There is no question, in anyone’s mind really, at just how bad cable companies are. When I wrote last week about the death of true customer service, the way in which cable companies operate is perhaps the clearest example of what I meant. Yet, there are two kinds of customer service. I was talking about the attempts companies make to keep their current customers happy. The other kind is what you receive when you threaten to take away your business and is often a case where the call center employee’s job depends on his or her ability to make sure you stay.
Ryan Block was a technology journalist wunderkind who became the editor-in-chief of Endgaget shortly before turning 27. His most famous accomplishment seems to be posting a fake e-mail from Apple that, until it was corrected, affected its market cap. He then left Endgadget to create some app that AOL eventually bought for boatloads of money.
So when Block tried to cancel his Comcast service yesterday, the customer service rep who tried desperately to find out why he was cancelling didn’t realize who he was messing with. Block posted a recording of the call to Twitter and it has begun making the viral rounds.
Block claims he was angered by the rep being “rude, unhelpful, condescending, etc.” However in the first few minutes of the call, it’s Block who better fits that description. The customer service rep – someone who surely makes a low wage but is probably teased with a bonus for saving clients – is simply trying to find out why Block wants to cancel his service. Block refuses to answer the question as if that is some huge imposition on him. Of course, no other company in the world ever asks this question, so naturally Block was annoyed.
The customer service rep, noting the animus with which Block was speaking to him told Block that to go a Comcast store if Block didn’t want to talk to him on the phone. Block replied, “We’re actually going to just mail the cable card in, but if you can just please cancel our service that would be great.” The rep then tried to inform him that this item can’t be returned through the mail when Block interrupted him saying, “Then I will send someone, like a task rabbit, to return the cable card for us.”
I have never heard of Ryan Block before today, so I admit that I don’t know much about him. While I can sympathize with him at how frustrating some phone reps can be, I know that if I had his audience, my goal wouldn’t be to shame the customer service rep who probably makes less in a year what Block pays his “task rabbits.*”
Unlike Block, and the legion of his fans showing him Twitter support like he just negotiated peace in the Middle East or came out to his parents right before junior prom, I have worked on the other end of those calls. Call centers thrive on their total lack of job security to motivate their employees to lose the company as little money as they can. If Block thinks this CS rep is the problem with cable companies, he should meet the executives who will most likely lay the negative PR blame not on their company’s shoddy service, but this dummy’s bad fortune. Still the real lesson will be learned: Do not waste the time of a rich guy with a podcast.
UPDATE: A reference to California wire-tapping laws possibly being violated has been removed. It was pointed out both by lawyers I know and in the comments below that customer service calls are typically monitored by the company and that’s announced, so two-way consent was (technically) given.
*Fairness note: While this sounds like the kind of term a rich jag-off might use to refer to a person who is so poor he or she is willing to do menial tasks for people who have too much money to do such things, it may be a reference to a site of the same name that provides this service.