The Customer Service Survey

Comcast CEO: Delusional or Just Spinning?

by Peter Leppik on Fri, 2013-11-22 16:29

Brian Roberts, Comcast's CEO, was interviewed yesterday for the radio show Marketplace. The company has a reputation for poor customer service, and so at one point the host asked Roberts to respond.

His answer to why Comcast has such a bad rap: "...we have about...350 million interactions with customers a year, between phone calls and truck rolls....You get one-tenth of one percent bad experience, that's a lot of people. Unacceptable. We have to be the best service provider or in the end, this company won't be what I want it to be."

(You can listen to the full interview on the Marketplace website, without my edits for brevity.)

So his explanation for Comcast's reputation is that they have so many customers that there's always going to be some tiny fraction who get bad service.

Actually....that's not quite what he said. What he said was that if they had one customer in a thousand get bad service it would be a lot of people. He sort of implied that's the level Comcast is operating at, without actually saying it.

Which is good in a way, because if Roberts actually believes that only one in a thousand Comcast customer interactions is a bad experience, this represents an astonishing degree of executive delusion, bordering on clinical madness. Having 999 of every 1,000 customer experiences be positive represents world-class customer service, at a level probably not attainable by any company with millions of customers.

So how is Comcast actually doing? It so happens that we have some data on that topic, since we have been interviewing Comcast customers since earlier this year as part of the National Customer Service Survey. These interviews happen a few minutes after a customer calls Comcast, and can be fairly extensive. We published some preliminary results a few months ago which showed that (based on very early data with a big margin of error) Comcast's customer satisfaction with its customer service is well below industry peers.

And those peers are not companies famous for good service, either: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. And this isn't just a survey about reputation, like a JD Powers. We are asking about a specific call to Comcast which happened immediately before the interview.

I have to assume that the CEO of Comcast has at least some idea that his company really doesn't provide good service. But maybe not. It's possible this is another example of the corporate Dunning-Kruger Effect. But more likely, he's been well-trained by media handlers to spin the question really effectively.

But whether he's delusional or just offering his spin, it's disappointing that Roberts can't seem to acknowledge what is apparent to so many people outside the company. Because the first step to improving your service is to admit that it needs improvement.

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