When Customer Service Training Goes Stupid

Comcast trained the heck out of their customer service department, but the tragedy is that the training they gave them was terrible.

By now you’ve probably heard the interaction between Comcast and customer Ryan Block. (If you haven’t had the chance yet to listen to the customer service interaction between Ryan Block and a representative from Comcast when Block tried to cancel his internet service, you can find it here, along with a written transcript of the more…cherry moments.) My initial reaction to this call was empathy for the customer and a slight amount of consumer rage, but after listening to it again, I’m left with sadness for both parties, and contempt for the training department.

I’m also finding it a little bit hilarious. This whole phone call reminded me of one time when I tried to dump a guy during college and it took 5 hours. 5 HOURS.  I’d try to break it off, he’d cry and proceed to tell me why he thought we were great together.  I’d counter… and he’d cry again and counter my counter argument.  At one point in time he actually drew a graph for me that showed why we were great together on the back of a napkin from Sonic.  And just when I thought we were finally wrapping it up…he’d counter again and start to cry again.  I’m pretty sure he was trying to wear me down.  The route 44 cherry limeade pushing on my bladder was probably the only reason that break up conversation lasted the short amount of time that it did.  I finally ended it by saying, “Dude, we’re done and I have to pee.  Go.”  Don’t come between a woman and her bathroom.Sonic Limemade

It’s too bad Mr. Block didn’t have a Cherry Limeade on his side.

And what frustrated me in their phone call is that the representative’s intense need to know just WHY the customer was leaving isn’t rooted in a place of desiring to give good service or desiring to make Comcast’s service better.  It was rooted in a place of fear.  That rep had to find out why the customer was leaving because it was required so that the call could be marked as a “successful” customer interaction, because if he didn’t get the information, then he wasn’t doing his job, and could be subject to write up or firing.

Here’s my issue with that: it’s stupid.

I don’t know about you, but usually, my measurement of a successful customer interaction includes not pissing off my customer.  There’s been this focus the last few years on finding out why people do or don’t do business with us.  Don’t get me wrong; the knowledge is important.  Knowing what drives our commerce helps us to better tailor our marketing, our products, our services, and even helps us make decisions for day to day issues like staffing and resident interactions.  But if you’re trying to get that information from people, belligerently, when they’re already displeased and ready to leave, you’re going about it the wrong way.  They don’t owe you an explanation as to why they’re leaving.  They’re the customer. It’s their choice.  If they don’t want to tell you, harping on them isn’t going to get the information out of them.  What you hear this rep do is effectively close the back door on this customer ever returning to Comcast.  Even if Mr. Block hates his new cable service, odds are, with this kind of exit, fish will learn to speak fluent English before he ever considers using Comcast as a provider again.

Also, training your people to be aggressive with sales in a country where our second most used form of communication is passive-aggression is also stupid.  You’re not giving people sales or customer service training at that point.  You’re, in fact, equipping them with ANTI SALES and ANTI SERVICE training.  This training highlights a disconnect between the service provider and their customer’s needs.  As Gene Buckly says, “Don’t try to tell the customer what he wants.
If
you want to be smart, be smart in the shower. Then get out, go to work and serve the customer!”

And, perhaps most tragic of all, this whole interaction didn’t need to take place. No one wants to lose a customer.  We can train our employees on customer service and resident retention nonstop, but sometimes a relationship just isn’t going to work out.  There sometimes comes a point in a customer relationship, like a dating relationship, when it’s time to, in the parlance of FROZEN, Let It Go.  No crying, no begging, no graphs on the back of napkins from Sonic.  Let them leave if they want to leave.  Let them go if they want to go.  By trying to make them stay in a place or with a service that they’re not happy with is only going to upset and frustrate them, and, even if you do somehow convince them to stay, set you up for dealing with their anger down the road.

Don’t come between your customer and their happiness – if you can’t make them happy, let them go.