What We Can Learn About Leadership From Comcast’s Nightmare Customer Service Call

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Wow. Don’t get me started. My son has just spent the last 4 weeks trying to force Comcast to keep their promises to him. As a recent college grad, money really matters — and they really couldn’t care less. Getting his business was the only goal. Keeping him as a customer going forward — well that seems to be a message entirely lost on them. If he had another viable choice for high-speed internet (he’s a gamer), he we would take it. Immediately. He cannot stand them.

To tell you the truth I thought my family’s collective experiences with Comcast were simply random. (We recently discovered that we were being charged for a year’s worth of a router we did not have on premise.) However, after doing a bit of digging, I’m now convinced there may be serious problems lurking there. This week, Comcast’s darker side was fully exposed in a viral call center exchange that really is more than unbelievable — it’s ominous. Comcast, is now one of the two most hated companies in the country. As a leader, I would be very, very concerned.

We can learn from their uproarious blunder. In particular, quite a lot about leadership. Here we go:

  • Don’t close your doors. Ultimately, this rarely occurs within an organization where positive leadership has a strong, visible presence. This isn’t one incident, there is a pattern here. Yes, you may be an industry monolith. But that doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility to be front and center — driving home key messages that will sustain your business long-term. Don’t lock yourselves in an office — light years away from your customers.
  • Talk is cheap, but your actions really speak. I don’t think the mission of Comcast is “Irritate Customers Beyond Belief”. However, the behavior of the company is certainly communicating that message to us. Communicate the mission/vision within your organization completely. If not well understood, everyone will have their own ideas. Leaving something so critical to chance is very, very unwise.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Then listen again. Do you recall when customers would be required to wait all day to have someone hook up their service? Comcast adjusted this policy (and even offered $20 if they didn’t hold up their end of the bargain). Talk to your customers often. Are service plans confusing? Is your pricing structure likened to hieroglyphics? Do you fail to reward long-term customers for their patronage? Be aware.
  • Your people are a reflection of your brand. How did that call center representative come to believe that he should never, ever allow a customer leave of their own free will? I’m sorry, your employees often reflect leadership’s take on customers. He thought that was OK. It wasn’t.
  • Your company is at risk. When leadership fails to communicate the very core of a service organization’s creed (which would include exhibiting basic respect toward customers), it shows something vital. That, at the end of the day, you may not really care. That undoubtedly spells trouble for your business when viable competition shows up…and of course, it undoubtedly will.

What advice can you offer Comcast? Sound off here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist, speaker and coach You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

3 thoughts on “What We Can Learn About Leadership From Comcast’s Nightmare Customer Service Call

  1. Comcast may have the worst customer service in the world. I recently spent about 10 hours on the phone trying to cancel my mother’s service as she was moving, and to “port” her phone number to her new residence. Not only did Comcast fail to cancel the service on the date I asked for, but they gave her phone number to someone else, double charged her for a month and then charged her for a half month after the cancellation date I’d requested. Worst. Customer. Service. EVER.


  2. Hi Marla –
    Have to agree with you that Comcast has made a pretty poor play with this one. Wasn’t too impressed with the statement they made either.


  3. It appears that Comcast has been bitten by the same bug that got ATT (and their million other names) in the past and it is best summarized by Lily Tomlin on Saturday Night Live, “We don’t care, we don’t have to, we’re the phone company.” They think that they are the only choice and they are too big to fail so they do whatever they want.

    Something happened to ATT though and it will happen to others that act the same as well, competition. Yup, Ma Bell changed her name to SBC (as though we were so stupid as to not figure out that stands for Southern Bell Corporation) to change the image of the company. Then they sold themselves back to themselves and became ATT again. This big shell game was supposed to trick us all into thinking they were a new company when; in fact, they were the same as they always were.

    Along comes Nextel, Sprint, VOIP, Verizon, T-Mobile and all the rest. Suddenly instead of being on top of the technology curve they are behind. They lose customers like rats in a flood. They bleed money and cry foul. They go into the cable business and try the same old customer service tricks as in the past and lose there too. Now instead of the powerhouse they once were, they are just another communications company (and still not very good).

    Comcast would do well to take a look at the ATT playbook and then go a different route. Arguing with your customers will not retain them, it will drive them away for good. Comcast may have the fastest internet on earth but who wants it if they get customer service like that? I would take slower service from a company that cares more, like the company I have now. Nope, not ATT either.

    Good luck Comcast, you will need it.


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