I’m a little late to the dance, but by now you’ve probably read about and possibly heard the viral audio recording of a Comcast subscriber’s nightmarish phone conversation with an ambitious, if somewhat misguided, customer service rep. And if you haven’t, well, here it is: Nightmare Service Call.
The recording is about eight minutes long, and it’s comprised, in its entirety, of a subscriber trying in vein to cancel service with a Comcast rep who fights him every step of the way. In full disclosure, I haven’t listened to the whole thing. I can’t. After just two minutes in, I felt my blood pressure going through roof.
The thing is, I actually manage a customer support department for a subscription service, so this dialogue was of particular relevance to me. I have had this conversation many times and I train a team to field similar support requests, which is probably why I can only bear two minutes of the recording. It’s a train wreck.
However, it’s an inspiring train wreck. So, after two minutes, and while the inspiration was still fresh, I drafted an email to my member services team with the subject line “Required Listening.” In it, I outlined several ways in which the Comcast rep’s “service” differs from our approach. Here’s an amended *ahem publishable* version of what I shared with my team:
When a customer calls a support line, they have certain expectations. The last thing they want to encounter is a roadblock or a hassle. If the answer is “yes,” say it up front. Once you have established that you will fulfill their request, people relax, and they are almost always willing to share their experience, feelings, and thoughts.
Who calls customer support to have a debate? There’s no debate. Ask if there is a main reason for cancelling and if there is anything you can do for them. Then actually listen. If you have new, helpful information, politely reveal it without challenging anyone’s perceptions. And whatever you do, don’t just beat them over the head with canned proof points and value propositions. Yikes.
Somehow, the dialogue between the Comcast subscriber and the service rep turned into a war of attrition. You can hear the anger and indignation in the Comcast representative’s tone, and from my perspective, that is at least partly because he was taking the whole thing personally. This is a fallacy of attribution, and it devolves the conversation into an unprofessional exchange. It’s not about you.
Final thoughts: A support call is part of the user experience, and like all human interactions, it is an emotional exchange. Branding in this context is not simply a matter of messaging, it is also expressed in tone. When someone calls a support line, the representative with whom they interface becomes the product. The best way to ensure the correct tone is to reinforce the goals of customer support and the values of the brand. The rest should take care of itself.