Customer Detention

Many of us have had to wade through circuituous interactive voice response (IVR) systems, or struggle through clunky call agent scripts to deal with a customer service issue. Few people, however, have experienced the epic service battle that AOL VP Ryan Block experienced. After 9 years with Comcast, Ryan chose a new provider, and called Comcast to disconnect his current service.  What followed was either the most customer-unfriendly service script, or the most tenacious agent in existence.  Instead of canceling the service, he was transferred to ‘customer retention’, who proceeded to not only ignore Ryan’s disconnect request, but to repeat the script questions, no matter how Ryan responded. 

After 10 minutes of the conversation, Ryan’s wife got so frustrated, she handed the phone over, and Ryan began recording the call. Here is an excerpt of the aggressive Q&A that followed.  You can also listen to the call here.

Block: Ok, we’d like to disconnect. We’d like to disconnect please.

Comcast: Ok, so why don’t you want the faster speed? Help me understand why you don’t want faster Internet.

Block: Help me understand why you can’t just disconnect us.

Comcast: Because my job is to have a conversation with you about keeping your service, about finding out why it is you’re looking to cancel the service.

Block: I don’t understand. Is this for…?

Comcast: If you don’t want to talk to me, you can definitely go into the Comcast store and disconnect your service there. You can kill two birds with one stone. You’ve got to return that cable card to the store anyway.

Comcast: So, I mean, 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 Internet rated service, number one-rated TV service available?

It seemed that the only acceptable answer to any question was ‘OK, we’ll stay with Comcast.’ 

Service scripts may be intended to improve experiences and retain customers, however, too many times, the scripts seem to be engineered to wear customers down until they give up, because it’s easier than ‘winning’ the argument. That being said…why should it be an argument at all? If a customer is insistent about leaving, wearing them down may win the battle, but that war has already been lost. Any wonder why cable and internet providers are near the bottom of many customer satisfaction lists? There may be hope, however. If you want to retain customers and attract new ones, you’ve got to deliver a superior experience in every customer interaction. Here are three keys to doing just that:

1) Listen. When a customer calls, they’ve taken the time and effort to wade through your menus, call scripts and other hurdles for one reason – to get help. Whether it’s a service issue, an equipment problem, or to cancel service, THAT’S what they want. Your job is to help them get where they need to go. You might ask, ‘Is there anything we can do to keep you as a customer?’ LISTEN. they might just tell you.

2) Be flexible. If your service scripts are too inflexible, you can be headed for Internet stardom as well (and not the kind you want). Assume that every interaction is going to be recorded….and that you’d be proud of how your team handled a customer issue. Put the time and effort in to hear what agents actually go through on the call, and reward them for being resourceful in how they help the customer. Tying everything into a ‘customer retention’ metric reinforces retention behavior….at the expense of customer satisfaction. Push it too far, and you’ll decrease satisfaction…AND lose customers.

3) Give up to go forward. Some times, you can’t keep a customer – people move, upgrade, downgrade and leave for all types of reasons – many of which may have nothing at all to do with your service….but they WILL remember how you treated them. When they have to choose a service the next time, they’ll remember their experience with you. Keep the relationship positive, even if they’re determined to leave. When you have an opportunity to work with them again, you’ll still be in the running.

Have you had challenging customer service experiences? How would you have made them work better? 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

What do YOU have to say?