Restoring COMCAST brand confidence
WARNING! Don’t let third-party vendors destroy your brand! READ how Comcast leaped into action after a poor customer experience. Kudos Comcast!
The purpose of this article and blog post is to illustrate what happens when frontline personnel fails to live up to your brand values and intended behavior when interacting with customers. Companies need to build and enhance frontline confidence so that their employees and third-party “so-called certified” vendors perform their jobs in alignment with company standards, brand values, and purpose. When companies lack the confidence of their employees and subcontractors, their brand will lack external brand confidence and loyalty will erode. To prevent this from happening, companies must redouble efforts in training, accountability, certification, and verbal/written commitments to uphold the brand values, mission, vision, and purpose of the company. When there is a breakdown in poor brand behavior it results in higher costs of service, reduced customer loyalty, brand depreciation, and poor customer trust.
Over the past two weeks, I have had two separate incidents of outrageously poor customer experiences with name-brand companies. I will share this first experience with you today, and the second experience later. I have heard from friends and colleagues that they have had similar experiences with different companies. This made me wonder: are we, as consumers, experiencing a decline in good customer experiences post-Covid, because of poor employee engagement? That’s the dilemma that I would like to discuss with you. Also, if you have a brand experience story, good or bad, please share them with me. I would love to hear them.
Here is my story, my experience.
Before I relate my story, I want to say that I wrote to the first company, Comcast, and they have come through in their commitment to positive customer experiences in my particular case. When I took the time to write their EVP of customer experiences, Charlie Herrin, acted quickly and took this matter seriously. T. He forwarded my email to the executive customer experience liaison to resolve my issue personally. I received a phone call, email, and follow-up within two hours of sending my email. I was very impressed. A new company technician is coming to my home tomorrow to resolve my technical issue. In addition, Mr. Herrin wrote back with a sincere apology with a firm affirmation toward positive brand experiences and values. He said, “On the value of brand and loyalty and representation, I could not agree more.” He agreed with me that all representatives and technicians, both outsourced and the company-hired staff technicians, must represent the brand values and perform their roles with Comcast’s commitment and purpose.
Here is my experience this week with Comcast. Working from home, I experienced an outage of my primary telephone lines (we have three: one for my home office and two for our home line) and our internet network. On previous occasions when this has occurred, a simple call to the friendly Comcast operator would fix the problem remotely with a modem reset. Ten minutes later, everything usually works. This time, however, the service representative on the phone was unable to rectify the problem remotely She informed me that we needed to have a service technician come out and inspect the lines and the modems, find the problems and solve them. We arrange an appointment for the following day to arrive between 8 and 10 with a phone call in advance when the repairperson was 15 to 20 minutes out. All good and reasonable.
Throughout our conversation with the telephone representative, she thanked me for my patience, told me how appreciative they were for my business, apologized for taking so long on the phone and for the inconvenience, and thanked me over and over and over again to the point where it was almost comical and a bit overkill, but nice nonetheless.
So far so good.
The next day, the technician showed up without a phone call, in a Comcast-authorized operated vehicle (not a Comcast owned and operated trained technician). His name was Raz, spoke broken English, which was difficult to understand. I reminded him that I was expecting a phone call, his response was “no one told me I had to call in advance” and quickly took a defensive stance rather than a customer-focused engaged dialogue. He asked me what the problem was; I explained the situation and he pretty much demanded rather than asked to see the telephone modems and Internet connections. There were no smiles, no shoe booties, no apologies for the inconvenience. Our telephone connection/modem was in the basement and our Internet modem was on the third floor of our home.
From the minute the technician arrived, you could feel that he was only interested in getting things repaired quickly without figuring out what the problem was or how to resolve them satisfactorily. He went to work in the basement first, to assess the situation and provided little to no feedback. He then went up to the third floor, ran some diagnostics, and announced to me that the modems were old and needed to be replaced. That was his first, immediate easy solution. He did not check the lines, inside or outside. He performed little to no diagnostics.
He replaced both modems, one for the telephones in the basement, and one for the internet on the third floor. Then, he had to reassign the telephone numbers so that all three lines would work on the appropriate ports. There was one business line, one home line, and one analog fax line. He reassigned the business line to a new port that I had never used before because he was unable to get the old business line port to work; rather he did not even bother to figure it out. This required me to move the phone line across the room rather than sit on my desk as it had in the past.
I asked politely to please get my business line to work in the same fashion as before with the same port and his response was, “It’s working isn’t it, all you have to do is cross the room to pick up the phone! You can do that.”, ignoring my request. He then went on to fix our home line and our fax line that had no dial tone. He got them to work, so he said, but they were crossed on the phone system. I explained to him that I wanted our primary line to be on the first line and the fax line to be on the second line. Without hesitancy, he said, “I can’t do that - the lines work. I explained to him that I cannot call out on the fax line and that the line placements were wrong. He blurted back to me, “The fax lines don’t have dial tones, they’re only good for incoming calls and it doesn’t matter which line it is on!” I knew this was not the case but I didn’t want to have a fight with him. Again, he was argumentative with me, rather than trying to satisfy my needs as a customer. I was becoming very frustrated.
I explained calmly but firmly that I wanted our internet and telephone system to be working the same way as it had before and that I expected him to make the repairs accordingly. He said, “The phone and Internet are working, no? My job is done here!”. I explained to him that his job was not done here until I am completely satisfied with the working condition of the lines and the internet. His response was, “I’m done.” I asked him for his name and to see a copy of his identification badge. He gave me his first name only but refused to show me his badge. I motioned my arm forward to get a look at his badge and he said, “Don’t touch me!”
I told him I was very unhappy with his service even though things were partially working; however, they were not working in the way I had wanted them to be. His response was, “Everything is working, this is all I can do” and jumped in his car and took off. He was abrupt, not at all empathetic, unpleasant, and rude in every interaction with me. It was clear, he was unhappy about climbing three flights of stairs every time he needed to check the modems on the third floor and was going to do whatever was necessary to make this service call expedient so he could get the hell out of there.
Of course, I called Comcast and complained afterward but couldn’t get a customer service rep to take my call on this topic. Finally, after multiple calls, I got in touch with the person who was going to note the problem and my concern with the promise to call back. I explained that this is a poor reflection on the company and that this independently certified technician didn’t give a damn about the company’s reputation or its brand.
Next, feeling upset and frustrated, I wrote a detailed email to Comcast’s EVP of customer experience director. Based on my many years of experience in internal branding, customer engagement, and employee advocacy, I explained the challenges and associated problems with using third-party service contractors when dealing with customer-facing service problems. Independent third-party customer-facing organizations just do not share the same brand purpose or values as the primary company or loyalty to anyone other than the individual. All they care about is expediency, transactions, and volume. Reputation, brand image, and solution marketing have nothing to do with their business model, which has a very negative impact on the company’s brand overall.
By hiring and utilizing poorly trained company-authorized independent representatives to represent a brand, Comcast is abdicating its responsibility to serve the customer properly and reliably, in my opinion. You can't outsource loyalty and brand purpose commitment unless it’s done right and effectively.
After receiving my email, as I mentioned before, Comcast leaped into action, which admittedly surprised me. Their customer experience liaison, Cheryl Lissak, sent me an email and called me twice to let me know that she was on the case. She was going to provide feedback to the local authorized vendor and to re-schedule a repair visit with one of their authorized technicians the following day. As I mentioned earlier, I also received a sincere letter from Charlie Herrin, EVP of CX, who also brought this matter to the attention of his Chief CX executive, Tom Karinshak, to examine the situation.
These Comcast executives did not take my letter lightly. They have high regard and respect for brand purpose, image, and reputation. This impressed me. Comcast knows and appreciates how difficult it is to build a brand reputation. They understand how easily one bad experience can destroy it. They also understand the cost of losing and replacing customers. Kudos!
So, to end my story, a Comcast company technician showed up this morning, listened to our tech issues, examined the equipment, and was able to assess the problem in less than five minutes. My assessment of the previous third-party technician was correct. Instead of examining the situation and coming up with the proper approach he “took the easy approach rather than the right solution”. The previous technician incorrectly replaced the original telephone modem with a two-line telephone modem rather than a four-line telephone modem which is why one of the lines did not work. Additionally, he tried to cover up his work and lied to me just to get out of there. The information he conveyed about the fax line not having a dial tone was baloney-it was never connected.
My new Comcast technician didn’t have a four-line modem on his truck, however, he called two other technicians within the vicinity to see who might have a four-line modem. He found one nearby, drove over to retrieve it, and brought it back to our house: all within 15 minutes. He installed it, got things working properly, examined all the current connections and tightened all the cables, and explained to me in great detail, what he was doing and why it was being done. He took his time, was patient and pleasant throughout his visit, and yes, he wore shoe covering booties.
That’s the way it was supposed to be in the first place. Instead, by having to send out a second technician, Comcast lost time, and money was required to provide extra effort and energy because of a poor job not being done correctly the first time by the authorized third-party technician. Wouldn’t it be better if they had people who were committed, trained, engaged, and who understood what was at stake when a job was performed poorly?
What are the lessons that every company needs to learn to avoid these kinds of situations? Here is a list of five things all companies should do right away:
- Recruit top people who are passionate about their work and the opportunities. Take the time to explain and communicate what is at stake when the customer is not taken seriously.
- All employees from leadership to frontline workers, whether company-owned technicians or authorized technicians, need to understand the corporate mission, vision, values, and purpose, and personally come to understand how their work and performance impacts customer brand trust.
- Customer experience training and development. All personnel, from top to bottom, need to have a firsthand understanding of customer experience and what is at stake, and why it matters. This can take the form of online gamification, customer experience mapping, supervisor mentorship, classroom facilitation, and training, or whatever. But customer experience training is imperative.
- Seek customer feedback on all customer interactions with the company. Provide direct feedback to the individuals that provide services so that they can learn from both positive and negative experiences. All frontline staff must be held accountable. Always. Use accountability and feedback information as a carrot rather than a stick. I always love to hear that the pre-recording on most phone calls that “all telephone calls are being recorded for quality training purposes,”. However, I wonder how many of them are actually listened to or acted upon to improve customer service and performance.
- Instill and maintain a strong sense of brand purpose, especially after COVID, in everything that your people do. Coming to work for a company should not just be a job. It should be a spirited avocation that makes them proud, more knowledgeable, and grow through positive experiences. Create job experiences that are more than simply performing a task. Make it an experience for the employee as well as for the customer.
Summary and observations
I hope this story was helpful and illuminating. If you would like to discuss any elements of building a customer advocacy and experience program, please feel free to contact me. at 617-308-3017 or reach out – at firstname.lastname@example.org. I help iconic brands tap into their brand purpose and culture, through brand engagement and talent branding. Our clients, like Walmart, McDonald's, HP, and others benefit from a higher brand ROI through internal and external brand clarity and better customer experiences.
Also, I should add, based on my experience, I would highly recommend Comcast and its services!
Allan Steinmetz CEO