Comcast: they’re as evil as you thought they were

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Recently a sound file has gone viral, in which a Comcast customer “service” rep brutally disallows a customer from disconnecting his service. It’s painful to listen to.

In the wake of this event, a redditor who used to work for Comcast explained pretty clearly why agents have a financial incentive to do this, and why Comcast has such a deservedly bad reputation. Read the post and judge for yourself:

edit: I think this thread (the OP) got removed/deleted from /r/television[1] … interesting.

I’ve been an employee of Comcast for almost the last 9 years, as an SBA in BI, NE&TO, Customer Service and Marketing. I worked for Comcast Corporate (meaning the headquarters in Philly) so I dealt with all of our divisions and regions for the US, because of my position I was frequently in budget/planning meetings and was handling data for subscribers for the same, I’ve seen down to the penny the monthly earnings for years, I know how much goes to tax, how much is pure profit, I know what the total payroll cost for the company is, etc – I wasn’t a high level executive or anything, I’m a data analyst, I analyze [things]. I left the company a few months ago, so I’m not really worried about saying anything here (I also never signed anything requiring me not to disclose anything I’ve said or am about to say.)

When you call into the IVR (the 1800 comcast that makes that annoying clicking noise) and you answer the prompts (1 for cable tv, 2 for high speed internet, etc and then 1 for new service or 2 for a problem etc etc) you get routed to a specific department.

When you call in to disconnect, you get routed to the Retention department, their job is to try to keep you. The guy on the phone is a Retention Specialist (which is just a Customer Account Executive who takes primarily calls from people disconnecting their service.)

If I was reviewing this guys calls I’d agree that this is an example of going a little too hard at it, but here’s the deal (and this is not saying they’re doing the right thing, this is just how it works). First of all these guys have a low hourly rate. In the states I’ve worked in they start at about 10.50-12$/hr. The actual money that they make comes from their metrics for the month which depends on the department they’re in. In sales this is obvious, the more sales you make the better you do.

In retention, the more products you save per customer the better you do, and the more products you disconect the worst you do (if a customer with a triple play disconnects, you get hit as losing every one of those lines of business, not just losing one customer.) These guys fight tooth and nail to keep every customer because if they don’t meet their numbers they don’t get paid.

Comcast uses “gates” for their incentive pays, which means that if you fall below a certain threshold (which tend to be stretch goals in the first place) then instead of getting a reduced amount, you get 0$. Let’s say that if you retain 85% of your customers or more (this means 85% of the lines of businesses that customers have when they talk to you, they still have after they talk to you), you get 100% of your payout – which might be 5-10$ per line of business. At 80% you might only get 75% of your payout, and at 75% you get nothing.

The CAEs (customer service reps) watch these numbers daily, and will fight tooth and nail to stay above the “I get nothing” number. This guy went too far, you’re not supposed to flat out argue with them. But comcast literally provides an incentive for this kind of behavior. It’s the same reason peoples bills are always fucked up, people stuffing them with things they don’t need or in some cases don’t even agree to.

Comcast wasn’t always that bad, I watched the steady decline over the years I was there – and the attitude that is pervasive in customer service flowed over into the other departments like a cancer. There is a giant propaganda machine at Comcast focused on the employees, they send out emails and brochures and have the bigwigs come in to talk about things like why net neutrality is bad and encourage the company (via emails to every employee) to speak out against it.

I left because the culture there is disgusting, there is nothing redeemable about the behavior, and it’s just headed in a worse direction. The people who try to advocate for customers are liquidated.

I say it as a loyal Comcast employee for almost a decade, if you have Comcast – get out now, you’re just wasting your money. They’re going to increase your bill 3-5% twice a year, it’s part of the annual budgeting process even though our costs actually go down. The internet business (as in, high speed customers) is almost purely profit, and it’s turned down on purpose like everyone here already knows. Comcast has DOCSIS 3 capabilities and the infrastructure to support it in most major areas (this means gigabit speeds, by the way) – it can be activated simply by pushing the proper bootfiles out to the modems. This can be evidenced anywhere they have competition, they can respond overnight.

If there’s not a serious change in legislation or regulation, I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

(take this with a grain of salt, I’m not going to post anything personally identifiable, if you don’t believe me – you don’t have to. edit: Not that it’s really proof, but here’s a post[2] a year ago where I respond specifically mentioning that I’m a Comcast employee (at the time) )

edit: adding a TL;DR

TL;DR – Comcast provides heavy incentives for this kind of behavior, it’s been on a steady trend heavily towards this for years, the entire corporate culture is toxic and there is a pervasive ‘us against them’ attitude. Also the profit margin is insanely big. You shouldn’t do business with Comcast.

Of course, Comcast is publicly apologetic, but one would expect no different.

This is pretty scary. /u/txmadison’s comment about regular billing increases is spot-on; I’ve been a Comcast customer for over 15 years, and my bill has more than doubled since I first signed up. I also need to check my bill carefully to see if they’re stuffing spurious charges on there. I definitely need to make a change, but my disincentives are two:

  1. My area has limited options; 20 miles to the north, Google Fiber is doing big business, but not in my town *weeps bitterly
  2. I’m not that excited to change my email address, which I’ve had for over 15 years.

That said, I think the time has come. I don’t like the idea of being systematically abused by a corporation that has so little regard for its customers.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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7 responses to “Comcast: they’re as evil as you thought they were

  1. Regarding email address, I consider it A Good Thing to have one that is separate from your ISP, seeing as a well established email address can be the last straw for people who consider changing providers.

    If you have another email address, or register a new address with any of the available independents, begin a gradual migration to the new one. This may take weeks, or months, depending on how you go about it, but eventually you will have moved everything to the new, independent email provider.

    If you’re not against paying (moderately) for a service, and perhaps you even have or plan to make a homepage, why not register your own domain and web hotel? There are several affordable domain and web hotel providers, and with your own domain on hand you’ll be free to do whatever you want with it.

    The power is all yours 🙂

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