Cable companies are notorious for providing less-than-acceptable customer service. Recently, Comcast made headlines once again thanks to Ryan Block, a former editor of Engadget and current product lead at AOL. Mr. Block made a call to Comcast to terminate his service, and what ensued was nothing short of the worst case scenario in customer service.


What should have been a simple call quickly spiraled downward into borderline bullying, with the representative downright refusing to accept Block’s termination request. The call is uncomfortable to listen to, and should be used as a cautionary tale for any organization with customer-facing employees.


Be Mindful of Technology – and Your Customer


Cable Giants


We’ve reached an era where almost every pocket in the United States holds a smartphone, and those smartphones have audio and video recording capabilities. All employees who have customer contact should be taught to assume that their interactions are being recorded by the customer. Nobody ever knows when the next viral interaction will take place.


Additionally, there should be no excuse for CSRs to not know what their customers do for a

living. In an era of big data, companies know almost everything about their customer base, and that knowledge should be made available to every CSR on staff.  Knowing a customer is a part of relationship building, and it can be extremely beneficial for reps to know if and when they are dealing with a member of the media. While any poor interaction has the potential to go viral, it’s unlikely that that this particular incident would gone so viral, so quickly if Mr. Block had not been so well-connected in the online media sphere. Know thy customer has never been more impermanent than in today’s hyper-connected world.


Breaking Up Should Not Be Hard to Do


Cable Giants


When a customer calls in to terminate service, steps should certainly be taken to try and retain their business. However, representatives need to be taught that there is a point when you have to wave the white flag, because no business can expect to retain 100% of its customers.  Restaurant owners understand this better than anyone. They know that when regular customers choose to dine elsewhere, it doesn’t mean they are never coming back. Let’s say, however, that the restaurant owner began to chase those customers down the street, demanding an explanation for each and every reason why they chose to eat elsewhere. That restaurant would quickly alienate its entire customer base.


Yet, this type of hard-sell tactic is common among cable companies.  A simple Google query of “How to cancel (company name) cable service,” will yield thousands of pages of advice on how to maneuver the breakup process. Cancelling any type of service should not be difficult. Attempts should be made to try and save the relationship, but sometimes customers just leave, and organizations should make every attempt to ensure that cancellation calls are just as pleasant as sign-up calls. Many customers choose to return, but if they are left with a bad taste in their mouth, the odds of regaining that customer later on will diminish exponentially.


Cohesion Matters


Cable Giants


Most cable company customers have experienced inconsistencies in service. They may have a great interaction with a phone rep, only to have a terrible experience the next time they call. They may have pleasant interactions at the local cable office, but then experience a less-than-pleasant interaction with a repair technician.


Why is the customer experience so inconsistent? The answer is simple: lack of consistent training. A visit toComcast’s page on indicates that employees across all departments are disappointed in training. That lack of training becomes an even bigger issue when it comes to the use of contractors.  Cable giants employ thousands of contractors to help them handle their workload. There is nothing inherently wrong with using contractors – but they must be trained and treated the same way as full-time employees. When contractors are held to the same training and performance standards, it creates a consistent and cohesive customer experience.


Southwest Airlines makes use of contractors, but the average customer would not be able to pick contractors out of the lineup of Southwest employees they encounter throughout the course of a typical flight experience. That is because Southwest puts the same amount of time and energy into training their contractors as they do their full-time employees. Consistency and cohesion matters when it comes to customer service.


Incentives can Torpedo Relationships


Cable Giants


One of the reasons it’s so difficult to break up with a cable company are incentives. Cable giants offer a variety of incentives for retention wins. While incentives can be incredibly motivating for employees, they can also get twisted to the point where reps don’t understand the true goals of their employer. Over-incentivizing can create a feeling among employees that the ends justify the means, and they may believe that a take-no-prisoners mindset is what is expected of them, when in reality the organization may fully expect an extremely low retention ratio once a customer calls a cancellation line. Clear communication of goals and expectations is critical for customer service employees, especially those tasked with customer retention.


Avoiding Worst Case Scenarios in Customer Service


Cable giants are notoriously bad at customer service. Year after year companies like Comcast and Time Warner have topped “The Worst” lists forcustomer satisfaction.  In order to avoid worst case scenarios in customer service, organizations in all industries can look the cable giants as shining examples of what not to do. Through consistency and commitment to customer experience, companies can ensure their customers will have positive interactions at every touchpoint.