The Problem With Retention

A lot of people I follow on the Internet have been posting the audio of the call made by a man named Ryan Block to cancel his Comcast service. The call is supposed to be hilarious and awkward as the customer retention rep asks over and over again for Ryan Block to provide a reason why he is cancelling his service. And it’s a long call, too, which means this rep did not go down without a fight, and at one point sounded more than a tiny bit crazy for insisting to know exactly how Comcast had so failed Ryan Block.

After making the call, Ryan Block posted the below on Twitter:

“Generally good experiences with Comcast…until we canceled. Rep got straight up belligerent. I was able to record some, should I post it?”

Which he then did, and everyone went nuts.

While I’ve certainly been frustrated when attempting to cancel service (T-Mobile comes to mind, because while they’d had no problem overcharging me for years for increasingly shitty customer service and reception, they seemed positively happy to throw free smartphones and a whole bundle of other shit my way even as I told them repeatedly “nope, sorry, I’m getting an iPhone”), in this case, I sympathize far more with the rep. And I’m kind of angry at Ryan Block, who has obviously never worked in customer service because a) he’d be a little more understanding of why a person would be required to record a reason for cancellation and b) have actual knowledge of what “belligerent” actually means, as I guarantee you that rep’s behavior was nothing compared to the abuse they receive from customers every single day.

When he was tweeted by Comcast, Ryan then tried to place himself on the side of the rep, replying “I hope the quick action you take is a thorough evaluation of your culture and policies, and not the termination of the rep.”

Which seems at odds with his initial assessment, but then again, if he doesn’t understand what “belligerent” actually means, he probably has no idea how a giganto-corp like Comcast would react to that specific feedback.

So while the people I follow are mostly reacting with rage towards Comcast, I think it’s slightly misdirected. Yes, Comcast is ultimately at fault. But it’s not about the rep they hired or his repeated requests for a reason, any reason, just something, please, that he could put into his ticket. It’s about their fucked up policies regarding the human beings who work for them and act as receptacles of verbal abuse every day. Companies like Comcast don’t give a shit that their employees might be berated by people like Ryan Block – who, when asked for a reason the first time, explained that it was calls such as this, and by that I assume he meant “generally inconvenient,” that indicated his general dissatisfaction with Comcast – or publicly humiliated when the customer (or, in this case, former customer) is not 100% satisfied based on their expectations. And it’s anyone’s guess as to whether those expectations are reasonable, but most of the time, they’re not.

The problem isn’t with the rep. The rep is trying to keep his job. The rep is trying to work within the most insane policies monitored by the most sadistic individuals based on the most flawed metrics derived from the most asisine customer feedback. Oh yeah, I know. While my 10+ years of customer service work experience have provided me with invaluable insight into human psychology and manners, it has also made me an embittered husk of a woman who knows that, for an overwhelmingly depressing majority of the time, people are awful and managers are worse and nobody gives a shit about the peon who’s doing the grunt work. And the grunt work is sometimes the most demoralizing, desensitizing, unethical work there is.

In my time, I have been expected to ask incredibly personal and invasive questions of customers, to the point of harassing them when it is clear to everyone except for my company (ahem, the one who’s supposed to care about the profits generated by the experiences of said customers) that all the customer wants to do is get off the goddamn phone. And I didn’t work for a doctor’s office or law firm or any other industry that you’d expect would have access to these facets of a customer’s life. I worked for a consumer goods company. I worked for Big Alcohol. I worked for a company that touted itself as a paragon of good times and relaxation. Meanwhile, my years there caused me to develop migraines and heartburn and one hell of a nasty attitude. And if at any point I’d reacted to a customer’s growing frustration with “I’m sorry, they make me ask this stuff,” I would have been fired immediately. Because companies won’t take the blame for their bad policies. They put that on the employee.

Comcast is no different. Based on my experiences with cable and Internet companies, they’re probably worse. But in my experiences with T-Mobile, Charter, and others, I’ve made sure to emphasize that my problem is not with the rep. My problem is with what the company expects of them. It’s with the absurdly limited knowledge they provide to them. It’s with knowing that there are people doing impossible jobs and getting paid far less than they deserve while the company that employs them is exploiting their desire to support themselves by keeping their jobs.

And it’s with people like Ryan Block, who probably still doesn’t know what “belligerent” means.

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About erineph

I'm Erin. I have tattoos and more than one cat. I am an office drone, a music writer, and an erstwhile bartender. I am a cook in the bedroom and a whore in the kitchen. Things I enjoy include but are not limited to zombies, burritos, Cthulhu, Kurt Vonnegut, Keith Richards, accordions, perfumery, and wearing fat pants in the privacy of my own home.
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