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Why Comcast-Style Customer Service Would Be Death to Small IT Contractors

Why Comcast-Style Customer Service Would Be Death to Small IT Contractors

Comcast's customer service is nightmarish. Luckily, it’s a good example of what not to do. Find out what IT contractors can learn from Comcast’s mistakes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014/Categories: errors-and-omissions

If you have eight minutes to spare and you enjoy listening to grueling customer service phone calls, we strongly recommend this piece of undercover journalism by techie journalist Ryan Block.

In the phone call, Block tries again and again to disconnect his Comcast service. But there's a problem. His Comcast customer service agent refuses to believe that anyone would want to go to a different service provider. Every time Block asks to disconnect his high speed Internet, the agent ignores his request and repeats the company line that Comcast is America's top provider and it wouldn't make sense for a customer to leave the company.

Why is the agent being so rude? As CNET reports, this is actually part of Comcast's customer service policy. Let’s find out what Comcast’s deplorable example can teach you about what not to do when tending to your clients.

How One Company Perfected Terrible Customer Service

After listening to Block's customer service call, it'd be easy to blame the agent for acting so stubborn, but as it turns out, he was just doing the job he was trained to do.

Comcast has "retention specialists" who handle calls from clients leaving their service. The customer service manual trains agents to…

  • Keep customers on the line as long as possible. If customers sound like they are leaving for a competitor's service, the agent is supposed to "ask probing questions" and put the customer on the spot. (If you're a glutton for punishment, you can read Comcast's customer service guide on The Verge.)
  • "Take control" of the client conversation. This means avoiding the discussion of canceling service. This is why Block's agent ignored multiple requests for service cancellation and repeatedly tried to engage him in a conversation about Comcast's products.

Amazingly, the document lists some specific situations where agents are allowed to end a conversation. According to the manual, they can do so if there's a natural disaster or the customer dies while on the phone. It's these personal touches that really set Comcast apart from the rest, don’t you think?

What to Learn from Comcast's Customer Service Strategies: Don't Do That

Larger companies like Comcast can use their muscle to strong-arm their customers into staying with them, but as a small IT company, you can't (and shouldn't) treat your customers that way.

IT contractors frequently get new clients from referrals. Treating your customers well will go a long way toward helping you earn referrals from them down the road. This holds true even when a customer wants to leave your business.

Say you do IT consulting for a company, but the company is going to hire a full-time IT staff and no longer needs your service. In this situation, be as helpful as possible. Though you might have lost a client, they can recommend your services to someone else.

But what if clients want a service you can't provide or are not qualified for? No small-business owner wants to tell a client to take their business elsewhere. But if you can’t meet their needs, that's what you have to do, even if it means recommending another IT consultant. After all, if you try to take on a job you're not equipped to take, you might get slapped with a lawsuit when things go awry.

Say you don't have DBA experience. If a client is looking for database help and you refer them to a qualified contractor, the DBA contractor might return the favor and pass work on to you.

How Do IT Companies Handle Customer Disputes?

When resolving a dispute with your clients, remember the following:

  1. Contracts and written documentation can protect your liabilities and clear up any miscommunication.
  2. Politeness and courtesy are still important, despite what Comcast believes.
  3. Don’t stand in the way of customers who want to leave, but don't give up, either. Express your willingness to renegotiate contract terms and payments if these are sticking points.

Of course, you can't avoid all disputes. That's why there's insurance to cover customer complaints that turn into lawsuits. Errors and Omissions Insurance protects you from the costs of lawsuits in which clients allege you've made an error or haven't delivered the quality of work you promised.

E&O protects IT consultants from lawsuits over coding errors, data breaches, validation / verification errors, missed deadlines, and other IT issues. For free E&O Insurance quotes for IT companies, submit an online insurance application.

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