When tech journalist Ryan Block decided it was time to drop Comcast (News - Alert) in favor of a different service provider, he probably never would have expected that what would happen later actually would happen to anyone. But his call to Comcast prompted a roughly 20 minute ordeal—just over eight minutes of which he recorded—and the end result was a customer service and public relations nightmare, and a move that actually prompted an apology from Comcast itself.
Listening to the call in question is difficult enough; trying to imagine having lived it even worse. But following the wide release of the recording—which subsequently went pretty much viral and gave itself a good chance of showing up on a lot of “end-of-the-year wrapup” reports this December—Comcast issued an apology to Block. Comcast's Tom Karinshak, who serves as the company's head of customer experience, said in a statement: “The way in which our representative communicated with him 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.”
This call came at a particularly poor time for Comcast, who is currently working on a merger between itself and Time Warner Cable, a deal reportedly valued at $45 billion dollars. While Comcast is assuring the public and regulators alike that the reduced competition would allow Comcast to better serve its customer base, its detractors point to calls just like this to note that Comcast probably couldn't do a much worse job of serving its customer base without the benefit of power tools.
Given that Comcast recently narrowly beat Monsanto to take home “The Consumerist” trophy for Worst Company in America, and reportedly winning the title for the second time since 2010, this was definitely not the time for Comcast to be on the bad end of a call like this. Comcast's apology was a smart move, though perhaps the only smart move it could make.
Perhaps worse is the public opinion following the incident; seeing what people have to say about Block's nightmarish phone call suggests this is really not the first time such a thing has happened, but more like the first time someone actually managed to record it. Some have even suggested that the call is less the representative's fault and more Comcast's own for using some kind of specific compensation structure that relates more toward numbers retained than to quality of service. Though this is just the suggestion of the laity as opposed to the company line, the fact that this is the public perception is perhaps even more damaging than the recording of the call itself.
Indeed, many likely have horror stories about Comcast on one level or another—a favorite coffee shop of mine frequently has trouble with Comcast's Internet service, and attempts to fix same are met with quite a bit of trouble—and this is a point that Comcast will desperately need to address before it finds its business wrecked by competitors who offer even the simplest note of relief. Comcast's apology was an excellent move, but it's not likely to prove sufficient in light of the host of horror stories and general negative perception currently in the field.