Yesterday, Comcast had to endure an online PR nightmare when a customer posted a recording of what happened to him when he tried to cancel his Comcast service. This NPR article has the recording, along with the Comcast's stating-the-obvious response that "We are very embarrassed" by what happened.
Comcast went on to say that, "The way in which our representative communicated with them is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives." But reading through the hundreds of comments on the NPR article and other sites, it's clear that this one call was not an isolated incident.
At the moment I imagine Comcast's PR and marketing teams are in damage control mode, trying to limit the spread and fallout of this incident.
While they do that, I encourage Comcast's executives to spend some time meditating on the difference between policy and culture.
Policy is what a company says it will do, through training, written procedures, and executive's public statements.
Culture, on the other hand, is what a company actually encourages its employees to do, through formal and informal incentives, subtle messages about which policies are more important, decisions about hiring and promotion, and where executives focus their time and attention.
I have no doubt that Comcast trains its retention agents that they shouldn't annoy customers who call to cancel. There's probably even a statement somewhere in the training manual to the effect that customer satisfaction is very important.
But who gets the bonuses and promotions: the agent who quickly and efficiently processes customer requests, or the one who convinces the most customers to not cancel?
Comcast already has a reputation for very poor customer service (which, by our survey data, is deserved). But as long as the company treats incidents like this as PR problems rather than indicators of an underlying cultural problem, Comcast's service levels and reputation are unlikely to improve.