When Ryan Block tried to cancel his Comcast account, it took him 18 minutes to convince an employee to let him. This audio starts 10 minutes into the conversation.
Slate writer Jordan Weissman helps us understand the situation:
"I can hardly imagine what horrible, punitive incentive structure Comcast has put in place for its employees that might inspire this sort of interaction."
An Awl writer tells us more about the pressure the employee may be under:
"If you understand this call as a desperate interaction between two people, rather than a business transaction between a customer and a company, the pain is mutual. 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. By the time news of this lost customer reaches his supervisor, it will be data-it will be the wrong data, and it will likely be factored into a score, or a record, that is either directly or indirectly tied to his compensation or continued employment. It's bad, very bad, for this rep to record a cancellation with no reason, or with a reason the script should theoretically be able to answer (the initial reasons given for canceling were evidently judged, by the script, as invalid). There are only a few boxes he can tick to start with, and even fewer that let him off the hook as a salesman living at the foot of a towering org chart. The rep had no choice but to try his hardest, to not give up, to make it so irritating and seemingly impossible to leave that Block might just give up and stay. The only thing he didn't account for was the possibility the call would be recorded. Now he's an internet sensation. The rep always loses."
Comcast issued this apology:
"We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and are contacting him to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with him 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."
Management's instructions at Comcast are likely similar to those at AOL, which was criticized for a ridiculous call back in 2006. In that conversation, Vincent Ferrari did his best to cancel the account:
"Cancel the account. Cancel the account. Cancel the account. CANCEL THE ACCOUNT. CANCEL THE ACCOUNT. CANCEL THE ACCOUNT. FOR GOD'S SAKE JUST CANCEL THE ******* ACCOUNT."
For fun, I tweeted to Vincent Ferrari and received this reply-and some unconfirmed information about Ryan Block.
- Why would a Comcast employee behave in this way? What's the company's responsibility? How isolated do you think this situation is?
- Assess Comcast's statement. What's the approach, and is it successful?
- In the statement, Comcast promises to take "quick action." What do you think is appropriate in this case?