Customer Experience

Comcast Apologizes to 'A**hole' Brown

Pro-tip for Comcast customer retention: If your customer is quitting, calling the customer a dirty name probably isn't going to change their mind.

Comcast has once again had to apologize after an overzealous customer retention rep crossed the line into outright rudeness, changing a customer's name to "Asshole Brown" on his bill.

Comcast says:

    We have apologized to our customer for this unacceptable situation and addressed it directly with the employee who will no longer be working on behalf of Comcast.  We're also looking at a number of technical solutions that would prevent it from happening moving forward.

Comcast customer Lisa Brown, a volunteer for a missions organization in Spokane, Wash., contacted consumer advocate blogger Chris Elliott on Tuesday to complain about Comcast's creative billing nomenclature.

The blog includes a picture of an offending bill, made out to "Asshole Brown." The bill was supposed to be in the name of Lisa's husband, whose name -- and this will surprise you! -- is not "Asshole." It's "Ricardo."

Lisa Brown says she tried to get the problem fixed by phone, and even visited the Comcast offices, but to no avail. Brown told Elliott she was "shocked."

    She explained that her family was having financial difficulties and needed to reduce their cable bill. She'd called Comcast to cancel the cable portion of her account, for which she had to pay a $60 fee. Instead of complying immediately, a representative escalated her call to a retention specialist, who tried to persuade her to keep the cable service and sign a new two-year contract.

    "I was never rude," she says. "It could have been that person was upset because I didn't take the offer."

Since Elliott started investigating the incident, Brown has received personal apologies from Comcast, which promised to waive its $60 cancellation fee. Brown said she wanted more, and eventually got a refund for the two full years of service.

Want to know more about cable? Visit Light Reading's dedicated Cable and Video content channel.

Customer retention is a recurring public relations problem for Comcast. In July, technology journalist and Comcast customer Ryan Block posted a recording of a phone conversation in which a customer service rep argued back when Block tried to cancel service. Comcast apologized then too. Block said he didn't want the rep fired. "I believe the call itself belies a deeper, systemic dysfunction."

In an internal memo to employees, Comcast COO Dave Watson said the rep "did a lot of what we trained him and paid him -- and thousands of other Retention agents -- to do."

Comcast has received low customer satisfaction ratings from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Cable companies in general proved unpopular -- although not as unpopular as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). (See Despite Efforts, Cable Service Still Sucks.)

And Comcast and its likely future subsidiary Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) also rank low in customer satisfaction for business-to-business customer satisfaction. (See Verizon, Cox Rank Tops With Business.)

Service providers shouldn't be laughing at this story. They've been able to afford poor customer service because customers haven't had choices. The emergence of OTT services and alternate providers like Google Fiber are the first signs of competition to come. In a competitive market, businesses need to keep customers happy to stay in business.

And keeping customers happy sometimes means letting them go.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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Joe Stanganelli 2/9/2015 | 9:40:17 AM
Re: Open questions A recent Vox piece suggests that the reason for this is because of Comcast's whole approach to customer service and retention -- pit the agents against the customers every time the customer calls because they want better service or want to cancel, and as the customers get what deals they may be able to, the agents are left feeling bitter and hostile.
Joe Stanganelli 2/9/2015 | 9:38:58 AM
Update Just a few days after this incident, Comcast did it again -- apparently misspelling "Mary" as "Super Bitch."
MikeP688 2/4/2015 | 2:16:28 AM
Re: No incentive Roger that Sir!! :-)  I'm gearing up to attend a community event about the very people you noted--about them threatening to Sue a City who had the nerve to stand up to the Corporation to tell them no to selling liquor at a Movie Theatre.   
Mitch Wagner 2/3/2015 | 9:27:25 PM
Re: Open questions It's easy to imagine someone in the wrong kind of sales -- or customer retention -- culture might take an us vs. them attitude toward customers. 
Mitch Wagner 2/3/2015 | 1:53:33 PM
Re: No incentive Well yeah that too. Too early for lunch?
[email protected] 2/3/2015 | 1:14:02 PM
Re: No incentive Oh, I thought you were ordering pasta.
Mitch Wagner 2/3/2015 | 11:29:09 AM
Re: No incentive It's fake Latin for "Don't let the bastards grind you down."
MikeP688 2/3/2015 | 10:56:43 AM
Re: No incentive Forgive me for asking...but I am not sure what that means--but my very very limited knowledge of Latin reflects something about legality and not being attentive to the the future.
Mitch Wagner 2/3/2015 | 10:45:02 AM
Re: No incentive Illegitimi non carborundum.
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