s.”

    Berger said a lot of companies are realizing that their business model should include more than just the right product at the right price. 

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