Comcast's customer retention department seems unclear on the concept of retaining customers.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

January 29, 2015

3 Min Read
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].

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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