There has been much analysis of the recent viral Comcast (News - Alert) customer service call. The recording displays a "retention expert" refusing to allow a customer to close his account. The agent purposefully keeps the customer on the line and asks him to explain his reasons for wanting to disconnect. By most reports, he is pushy, overbearing, and inattentive to the customer's needs.
Although retention experts are paid to perform the service of resolving customer issues so customers do not cancel their accounts, it has become clear to analysts -- as well as Comcast itself -- that this agent went too far. Analysis of the call at Entrepreneur notes that the agent's passion to keep the customer from closing his account likely stemmed from an incentive program. Further analysis from TMC (News - Alert) indicates that Comcast may not pay agents bonuses if they fail to retain a certain number of cancellation requests -- sometimes as high as 75 percent.
Incentive programs can push employees to treat customers poorly. Comcast and other companies surely do not like to see bad publicity, and they certainly do not make incentive programs that intentionally lead customers into situations such as this. Still, even well-intentioned programs and representatives can make mistakes, and Entrepreneur makes note of three lessons customer service employees and managers can learn from this unfortunate call:
Customers will be happier if they do not have to remain on hold. Therefore, businesses should create automated menus that are efficient. Once calls ring in, as well, agents should attempt to answer them within three rings. Anything that can keep customers feeling like agents are attending to them will keep them happy. This will set the stage for all other interactions.
Managers can do well to help their agents with personalized training sessions. There are certainly times for group training, but when managers follow up on recorded calls and make note of agents' past customer interactions, they can allow agents to know what they are doing correctly and incorrectly. From there, agents can better police themselves because they can internalize the training that their managers tailor-made for them.
Finally, managers and businesses as a whole can improve their customer service outcomes by providing a strong focus on their employees through career advancement opportunities, positive company leadership, or basic cultures of acceptance in the workplace.
Monetary incentives can work well for many employees motivated to reach those ends. Many people work well on commission, and they do not cause trouble for their businesses in the meantime. However, incentive programs that focus on outside incentives cannot replace a positive workplace environment and proactive agent training. Used in tandem, companies can help themselves avoid negative PR situations such as Comcast's recent debacle that had its name plastered all over the news.