Thursday, April 22, 2010

Outsource your system integration to your customers? Brilliant!

I've got to hand it to Comcast (a.k.a. Comcrap). They figured out how to save millions in system integration. They chose not to do it and then force their customers to act as bridges between the groups and systems. How slick is that?

So after giving up on Comcast ever making a compelling bundle offer that doesn't contain at least $50 in hidden extra monthly fees (cable modem rental, HD upcharge, extra box fee, DVR fee. HD+DVR fee) I decided to call AT&T to try the U-verse bundle. I couldn't actually get U-verse, as it is not available in my area yet, but the bundle was still available with NO extra fees with DirecT

Once everything was setup, I called Comcast to cancel my service and hit a series of obstacles that highlight how brilliant Comcast management is.

  1. Organizational Fragmentation - Comcast customer service is totally separate from the organization that retrieves the equipment. They had no ability to schedule the pickup. They had no ability to transfer my phone call. They had no ability to email me the phone number. They had no ability to pass on a request to them. In other words, it was now my job to integrate the customer service and logistics teams.
  2. No Continuity - After I successfully memorized and dialed the phone number (I was in the car but not driving), I scheduled the equipment pickup which was no picnic either. They refused to give me anything other than a four hour window and would not take a note for the driver such that I could leave the equipment in my screened porch. This is another stroke of genius by Comcast - when you make it as inconvenient as possible for people to end their service there are bound to be a couple of people who just give up ans stick with it out of some form of Stockholm Syndrome.
  3. No Tools - After the equipment recovery person missed his window and showed up 1 hour late I happily handed all the equipment over to him. Choosing to be frugal and not give their employees wasteful tools, the equipment recovery person collected the two set-top boxes, manually captured the serial numbers on a form and gave me a copy of the paper receipt.
  4. No Follow-through - Where other companies might blow a whole bunch of money and time actually tracking their operations, a brilliant analyst at Comcast noticed that actually not tracking returns was in the companies interest! If a former customer is upset at being charged for equipment they already returned, they'll follow up and hound us. If not, who cares! And given that equipment recovery is not integrated with billing they'll hound the customer by phone 3 or more times a day anyway to provide a "legitimate excuse". Genius I say!!!
  5. Contemptuous Attitude - Start the calls off right! Comcast calls with an auto-dialer and shows blatant contempt for customer time by having the auto-dialer ask customers to hold for an "important business call". This sets the tone just right to make everything be coherent around the core brand message - "your time and money are not nearly as important as ours".
  6. No Accountability - Narrative, Narrative Narrative! The Comcast team has it down! The only way to make policies and decisions like these stick is to be completely unapologetic and obtuse on the phone and make the customer wrong on every level. The phone reps had the story and they stuck to it - it was my job to track the repair, my job to prove that they had picked the equipment, and it was even my job to call the billing department to get the erroneous charge for "not returning the equipment" changed. Why on earth should it be Equipment Recovery's responsibility to close the loop? It is this narrative which enables a phone rep to be legitimately upset with the fact that customer's are upset or frustrated. When an employee does not acknowledge that they are "representatives" of the brand or of the corporation then, clearly, the customer is the one who is rude for being frustrated!
  7. Plausible Deniability - Make sure your phone systems are easy to blame. Calls with Comcast were never pleasant in terms of the discussion, but what makes them even worse for the customer is that the auto-dialer is in control and calls would drop almost at random. As always, this serves the greater objective - now Comcast reps can honestly say: "I did not call you, the auto dialer did!" and "You keep hanging up on us!". i.e., "It's not Comcast's fault we keep calling you, It's the auto-dialer! It's you!"
  8. No Empathy - By hiring barely literate people with chips on their shoulder who are unhappy with their jobs. The message will really be sent - "You are not a customer anymore. You are not worthy of respectful communication or empathy. Being upset that you are called incessantly early in the morning, or late at night and being asked by a machine to hold without telling you who is calling is not our concern - even if we picked up the equipment already. We will just keep calling you for weeks. We will choose not to listen. We will choose not the enter the receipt number into our system because you were frustrated or the call dropped after we got the number but before we said we were done with you. We will hang up on you because you are audibly frustrated - but don't worry, we will call back and start all over again!!! You will comply sooner or later! Resistance is futile! You will integrate us!"
  9. Universally Low Expectations - Hire people who are in alignment with your brand. Make sure that they are ignorant of common business conventions. Make sure they are not accountable for their actions. Make sure that they are not grateful to be of service. This orientation will enable people to bluster on and hold forth on clearly specious arguments where precision and crispness of service delivery are of no importance at all. This false sense of self importance will further enable the phone reps to take personal offense at former customer frustration and will further solidify the organizations will to impose the company's responsibility onto the former customer.
Rating time:

Disgustingly contemptuous policies and decisions that force former customers to be accountable for Comcrap's organizational fragmentation - CRAP

Myth: It's only fair to pay for quality first-run movies. Fact: Most movies shown on cable get two stars or less, and are repeated ad nauseam."

1 comment:

furiousBall said...

I can't say that my own experiences with Comcast have been any different. I switched everything over to Verizon's FIOS a few years ago (since my town is small, we were one of the first in South Jersey to be wired) and everything has been great (so far).