How Not To Treat Your Callers: 5 Lessons From The Worst Customer Service Call Ever

The universally acknowledged cardinal sin of customer service is to intentionally provide direct, obstructive barriers to make it more difficult for the customer to get what they want out of the interaction.

You may have heard of the Comcast customer service representative who went viral for all the wrong reasons. What has swiftly been dubbed as the “Worst Customer Service Call Ever,” features an eight-minute exchange between a Comcast customer service rep. and Ryan Block, VP of Product at AOL and former tech blogger.

He’s just the kind of influential customer Comcast didn’t want to upset.

Block recorded the last eight minutes of what was reportedly a twenty-minute conversation, throughout which Block is forced to state time and time again that he wants to cancel his account. The representative, unfortunately, is having none of it.

“So why is it that you don’t want the fastest speed?” asked the call agent, somewhat missing the point. “I can’t understand why you don’t want faster internet.”

After already explaining that he would “like to disconnect,” Block said, “I can’t understand why you can’t just disconnect us.”

“Because my job is to have a conversation with you about how… about… I mean… keeping the service.”

For eight minutes, the recording plays out the argument between Block and the call handler with the agent refusing to proceed to the next step and disconnect Block’s account. The call went viral at the obtuseness of the agent’s simple refusal to do as the customer asked.

Comcast’s mortification, however, is our gain. Here are five lessons we can draw from Block’s bad experience:

Pick your battles

It is unlikely that the customer service rep. knew who Block was. He certainly wouldn’t have imagined that the call would go viral.

It is important, however, that when you are dealing with any customer, you treat them with respect and choose your moments. The question that the rep. was asking – why did Block want to leave Comcast? – was fair enough in itself. In order to improve service and retain future customers, it is in Comcast’s interests to find out why customers would want to leave.

But the eight minutes of back-and-forth between the two stubborn people on this phone call demonstrate a refusal to back down that is completely incompatible with good practice in customer service.

Pick your battles and know your limits – you never know who your customers might turn out to be.

Be helpful

In a list of customer service tips, simply “Be helpful” is often left out due to its obviousness.

But the customer service representative dealing with Block’s issue was exactly the opposite. Despite asserting numerous times, “I’m trying to help you,” it is clear from the recording that he is making Block’s situation more frustrating and difficult.

Condescension is never the way to go

“Being that we are the number one provider of internet and TV service in the entire country, ok? Why is it that you’re not wanting to have the number one-rated internet service, the number-one rated TV service?”

The rep. here clearly questions the customer’s ability to make good decisions in their own interests. His tone is condescending and ignores that Block may be experiencing other issues to do with the service.

Simply dismissing your customers’ intentions with reductive reasoning is not the way to get them back on-side.

The customer had already gone – accept that

In some ways, the representative’s determination to get the customer back on-side is admirable. Block had been a customer for nine years and suddenly he wanted to cancel the service? Naturally, Comcast would want to find out why.

But once Block had made clear not only his disinclination to answer the question, but his clear irritation at the agent’s persistence, the agent should have understood that further questioning would only make matters worse. At this stage, it would have been best to move on and make the customer’s last interaction with  your service as pleasant as possible.

Educate your staff

Why did the customer service agent think it was acceptable to handle this call in this way? How much training had he received? Was he facing negative consequences if Block cancelled his account?

Your staff need to know what is and what is not ok. Where possible, always try to keep the customer back on-side. Empower your team to make decisions like offering discounts or perks to disgruntled clients. Pestering and badgering unhappy customers will never make matters better.

Your team are your biggest asset. Make sure they aren’t at risk of making the same mistake as Comcast.

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