Comcast Employees Say Needy Retention Call Is Totally Normal

While we all spent yesterday shaking heads and commiserating with Comcast customer Ryan Block in his exhausting effort to get a customer service representative to disconnect his service, it’s always good to stop and remember that there are actual humans on the other end of that line, people who are hired to do a job. And in the case of call center workers, we’ve heard from many past and current Comcast employees who say that type of effort might’ve been a bit much, but it all comes down to meeting quotas.

Comcast apologized yesterday for how things went down with Block, saying “the way in which our representative communicated with him is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives.”

Meanwhile, Consumerist has heard from Comcast call center workers both past and present who agree that maybe while this guy went a bit far, it’s only because that’s the culture at the company, and that customer service reps are actually trained to do just what he did.

As multiple tipsters are telling us, CSRs can only have a certain amount of “discos” — or disconnects — on their personal tallies each day, and must meet a certain quota of “saves,” for which they can earn bonuses and/or commission.

That “save” might just mean hanging up on a customer so the disco goes on another CSR’s list, or in Block’s case, a relentless attempt to keep the customer. Many employees said that with a low hourly pay rate, these saves are the only way to boost their paychecks.

“That rep, (may God have mercy on his soul) was doing exactly as he was told to do,” writes former Comcast call center employee and Consumerist reader M. “Comcast reps make about $12/hour, but they get bonuses for every account that they save.”

That forced reps to either tell customers to go to a Comcast store — which can be a whole other inconvenience in itself — or to keep pushing until customers give up. This is probably what the CSR dealing with Block was told by his supervisors, he surmises.

“Frustrate the customer so that they hang up, and call back to another rep and get them to do the disconnection,” M. explains. “It wouldn’t affect you, and someone else would be at the door. Plus, the longer you stay on a call, the less likely you are to disconnect more customers.”

He adds that if reps disconnected more customers than they were supposed to — he was allowed three disconnects per 8-hour shift — after three days in a row, they “were shown the door.”

M. says he walked out after disconnecting five accounts in one day, as he was told he didn’t “gather enough information regarding their decision to leave.”

He adds that even the lengths this CSR went to might’ve even fallen short of expectations.

“I will say this rep did a great job of what was expected of him, but he more than likely received a whipping from his supervisor for not getting enough info,” M. says.

Then there’s Tipster A., another former employee of Comcast, who admits that the CSR in question did go “way too far,” but that it’s “no doubt for his ‘save’ quota.” And now that A. is no longer with the company, it’s not like the experience is any better.

“I thought I would never want to leave Comcast services but when I worked there, I prided myself on great customer service, and I just get angry every time I call them because I’m not shown the same respect,” A. writes.

And while this scenario is “absolutely the normal day-to-day expectation” that is put on retention workers, writes former call center agent N., that doesn’t mean workers are happy about it.

“It is very competitive and can drive the wrong habits,” N. tells Consumerist. “I resigned from Comcast because it was a hopeless situation.”

There are good people out there, however, who will try their best.

“If you got lucky you got a good supervisor that coached you to retain business and probe effectively with empathy for what the customer was experiencing,” N. says. “I was an interim retention supervisor and I always pushed my agents to handle every call with empathy – NEVER cut the customer off and never talk over them (everything this guy did).”

That sense of desperation listeners might get from the Block call is very real, according to N., because of the “sad hourly rate” that CSRs are paid and the increasing pressure every month to retain customers. All while there are less promotions available to offer those customers, she says.

“So the opportunity to make any commission only becomes more and more difficult, increasing the employees desperation to not disconnect the services for the caller.”

Or heck, maybe he’s just new on the job, adds a current worker for Comcast.

“We are asked to try to retain them with specials offers. We have to hit certain speaking points in our conversation,” writes tipster R. “But this guy was way over the top and pushy. Quite frankly, I thought it was amusing. It sounds like he is new.”

We’ve reached out to Comcast for comment on these save quotas and disconnect limits for each call center, as well as the training our tipsters say they received to push customers to the hang-up point, and will let you know if we hear back.

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  1. Raekwon says:

    Unfortunately this is similar in “customer service” for many companies. When I worked in Support at the company I’m still with they encouraged us to make the calls as short as possible and to handle more and more calls per day. This encouraged behavior like disconnecting a customer, passing customers in endless loops agent to agent, and just sending a canned response and immediately disconnecting. Customers coming back to Support didn’t hurt you and customer satisfaction wasn’t all that important. I often got in trouble for spending “too much” time solving customer issues and should just pass them on to someone else instead. I don’t blame the Support reps. This is how they are trained and it’s the only way they can increase their pay to livable levels.

  2. dullard8 says:

    Another good reason to reject the Comcast-Time Warner merger, although my experiences with the Time Warner Customer Service staff when I was a customer were pretty bad. I have Verizon FiOS now and find their customer service light years better that TW. Their techs even understand the questions. If the merger is approved it would seem that more people would be subject to this abuse.