Worst. Company. Ever.

That’s the title Comcast earned after a series of negative customer service public debacles that were posted on the Internet during the past few years.

In 2004 and 2007, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey found that Comcast had the worst customer satisfaction rating of any company or government agency in the country, including the Internal Revenue Service. The ACSI indicates that almost half of all cable customers (regardless of company) have registered complaints, and that cable is the only industry to score below 60 in the ACSI (Criticism of Comcast).

In addition, the Consumer affairs blog The Consumerist named Comcast the “Worst Company in America” in 2010 and 2014. The company received the “Golden Poo” award to its Philadelphia headquarters in commemoration of the victory. The company also finished in the top three in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2013. Since 2006, it has received more Golden, Silver and Bronze awards for poor customer service performance than any other company in the country, including Wal-Mart, Bank of America, and Ticketmaster (Criticism of Comcast).

From here, microsites and social media posts have popped up denouncing Comcast and its deplorable customer service. “The Internet is filled with sites — like ComcastMustDie.com, ComCraptic.com and ComcastSucks.org — dedicated to the company. Comcast customer Brian Finkelstein’s video of one of its technicians sleeping on his couch has been watched more than a million times on YouTube” (Huffington Post).

Consider the following examples of bad customer service examples that have been posted to social media sites:

We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and Ms. Belmont and are contacting them to personally apologize.  The way in which our representative communicated with them is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action.  While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.

  1. Then in 2015 (roughly two weeks ago), the latest Comcast debacle – Comcast Changed Customer’s Name to “A**hole Brown” But Is Totally Sorry
  • Comcast responded with the following statement:

We have spoken with our customer and apologized for this completely unacceptable and inappropriate name change. We have zero tolerance for this type of disrespectful behavior and are conducting a thorough investigation to determine what happened. We are working with our customer to make this right and will take appropriate steps to prevent this from happening again.

After the couple’s experience was made public, Comcast offered a full refund for the past two years of service as well as two additional years at no extra charge.

However, Comcast has made efforts to improve customer satisfaction, including creating the Comcast Cares Digital Team. The Comcast Cares Digital Team began when then Customer Service Manager Frank Eliason leveraged Twitter as a way to communicate with customers. In 2010, @ComcastBonnie won the Customer Service category at the 2010 Shorty Awards. It also created Comcast Voices – an open site, managed by Comcast where consumers can engage with the company. The site offered this description of this service:

Everyone from product managers and programmers to business unit leaders and technical specialists will discuss news, change at our company, and our thoughts on what’s important in our industry. We look forward to our conversations, and welcome your feedback

In reviewing Comcast’s responses to customer service issues, the company demonstrates key learnings from lecture and previous readings; including:

  • Replied swiftly to the issue
  • Showed they are listening by describing the event
  • Be Human – acknowledge they were in the wrong or the employee’s behavior was wrong
  • Showed empathy – apologized for the poor customer service, offered

I don’t know how I feel about following up publically. On one hand I acknowledge it’s important to show you’re monitoring the situation, but is it worth bringing up bad or negative publicity again?

If I was managing Comcast’s social media response or crisis and issues management team, I would have taken the following actions:

  • Execute on social media crisis plan (which would have been established well in advance). I make a point of having this as my first step because I don’t know if Comcast had a social media strategy or crisis plan in place.
  • Engage customers on social media – twitter, facebook, etc. proactive and reactive messaging
  • Create an internal site where to post Comcast messaging, etc. – and to serve as an anchor/landing page for the other social media sites.
  • Establish senior leadership support and endorsement for fixing this customer service issue.
  • Conduct our own internal research – both for employees and customers (since employees seem to be at the center of this customer service brakedown).
  • From this study, announce change in customer service policy:
  • After a few months, follow-up with a new study or leverage third-party industry studies and publicize the findings

But the damage is done and continues to spread… is the end in sight for Comcast?

Questions:

  • Is Comcast’s reputation so tarnished that it can’t be saved?  Is there a chance to reboot or fix this reputation? Can it?
  • What do you think of Comcast’s response and how it handled these issues? Would you have done anything different or is there something missing that you would have added?
  • Does the Comcast situation remind you of any other customer service / social media issues and how did the company handle it?
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About Frank Clouser

I'm currently the Senior Corporate Relations Manager for Allstate Insurance's Northwest Region. I lead the regional corporate relations department responsible for reputation management, strategic communications, media relations, issues management, community relations and employee communications in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Hawaii. I manage integrated communications that drive outcomes aimed at increasing engagement, strengthen brand reputation and increase consumer consideration of Allstate. I also proactively manage emerging and existing issues that may have an impact on overall business performance and Allstate's reputation. Provide strategic counsel to Field Senior Vice President and regional partners as a member of the region's senior leadership team.

6 responses to “Worst. Company. Ever.”

  1. meganwashing10 says :

    Hey Frank,

    It is not funny, but I did laugh at some of the Comcast antics you highlighted. Changing someones name to an obscenity seems rather elementary or middle school doesn’t it?

    It appears most things are made publicity now-a-days. With that being said, do you think Comcast would have offered to do so much to rectify this situation (offering a reimbursement for two years and then extending the good gesture to include two years of free service) if this was kept quiet? I personally think that Comcast’s offer is a nice settlement to the unfortunate experience a customer had to go through.

    I enjoy seeing how large companies create specialized departments to target a positive brand image through enhanced customer service. Through my experience, dealing with television providers can be such a headache because you can wait for a long period of time on the phone to speak with someone or you may wind up waiting a really long time for a service call. I am sure we have all been through a less than pleasing situation when it comes to that stuff. Having the Comcast Cares Digital Team seems like a step in the right direction that I wish more brands actually followed!

    Like

    • Frank Clouser says :

      Megan, thanks for your comment. Honestly, it was sad to find so many examples of poor customer service. I was amazed just how many different posts there were, and with all the same issue – bad service.

      I agree with your assessment – it was good to see how Comcast created a customer-facing social media strategy, but I’d love to see the internal, employee strategy. In each of the poor service examples, employees were at the very center of this issue. What’s being done to educate them and change their behavior? What does this say about Comcast’s culture? Hopefully something is being done… because with each passing year (going on about 7 years), more and more customer service gaffs are posted to the web. The sense of urgency is not there and hopefully leadership can change it.

      Like

  2. Aldona (@DigiAldona) says :

    It’s amazing how a company with weak leadership and bad reputation can become ten times worst when people take to social media. It’s interesting how social media has the power to amplify any already existing bad situation and make it terrible. I think that’s the case with Comcast.

    Changing Comcast’s social media reputation will need to start from examining senior leadership, making some internal changes and hiring a really good ad agency to help them re-think, re-strategize and basically take the company to the XXI century. Social media cannot drive change alone, if there is nothing good to say about Comcast. We often think about social media channels as PR tools, but Comcast needs to re-think the basics if they really want to survive and help feeding social media some positive PR.

    The Comcast situation reminds me a bit about the RadioShack situation. RadioShack has been struggling with their positioning and product offering for quite some time. Today they finally filed for bankruptcy. They were unable to reposition themselves and address the negativity coming at them from many different channels, including social media. Moreover, they were unable to embrace change and the role of technology in today’s marketing.

    Like

    • Frank Clouser says :

      Aldona,

      Thank you for your thoughts! Totally agree – change has got to start with leadership. Without that – service and culture will remain unchanged and acceptable. One thing that keeps bothering me – is if service is so bad, for so long, how is this company still in business? How is this socially acceptable – is it because there is no other choice for cable service or is it because negative examples are so few, and yet get so much publicity.

      Think about if you have a good meal at a restaurant? How many people do you tell? How much do you publicize this? Or is it the expectation that this is exactly what the restaurant should do – provide good food and good service? Think about when you have a bad meal. How many people do you tell?

      Why does negative publicity get so much attention and positive publicity doesn’t?

      I liked your example of RadioShack, but I saw that as an issue of public perception and poor branding. Agreed that they weren’t able to embrace change and innovation.

      Thank you again for your thoughts! Enjoyed talking with you!

      Like

  3. Nhi says :

    Hi Frank,

    I don’t think that Comcast’s reputation is damaged beyond repair. The problem with being such a large company is that sometimes certain employees ruin it for everyone else. I have had really positive experiences with Comcast customer service, but I’ve also had really negative experiences. That failure in consistency is something that Comcast really needs to work at, which may include a better training program as well as a more rigorous hiring process. I think their reputation can be saved, but it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of implementation. Additionally, a lot of times it’s the company culture that fosters that kind of poor customer service. So they really need to take a look to see what they’re doing wrong internally.

    I think Comcast’s responses to these situation is very appropriate. They addressed the issues directly, apologized and are making efforts to make things right. I think that’s the best thing you can do as a company when something like this arises. I would probably recommend something a little more human… such as a video apology, but I understand that they’re a relatively more serious corporate company.

    Like

    • Frank Clouser says :

      Nhi, Thank you for your thoughts. I particular liked your perspective on balance and consistency. Good points made about the importance these play. Is there a point when negative experiences outweigh the positive ones?

      I totally agree with your thoughts on culture change and hiring practices. Improving customer services must start internally and focus on employee training and on-purpose efforts to change internal culture. Front-line employees are the face of the company and efforts should be focused there.

      Thanks again for your thoughts and feedback. I appreciate talking with you and responding to your thoughts.

      Like

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