Lifehacker recently featured my How to Deal With Comcast post. Although they walked away with the best path for getting your issue resolved, which I believe is going to Comcast in person, they failed to explain why it works. I didn’t read all the comments, but I read enough there, on this blog and elsewhere to know many missed the point.
The purpose of the post was about reframing the relationship between the customer and the customer service person as one based upon respect. It is not about what you are owed. It is about getting better customer service than other customers because your interaction with the customer service representative acknowledges that they are first and foremost a potential ally.
The reason I go to Comcast in person is so I can smile and greet the customer service representative with dignity. It easier for me to empathize with them and them with me if we see each other face to face. We are less connected on the phone and even less via chat. The strength of our connection increases the chance of a positive resolution.
For a moment set aside your frustrations with the corporation, be it Comcast or some other business. You may have been wronged and it may be obvious. When you interact with that customer service rep, they may have just been demeaned by another customer or the last ten customers. Show them respect. Get them on your side.
Good Service, Bad Service?
As consumers, we like to label places as having good or bad service. I used to do the same thing. It is not a fair label. A place that is known for bad service probably doesn’t give bad service to every customer and a place known for good service isn’t likely to give good service 100% of the time. So it isn’t good versus bad, it is a probability. Our goal should be to increase our odds of receiving good service.
The area that I have the most experience in customer interactions is coffee shops. My goal is to get an excellent shot of espresso when I visit a cafe. My article on INeedCoffee titled Espresso as a Lottery Ticket has a section called Validate Yourself With the Barista. It covers ideas that I have implemented to get better espresso. The core lesson is the same as dealing with Comcast. Start by showing respect for them and the job they do. You don’t know how many surly customers they may have interacted with before you arrived. Respect reframes their attention in a positive direction.
Photo by Matt Biddulph
But the Customer is Always Right!
Some of my critics will say that they shouldn’t have to do any of this. They are right. The business will meet their demands or they will take their money elsewhere. Good for you. Do it your way. Be upset. Take out your frustrations on the customer service rep and then when you are done doing that, ask for a manager. Write an angry letter. Get on Yelp and give them hell. And if you are still fired up, call your attorney.
That isn’t for me. I want our interaction to be win-win. I want both of us to be in a better place at the end of the interaction. Not only do I want my issue resolved, but I want the customer service rep to know they were able to provide good service to an appreciative customer.
And to the Comcast haters, let me tell you how my way worked. For 3.5 years I got so many discounts that I never paid the full price for my broadband service for more than a month. And when I am at coffee shops, I frequently get free espressos and even t-shirts.
From the great book Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life by Stuart Diamond:
Think of yourself as the least important person in the negotiation. You must do role reversal, putting yourself in their shoes and trying to put them in yours. Using power or leverage can ultimately destroy relationships and cause retaliation. To be ultimately more effective (and persuasive), you have to get people to want to do things.
Treat each customer interaction as a negotiation. Get them to want to deliver better customer service and you both will win.
Aug 5, 2014 — 9:57 am
It sounds a heck of a lot easier to be respectful to a customer service rep then to complain, write angry reviews, and spend energy being upset about the way you were treated. Thanks for the post 🙂
Aug 12, 2014 — 3:54 pm
Thank you! I work as a direct sales rep fpr Comcast/Xfinity and I get yelled at almost daily about how much Comcast sucks. All cable companies raise their prices after the promotional period–that’s nust how it works in the industry. No company is perfect, but we do offer a better product than the competition (at least, around here in CT we do).
Another trick to get lower prices and upgrades (such as the X1 DVR) for free is to get ahold of your local Customer Solutions phone number, or ask the main CSRs for cancelation. That’s how you get to retention. Explain your situation, how you’ve been a loyal customer, express regret that new customers get all the perks, and ask what they can do for you. The operators there are normally pleasant, and they have access to promos for CURRENT customers that aren’t accessible to the regular CSRs.
Whether you deal with a Comcast rep at your door, in person at a service center, or over the phone, a little kindness goes a long way!
Aug 12, 2014 — 7:16 pm
@Marh – Thanks for the tip.
I try not to pull out the “I’m taking my business elsewhere” card unless absolutely have to. If I did, I would do something similar that I do for rent. Basically I hit 3 bullet points followed by a question.
1- I really like your service.
2- I don’t want to switch to –name of competitor –.
3- However, at this time I need to reduce my expenses.
Then close with “I’m curious if there is anything you can do?” And wait. That has worked so many times. It is the form of negotiating that I favor as it can make all parties winners. The company retains the customer. The customer gets a discount. And the customer service rep figured out how to make it happen.
Oct 22, 2014 — 9:48 am
Tried calling Comcast regarding my bill that just went up $20 a month (a month earlier
Called the number on Comcast website. The person who answered was difficult to
understand so I asked for supervisor. When the “supervisor” started the
conversation I said you sound like the last person which he denied, stating they
are both in the same area. When I asked what area he said Mexico.
I don’t know about anyone else but I don’t want to speak with someone out of the country so a trip to the Comcast office is going to have to be done to solve my problem.
Jun 3, 2015 — 5:02 pm
Thanks so much for the sound advice to go in directly to the customer service location. That is a great idea!! I’m so done with Comcast!! I just filed a complaint against them with the FCC and will most likely file a complaint also with Office of Cable Comm for WA state. However, I still need to get the rediculous charges off my bill. I’m ready to blow and know my call this time will go the same as always . . . promised resolutions, agree final price and the next bill will come and still not be what I agreed to. Seriously I have called them and complained and had the bill lowered probably 16 times in the 18 months I’ve had them with this address. I’m bringing all my notes and heading in person to the service center in N. Seattle (Shoreline area) near Stone way and Aurora. I sure hope this does it!! We’ll see . . . and I also plan to try to switch to comcast in a few months when they add cable tv to their internet and phone services. Hoping they will have a gret new intro rate.
Jun 3, 2015 — 5:04 pm
Oops I meant switch to Century Link!!
Jun 3, 2015 — 5:09 pm
@Erin – The Shoreline location is where I have had my success. Be charming. Get them on your side. Best of luck!
Jul 6, 2015 — 10:19 am
Hey MAS –
I get where you are coming from. Do you not tire of having to charm your way into a new price every few months though? If all my utilities were as bad as comcast, it would be a part time job just to manage them.
Going into the office isn’t an option here – there is always a line out the door and usually around the block. So I tried going the ‘customer retention’ route. Despite starting the call zen, I ended the call aggravated.
Worst is that the company doesn’t honor anything said by the reps. Even if you do manage to have a good experience with a human being, corporate will still do whatever they please whenever they want and it will be the CS rep’s job to smooth over and/or lie about.
Thanks for your articles about this – having a good CS experience is at least a 50/50 thing. But treating this particular company with that attitude is akin to enabling a wife beater.
Jul 6, 2015 — 11:31 am
@Gary – I do not tire of the process. I actually have come to enjoy it. The charm skills I develop with Comcast can be applied to other relationships. Sort of like how a leg press exercise in the gym makes my urban hikes through San Francisco more enjoyable.
Getting upset and angry with Comcast to me would be the exhausting route. Sorry going into the office isn’t an option for you. It makes it much harder to build a connection.
Sep 24, 2015 — 2:38 pm
Great articles regarding negotiating with Comcast. Great insight. I will try to follow your suggestions when I talk with them in person today.