Comcast apologizes after service call gets 4M viral listens, exposes customer retention policies

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has issued a public apology in the wake of an embarrassing, virally distributed incident involving one of its customer retention representatives.

"We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and Ms. Belmont and are contacting them to personally apologize," Tom Karinshak, Comcast Cable senior VP of customer experience, said in a statement. "The way in which our representative communicated with them 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."

Ryan Block, founder of tech blog Engadget and now an AOL executive, used SoundCloud to record half of a 21-minute, Kafkaesque conversation with a Comcast representative, who despite Block's repeated requests to cancel his Comcast service, refused to comply.

As of Wednesday, the socially proliferate audio clip had been listened to 4 million times.

Comcast is battling an already challenging reputation for customer service at a time when it's trying to convince FCC and Justice Department regulators to let it merge with the No. 2 cable company, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), which has a service reputation almost as bad.

Certainly, this is bad press Comcast doesn't need right now.

For its part, the Block incident made Comcast the focal point to a broad practice, in which subscriber retention specialists are incentivized not to let any customer out of the fold, even if there is no chance of saving the relationship.

"The practice is common at Internet and phone service providers and at call centers across industries, but it must be uniquely challenging at Comcast," wrote The Verge. "The company has no competition in many of its markets, which makes customer satisfaction a low priority. As a result, Comcast was recently named 'Worst Company in America' in a Consumerist poll, a title it snagged for the first time in 2010."

For more:
- read this Adweek story
- read this story from TheVerge

Related links:
Comcast rep won't let Engadget founder cancel service
Comcast and TiVo developing retail set-top platform without CableCARD
Supercuts boosts customer service in NE with Comcast Business services

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