Comcast 'embarrassed' by customer service rep

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Comcast 'embarrassed' by customer service rep

Postby Doc » Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:26 pm

I had a very similar conversation with Comcast recently. I think it is more embarrassment over getting caught. ... 623681.php
Comcast 'embarrassed' by customer service rep
Updated 2:29 pm, Tuesday, July 15, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Cable and Internet giant Comcast is apologizing after a tech-savvy California customer posted eight minutes of telephone conversation online in which he tried repeatedly to get a customer service representative to disconnect his service.

The customer, Ryan Block, succeeds in getting the unidentified Comcast rep to agree to disconnect his service, but only after the rep repeatedly asks Block for a reason. At one point, Block says, "I can guarantee right now that you are doing an incredibly good job of helping your company be worse."

Philadelphia-based Comcast said Tuesday the employee's behavior is unacceptable and the company is "embarrassed" by it. Comcast said it would contact Block to apologize.

Block, who says he is a vice president for AOL, said he expects to talk to Comcast personnel.
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Re: Comcast 'embarrassed' by customer service rep

Postby Nonc Hilaire » Wed Jul 16, 2014 1:36 am

A missed opportunity. I would have told the rep that demons were talking to me through the tv and telling me to kill people. Then I would have started questioning the rep about Comcast offices . . :twisted:

Seriously, the newspaper here is equally obstreperous. After I went into a fury about how they knew about my recent accident and blinding ("You KNEW! You reported on it in your own paper!") they cancelled my subscription toot sweet :D
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Re: Comcast 'embarrassed' by customer service rep

Postby Doc » Sat Aug 02, 2014 5:36 am

Nonc Hilaire wrote:A missed opportunity. I would have told the rep that demons were talking to me through the tv and telling me to kill people. Then I would have started questioning the rep about Comcast offices . . :twisted:

Seriously, the newspaper here is equally obstreperous. After I went into a fury about how they knew about my recent accident and blinding ("You KNEW! You reported on it in your own paper!") they cancelled my subscription toot sweet :D

When I canceled cable service a while back I had to refuse to pay the bill until they came and disconnected it. Even then the guy that came to dis connect it was trying to get me to have him hook it back up and got mad when I told him I wanted him to get their stupid box off of my outside wall or I would take it off and bill them for it. The reason they don't like to take the box down is because for each house connected to their sytem whether or not they are providing service is valued on the books at $600 to $1000 dollars to the company's worth. ... net-bill-1
The incredible rising internet bill
Morris Hibbitt, a field technician for Time Warner Cable, prepares to clean and check the connection for a WiFi hotspot using a bucket truck in Manhattan Beach, California. Getty Images: Patrick Fallon, Bloomberg
Morris Hibbitt, a field technician for Time Warner Cable, prepares to clean and check the connection for a WiFi hotspot using a bucket truck in Manhattan Beach, California.
Quartz 1 day ago By Zachary M. Seward of Quartz

The average Time Warner Cable customer’s monthly bill is up to $106.98.

Over the past two years, the price of television service has actually remained flat, after adjusting for inflation. And home phone service is cheaper. But take a closer look at the data, and you’ll see what’s really going on with the second-largest cable company in the US: Internet service is getting a lot more expensive.

That makes sense because internet is the growing portion of Time Warner Cable’s business: It has added 336,000 internet subscribers so far this year, while losing 186,000 for television. (All of the data in this piece, including the chart, refer to residential rather than business customers.)

Internet bills have risen 20% in two years, to an average of $46.92 a month, (pdf, p. 9). That’s one reason that Time Warner Cable, which dominates internet service in New York City and Los Angeles, was such an attractive acquisition for Comcast, the country’s leading provider of internet and TV. Comcast doesn’t break down its monthly bills at the same level of detail as Time Warner Cable, but its total average revenue per customer is growing at a similar clip (pdf, p. 5).

Time Warner Cable and Comcast made their names largely with television service, but make no mistake: They are internet service providers. That’s what their impending merger is about, and that’s why Americans’ monthly cable bills are likely to keep rising.
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Re: Comcast 'embarrassed' by customer service rep

Postby Doc » Mon Aug 04, 2014 6:15 am

Comcast call: the audio ... ryan-block

and ... in/5716626
Here’s why your Comcast rep is yelling at you

Warped employee incentives and an absence of competition make bad customer service inevitable

By Adrianne Jeffries on July 16, 2014 01:32 pm Email @adrjeffries 358Comments

In 2006, a man named Vincent Ferrari called AOL and tried to cancel his internet service. It took him 21 minutes as an increasingly desperate customer service rep named John tried to talk him out of it. "You used this quite a lot," John says, in a recording Ferrari made of part of the call. "Last month was 545 hours of usage."

"I don’t know how to make this any clearer, so I’m just going to say it one last time," Ferrari says. "Cancel. The. Account."

It goes on.

Last week, AOL vice president of product Ryan Block had a similar experience with a Comcast rep. Block and his wife spent around 18 minutes on the phone as an aggressive call-center employee asks questions like, "Why is it that you’re not wanting to have the No. 1 rated internet, No. 1 rated TV service in the country?"

""Cancel. The. Account.""

The rep, whose name is withheld, is certainly obnoxious. He’s also desperate. As The Awl’s John Herrman points out, "The customer service rep is trapped in an impossible position, in which any cancellation, even one he can't control, will reflect poorly on his performance."

Bullying customers who try to cancel their service is a very old trick used by subscription services, from cable to satellite radio to gym memberships. New York Times customer advocate David Segal has written about this phenomenon repeatedly in his column The Haggler, which includes a plea for help from Alan Alda, who couldn’t figure out how to cancel his McAfee antivirus software. There are abundant horror stories about attempts to cancel SiriusXM, which uses a popular euphemism for the art of frustrating customer attempts to leave: "churn management."

The man who spoke to Block is a "retention specialist," a position Comcast describes as "equal parts detective, ally, troubleshooter, and negotiator" in job listings. Comcast’s retention reps are paid a low hourly wage supplemented by a monthly commission that depends on how many customers they are able to drag back into the fold.

"For any number of reasons, customers may feel the need to make a change either to a lower level of Xfinity service or even a different carrier. Your job is to convince them that Xfinity can meet their changing needs better — and keep them in the family."

—job description for a retention specialist for Comcast’s streaming media service

The practice is common at internet and phone service providers and at call centers across industries, but it must be uniquely challenging at Comcast. The company has no competition in many of its markets, which makes customer satisfaction a low priority. As a result, Comcast was recently named "Worst Company in America" in a Consumerist poll, a title it snagged for the first time in 2010.

Comcast declined to say how its employees are compensated, but one Reddit commenter "txmadison," who claims to have been a Comcast employee for nearly 9 years (Update: The Verge made contact with this user, who provided a pay stub, tax return, and internal memo as proof of employment), laid out these metrics:

First call resolution:

"Anytime a customer calls back within 30 days, all the people in every department who've talked to that customer within the 30 days (except the brand new person taking this call) get hit for first call resolution, this is a metric everyone is judged on (everyone on the phone) regardless of what department they're in."

Average call length:

"You're supposed to be off the phone within 660 seconds, anything longer and your metric for Average Handled Time is impacted (which is bad). In the billing department their AHT goal is even lower, at about 350~ seconds."

Incentive "gates":

"Let's say that if you retain 85 percent of your customers or more (this means 85 percent of the lines of businesses that customers have when they talk to you, they still have after they talk to you), you get 100 percent of your payout — which might be $5-10 per line of business. At 80 percent you might only get 75 percent of your payout, and at 75 percent you get nothing. The CAEs (customer service reps) watch these numbers daily, and will fight tooth and nail to stay above the ‘I get nothing’ number."

In other words, the incentive structure is really about punishment. Reps start out the month with a full commission, but every canceled product deducts from that amount. Once reps fall below a certain threshold, they get no commission at all. That means a rep could get all the way to the second-to-last day of the pay period only to have a customer cancel four products. Suddenly the rep is below her goal, losing $800 to $1,000 off her paycheck.

Metrics-obsessed reps are therefore highly motivated to get every customer to not only continue service, but keep the same number of subscriptions — phone, internet, Xfinity — or add more. Essentially, these reps are trying to reach a predetermined outcome in the call, and they’re trying to do it in under 11 minutes. Comcast has turned its customer service reps into sales reps.

"Comcast likes to pretend to be "customer first," txmadison writes. "But then they turn around and provide an entire incentive structure that is decidedly NOT customer first."

Block’s call was pretty typical, according to a former Comcast employee who spoke to Business Insider. Reviews of Comcast’s retention department on the anonymous job reviews site Glassdoor said similar things.

"Encouragement was through dollar amounts rather than actually helping customers fix their obvious account issues," one former employee writes. "Metrics were increasingly absurd in how it measured sales as the number one factor when the job was about retaining customers who were intent on canceling their subscription."

"Comcast has turned its customer service reps into sales reps"

Comcast denies that it has a systemic problem with its approach to customer retention. "The way in which our representative communicated with them is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives," the company said in a statement.

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

It’d be nice to think that Comcast will change its policies so that reps are actually encouraged to do what’s best for the customer. Unfortunately, massive companies that don’t face much competition tend to treat their customers poorly and their employees worse — which is why Block’s call is the perfect argument against Comcast’s looming merger with Time Warner Cable.
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Re: Comcast 'embarrassed' by customer service rep

Postby Doc » Fri Oct 10, 2014 12:54 am ... ornia-man/
Comcast got me fired after billing dispute, says California man [Updated]
Comcast is a "very valuable" client to PriceWaterhouseCoopers—where he worked.

by Cyrus Farivar - Oct 7 2014, 10:34pm EST

OAKLAND, CA—Speaking over lunch last Friday, a Northern California man named Conal O'Rourke laid out what admittedly sounds like a crazy story: a year-long billing dispute over his home Comcast service that ultimately resulted in Comcast getting O'Rourke fired from his job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in nearby San Jose earlier this year.

But O’Rourke arrived to last week’s lunch meeting with Ars with an astonishing amount of documentation: he has pages and pages of Comcast invoices. He has a spreadsheet, photos, notes, business cards, and complaint letters. He and his lawyer, Maureen Pettibone Ryan, happily provided digital copies of these materials to Ars, which we have re-published with his permission here.

As a result of his firing, O’Rourke has hired a local attorney and is now threatening to file a lawsuit against Comcast if the company does not agree to his demands, which include "a full retraction and apology, his re-employment with his former employer, and $100,312.50" by October 14.
A rogue $26.25

O’Rourke first moved to California in early 2012 after 20 years of working for Andersen Consulting (later Accenture) in Connecticut, most recently as part of the corporate controllership division. During his career, O'Rourke developed skills in accounting, financial analysis, and auditing—skills that proved useful in his eventual dispute with Comcast.

In February 2013, he moved to a new place in San Jose and signed up for TV and Internet service with Comcast, since the only other competitive service, AT&T’s U-Verse, was not available in his building.

"I was roped into Comcast, and with Comcast, my problems soon began," O'Rourke said.

His first issues began when, after six weeks of service, he had yet to receive a bill.

After eventually receiving his first bill in April 2013, O'Rourke noticed a number of problems. For one thing, his name was misspelled (an issue that never got corrected).

More importantly, O’Rourke noticed that Comcast was charging him for three "additional HD outlets" for an extra fee of $26.25 a month. He also was charged for cable boxes that he says he never activated (he planned on moving two additional TVs later on into his condominium), after allegedly being promised that he wouldn’t be.

Finally, as part of a promotional deal, O'Rourke says he was promised HBO and other premium channels for nine months, but they disappeared after just three.

O’Rourke said he called multiple times to try to get these issues resolved. When they weren’t, he finally walked into his nearest Comcast store in San Jose.

There he met with the assistant store manager, who gave him a business card and provided his personal cellphone number. "He promises me that it will all be addressed and that we're going to look at it," O’Rourke said.

Then the real problems began.
$1,820 in equipment he didn't order

For the next few months, O’Rourke says he was under deadlines at work and could not address issues with Comcast.

Further Reading
Comcast incompetence inspires more painful tales from customers

The horror: Man talks to six Comcast CSRs in 90 minutes, problem still unfixed.
By October 2013, O’Rourke said that his Internet speeds suddenly dropped off, becoming "unworkable."

"I had contacted them regarding lack of responsiveness and performance issues; sometimes my service wouldn't be usable and I had to hotspot in with AT&T," he said.

Again he called, and again, Comcast promised to correct his problem—sometimes by sending technicians to his home—but according to O'Rourke, the company never did.

O’Rourke spent part of November and December 2013 traveling overseas, so he was surprised when he returned home to find several boxes at his doorstep containing "12 pieces of equipment" and a December 2013 monthly bill for over $2,000—including $1,820 in equipment that he insists he did not order.

According to the December 2013 invoice, O’Rourke was charged for devices including an "AnyRoom Hub" ($420) and a "Pace Host" ($110). On December 30, 2013, carrying these various boxes back, O'Rourke walked into the same San Jose Comcast store to return the gear and get his issues resolved.

When he took a service ticket at 1:59pm, he discovered that he was Ticket #395 but that the store was only on Ticket #251. Rather than spend his afternoon at the store, O’Rourke came up with a plan.

"They close at 7:00pm, so I thought, I'm going to go at 6:45pm, then somebody will have a fire underneath them to address the problems," he said. "I had had it up to here."
Enlarge / O'Rourke's image documenting his wait while visiting the local Comcast office.
Conal O'Rourke

A Comcast employee named Matt Doblias ended up helping O’Rourke, took back the equipment, and cleared the charges. But that still didn’t get to the root of the errors that had now persisted for months. (Ars sent an e-mail to Doblias, which bounced.)

"I provided Matt with the detailed spreadsheet in person, and he asked if I could send it to him, and he would take a look," O’Rourke said. The next day, December 31, he did so, but Doblias "responded that the spreadsheet never came through. I sent it again, then at the end of the day I asked for follow up and never heard back."

O’Rourke got irritated.

"On January 11, 2014, I was frustrated because I felt that I had done everything," he said. "I sent [Doblias] an e-mail that I was hopeful would ignite him to do something. What I did was [show Doblias by e-mail that] I sarcastically wrote a letter [to Comcast Senior Vice President Lawrence Salva], recommending Doblias for the Employee of the Month award. I wrote it up but didn't put it in the mail. I wanted to give [Doblias] an opportunity to fix the problem."

The letter included lines like:

The reason why I have chosen to nominate the San Jose center is simple. Their blatant disregard for the customer has made resolving my issues next to impossible. This behavior has proven to be quite profitable as I, like most customers, just throw their hands up in exasperation. However, now that I am no longer exasperated I intend on following up on my concerns.

But O'Rourke heard nothing, and the billing errors persisted—resulting in Comcast allegedly sending a collections agency after him.

"On February 5, 2014, [Comcast] said my account was two months past due and at that point pushing $300," he said. "I don't order pay-per-view, and I explained [to the collections agency] that that can't be right, and they were insistent, and I walked them through it."

She said, ‘What color is your house?!? Tell me the color of your house!’ She went on a tirade and said, ‘Just answer the question!’

By this point, O’Rourke had yet to receive an errorless bill, he said, despite having been a customer for nearly a year. The following day, he decided to contact Lawrence Salva, Comcast’s Philadelphia-based controller, who oversees the division of the company that deals with accounting. He spoke at length with Salva’s executive assistant, describing his litany of problems. After the call concluded, the assistant said that she would have another Comcast employee contact O’Rourke directly.

"An hour later I got a second call from an individual who doesn't identify herself [except as Evelyn] but says that she's with Comcast," he said. O’Rourke asked her if she knew why she was calling, to which she responded that it had something to do with missed appointments.

"I laughed, because they missed so many appointments I don't even know which one she's talking about," he said.

When he tried to explain the situation, O'Rourke said that Evelyn began to berate him.

"She said, ‘What color is your house?!? Tell me the color of your house!’" O’Rourke remembered. "She went on a tirade and said, ‘Just answer the question!’" (O'Rourke lives in a condo complex.)

"I told her that I was angry and said, ‘You need to do your homework before you pick up the phone,’" he told Ars. "I told her I was going to call back to Salva's office. That's what I did. And I expressed my concern and said, 'You have sloppy accounting, you don't take anything seriously, and I should go to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.' That's the regulator that makes sure that accounting is done properly. I think that some of my terminology would have indicated that I wasn't a layman. I worked for 20 years in corporate comptrollership. These errors become material after a while."

Unbeknownst to O’Rourke, however, his call set off alarm bells within Comcast.
Shocked, humiliated, and ashamed

According to O'Rourke, someone within Salva’s office immediately began conducting Internet research on him and determined that he was a PWC employee. (According to Salva's bio, before joining Comcast in 2000 he was "a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers for over 12 years.") A letter written by O'Rourke's lawyer describes what allegedly happened next:

Because Comcast was a major consulting services client of PWC’s, someone from the Controller’s office contacted Mr. Joseph Atkinson, a partner in the Philadelphia office of PWC, and falsely told Mr. Atkinson that Mr. O’Rourke had invoked his employment with PWC in an attempt to somehow obtain leverage in his negotiations with Comcast. Mr. Atkinson informed Mr. O’Rourke that the client was very valuable, was the Philadelphia office’s largest client with billings [REDACTED], that the client was very angry as a result of Mr. O’Rourke’s complaints, and that Mr. O’Rourke was not to speak with anyone from Comcast. While all of this was happening, Comcast continued to communicate sporadically and ineffectively with Mr. O’Rourke, setting up two service appointments that they missed without explanation on February 7, 2014 and February 11, 2014.

O'Rourke says that on February 7, 2014, he was subjected to an internal PWC ethics investigation as a result of the call. On February 18, O'Rourke was terminated. O'Rourke's letter says that he was "shocked, humiliated and ashamed based on the unjustified loss of his job. He sought counseling and was prescribed medication to address his emotional distress."

O’Rourke told me that his firing came as a complete shock. "I was totally taken aback," he said. "I was numb. I was absolutely numb."

Further Reading
Comcast: Everyone secretly knows our Time Warner merger is good for customers

Merger opponents have no facts or credible evidence, Comcast says.
On March 10, 2014, O’Rourke finally cut all ties to Comcast.

"I begged AT&T to give me service, and they did—it only took a week," he said.

On July 28, O'Rourke's lawyer, Maureen Ryan, sent an initial demand letter to Comcast. On August 18, Comcast’s senior deputy corporate counsel, Thomas Nathan, responded to Ryan, telling her that Comcast had not received Ryan's letter in time to meet her deadline for action. So Ryan sent a second letter.

(Nathan's response letter does acknowledge that "Comcast communicated to PWC that a person claiming to be a PWC employee had called our chief accounting executive's office with complaints about his cable service and bills, and yelled at our employees who tried to assist him." But Nathan asserts those statements were "neither untrue nor unprivileged. As such, they cannot be defamatory. Comcast unequivocally denies your assertion that it requested PWC to fire Mr. O'Rourke.")

As the new demand letter states, O'Rourke wants $100,000 in compensation—and he wants to return to his old post at PWC in San Jose. Why ask Comcast about a job at PWC? Because, Ryan tells Ars, PWC believed Comcast, and "we didn't feel that contacting them would do any good until Comcast retracted their defamation, or until we get the tapes through litigation."

Comcast declined to respond to specific questions about O’Rourke’s case, with a company spokesman saying only that "our customers deserve the best experience every time they interact with us. We have previously apologized to Mr. O’Rourke, but we will review his lawyer’s letter and respond as quickly as possible."

PWC spokeswoman Caroline Nolan did not respond to questions at the time of publication.
"Totally egregious"

In the months since his firing, O’Rourke has discovered the numerous public complaints against Comcast—which have only enraged him further.

"I think they're totally egregious," O’Rourke told Ars. "I think they're the most unethical, dishonest bunch that I've ever encountered. I would like to see them investigated for repeated overbilling. It is a very common occurrence."

In September 2014, he even went as far as sending a 10-page letter to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), detailing not only his story but articulating his deep concerns about Comcast’s practices on a broader scale.

"I think that they need to be made aware of how they conduct business, and, most importantly, I think that the consumer needs to be protected, and protection is not going to come in the form of them gobbling up somebody else [like Time Warner Cable]," O'Rourke said. "That's not what's going to happen. If I was not able to convince AT&T to provide service, I would be left without anything. I feel that they [Comcast] are a bully. They used their money to unfair advantage—that is just absolutely wrong. There's a flagrant disregard for how they conduct themselves."

UPDATE, Wednesday Oct. 8:
Further Reading
Comcast: Treatment of upset former customer “completely unacceptable”

Comcast executive: "We simply dropped the ball and did not make things right."
In an e-mail sent to Ars, PWC spokeswoman Nolan did not respond to specific questions but did send a statement. "Mr. O’Rourke was employed in one of our internal firm services offices," she wrote. "The firm terminated his employment after an internal investigation concluded that Mr. O’Rourke violated PwC’s ethical standards and practices, applicable to all of our people. The firm has explicit policies regarding employee conduct, we train our people in those policies, and we enforce them. Mr. O’Rourke’s violation of these policies was the sole reason for his termination."

Later in the day, Comcast issued a public apology on its company blog (written by Charlie Herrin, a company senior vice president). The company called its treatment of O'Rourke "completely unacceptable" and noted, "We also want to clarify that nobody at Comcast asked for him to be fired." O'Rourke's lawyer Ryan responded to the statement, expressing disappointment at what her client viewed as a somewhat hollow apology. She reiterated that O'Rourke's Oct. 14 deadline for Comcast to meet his demands—or expect a lawsuit—still stands.
“The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” … George Orwell
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