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IamA (well, was a) Comcast Call Centre Rep for 5 years AMA!

Aug 14th 2014 by spaceheatersusa • 55 Questions • 946 Points

My short bio: I worked for Comcast for 5 years in inbound support. I did everything from billing inquiries to tech support for cable, internet and phone. I have a decent knowledge of the inner workings, at least at a call-centre level. A couple of years ago I was laid off (as Comcast was outsourcing most of the jobs to the Phillipines), got Second Career (a government program that pays for you to go back to school if you meet certain criteria), went back to school and became a Law Clerk and now love my job :-D

I figured with all the drama surrounding Comcast's customer service recently, I could offer some perspective from the inside, and on how we're trained, etc.

Q:

How do we the people, bring Comcast to its knees, sacrifice it to the gods, and bathe in its blood-money?

A:

The only real way is what people have been doing lately - public internet shaming with proof (recordings, videos, etc). Honestly, everyone should record their calls with Comcast if they can!


Q:

What do you think about Comcast as a company?

A:

I think they're a horrible, shitty company. Their policies are awful, their customer service is awful, and they screw their customers over in any way they can.


Q:

What are some of the ways you witnessed customers being screwed over? Any extraordinary stories that come to mind?

A:

The worst, in my mind, was PPVs in general. Comcast would NEVER credit back PPVs, even if the people insisted no one in their house could have ordered them (some people were lying about that, I think, but there were some people I genuinely believed).

And say, you had your grandson staying over and without your knowledge he ordered 14 porno ppvs in one night, you were responsible for those and would not get a credit. I thought that policy was nasty and unreasonable. I think it should have been on a case by case basis - if someone has been with us for 5 years and never ordered a PPV, and then one day randomly 10 are ordered, then I think giving them a credit is reasonable.) But Comcast says nope, they're liable because someone in their home ordered it.


Q:

IMHO PPV for X+ adult content should be locked by default and you enter a code to order it.

A:

You can chose to lock PPV codes on your box, so no one can order PPV without entering the code. But most people aren't aware of that until it's too late.


Q:

Worst experience with a customer?

Worst experience with Comcast?

A:

God, too many bad experiences to count. No one ever calls in because they're happy, they all call in because something is wrong, so 90% of the people you speak with are angry or upset.

I never really dealt with Comcast specifically, because they were the client of the company I worked for. So my bosses would communicate with Comcast, and then pass the info on to us.


Q:

Have you ever purposely hung up on someone? Or have you heard of others doing this to get rid of angry or difficult customers? I have been disconnected more times than I could count while I was on hold, but I was angry and difficult...

A:

It is very, very, very common for call centre reps to hang up on customers. I didn't, because the particular call centre I worked for could tell in the system if you hung up, and that could get you fired, and I needed the job.


Q:

I KNEW it! Thanks for reinforcing my paranoia.

A:

I worked for a call centre before that COULDN'T track who hung up (this is how most call centres are) and reps would hang up left and right. It's so, so common.


Q:

Most American call centers use the avaya phone system which makes it very easy to tell if someone hung up. In my center this something that is an immediate termination offense.

A:

We used Avaya too, but a lot of call centres around here don't.


Q:

What did Comcast instruct their reps to do when a customer tries to cancel service? How long would you have to keep them on the phone?

A:

I was never in retention, so we were told to transfer them to retention. I know retention had lots of special offers they could use to try to bribe the customers to stay.


Q:

What about the "special offer" of staying on hold forever?

A:

Honestly, I've never encountered that scenario. When we transferred to retention, we did what's called a "warm transfer", where I call over there, speak to the rep, let them know what's going on and then bring the customer on the line. (a "cold transfer" is when you just send them over to the other line on their own). And I never had to wait more than 5 minutes or so to get through to retention.


Q:

I know another word used in some companies is a "live hand-off." More customer service/support call centers have started doing this now. It is much better because you don't spend 20 minutes explaining your situation to five different guys from five different departments.

A:

We only did the warm transfers for retention, otherwise they didn't want us "wasting the time". They're definitely more concerned about making money than happy customers


Q:

I've seen quite a few videos on reddit where the service tech comes out and falls asleep on the job, how were you guys told to respond to calls about techs like this? And what happens to the tech in the end?

A:

I've actually never encountered that scenario! I've had a few where the tech accidentally damaged customer's property (broke a tv, or drove into their mailbox, etc)

In those cases, we submit a damage claim through Comcast's computer system, and then the customer sits in limbo forever because of Comcast's shitty process. Rarely will they ever see any money for that damage claim.


Q:

This is surprising and upsetting. Although I hate comcast, when I got mine set up the guy put on the plastic shoe covers to protect my carpet and was pretty polite. Maybe I was lucky in that end

A:

Oh, and also, techs will SO FREQUENTLY mark a call as "knocked, no answer" when the customer was home all day and says they never knocked. And I believe the customer, because it happens so often. I think techs are just running behind schedule so they need to skip some service calls.


Q:

Are you john from Toronto? Who has a thick Indian accent and is clearly outsourced?

A:

Lol, the one hilarious thing was sometimes we would have people who were originally from India working in our callcentres (in Canada, because they were Canadian residents) and people REFUSED to believe that they weren't speaking to someone from a call centre in India


Q:

Even if they are good at their job, people immediately get upset if they think you are outsourced.

A:

Which is hilarious, because technically I was outsourced, but because I don't have an accent, no one ever knew.


Q:

Until you say, "Well the box should reboot in aboot a minute, until then stay on the line eh?"

A:

I'm from Ontario, so I don't have the "aboot" accent. You'll find that more in places like Alberta and Saskatchewan ;-)


Q:

How much did you hate your life while working for them?

A:

I loathed it. I actually set a record for sick days! I had 70 sick days in one year, because I just hated going to work and just kept calling in.

If you're wondering how I didn't get fired, labour laws are pretty strict in Canada, and the company had a procedure to follow before they could fire you (a certain amount of verbal and written warnings). But they didn't actually follow through on that procedure, and so I just kept calling in sick because I knew without those documented warnings, they couldn't fire me for absences.


Q:

Damn. I worked in a call center for a cell phone company for a couple years. It sucked. I wish I could've gotten away with calling in that often!

A:

It was only because HR was so overtaxed that they didn't have time to sit down and do the warnings, etc. But I milked it for as long as I could


Q:

From what I hear, the worst thing about Comcast is that it is absolutely terrible about keeping records. I've changed my view from "money grubbing assholes" to "lazy fucktards" because they're just too big to fail at this point so they can do whatever they want. :(

A:

No, they're definitely money grubbing. If records are poorly kept (aka proper notes aren't on your file) it's because the rep is being rushed to take the next call, they want really fast call times because they are all about the money.


Q:

Do you hate comcast as much as the rest of reddit?

A:

MORE, because I have experienced their scumminess from the inside and KNOW it is intentional


Q:

What's something that a customer did that just completely blindsided you?

A:

Honestly, it was so par for the course to deal with yelling, swearing, insults, that nothing really surprised me.

Oh wait, no! There was one. A woman was a total bitch to me, yelling at us for causing such-and-such problem. I put her on hold, and when I came back, she told me she had realized the problem was on her end and she APOLOGIZED for being rude to me. That was a shocker. And props to her for admitting she was wrong.


Q:

I see a lot of conversations online where people get their bills cut. So for science, what is one of the things that a customer could say to get money taken off?

A:

Well, if you say "I'm going to cancel", you'll go to retention and they'll probably offer you a cheaper package to retain you as a customer. Otherwise, it's hard to get a good deal. If a tech screwed you over (missed your appt, was rude, or somthing) you could ask for a credit for your inconveience, but whether you'll get it depends on how the rep is feeling that day. There's no specific science to getting credits, except in retention, where they are trying to convince you not to cancel.


Q:

When we were getting our cable "installed" Comcast insisted that someone had to physically be home for the installation. (Despite the fact that it was just an outdoor hookup.) I have a 2 hour commute, so to stay home cost me a full day of work.

On FOUR separate occasions, I stayed home, and Comcast no-showed. All 4 times, I would call throughout the day to be told they're "with another customer, but you're next." Then when they no-showed at the end of the day, I was told that the appointment was never set up, and it wasn't in their system, so no "guaranteed $60 credit" would be given. Four... Fucking... Times...

The fifth time, not only did they show up, but they did the outdoor hookup and drove away. Didn't so much as knock on our door. We only knew they'd come because our dogs saw them through the window and barked.

Shittiest fucking company in the world. And only ISP available in my area.

A:

Yep, and phone reps very very frequently have no idea what they are talking about!


Q:

Im quite surprised this ama hasn't blown up! Thank you for doing this, and leaving that Third Reich of a company...Are there any loopholes or secrets at all that you can share with us? Maybe a suggestion on how i can fuck them back possibly? Im not angry about past experiences at all or anything...no i swear.......

A:

No problem, as soon as I saw all the top posts about Comcast, I thought, I should let them know what goes on behind the scenes in Comcast. They really are as shady as you think they are.

The only thing that I really noticed was the always-on-a-promo people. What you do is when your promo ends, call Comcast back, ask to speak to retention and say "I want another promotional offer or I'm going to cancel my service". There are people who have been on promos for years and years, because they do this every single time their promo ends. I recommend it.


Q:

How would you rate your experience working for Comcast? Is the company culture different up north?

A:

I didn't work directly for Comcast, I worked for a call centre called Nucomm, and Comcast was their client. So I never had any direct interactions with Comcast, that was all done by the higher-ups at Nucomm. But working in a call centre is a miserable experience.


Q:

We just completely cancelled our service. It was in my husband's name. How long do I need to wait to have it put in my name and still be able to get the 'new customer' deals?

A:

I don't think you need to wait at all, since it will be in your name. Just call them and try!


Q:

Do you currently use Comcast?

I read that you think they are a horrible company. If so, why are you still with them?

If not, who are you with? And are you satisfied with your service?

A:

I'm Canadian, so Comcast isn't even an option. We don't have tv, we just have phone and internet. We have Start for internet, and we really like them, and we use Skype for our home phone and my cell is a 7-11 pre-paid (because I rarely use a cell), and I like both of those services just fine as well. My husband uses Wind for his cell, and he really likes them as well.


Q:

Did they hit you with an unreturned equipment fine when you left?

A:

Lol, they could have if I didn't return my headset! But I made them sign something stating I had turned it in.


Q:

Was there any call that you particularly enjoyed or was surprisingly positive?

A:

I actually made a friend once! (We ended up chatting for almost an hour, and I only ended the call because my shift was over). She was talking about a PPV movie that she was trying to order, and I talked about how I loved that movie too, and we somehow started talking about some of the books we read (because the movie was based on a book), and we had really similar interests. So at the end of the call we exchanged emails (sort of a no-no, but oh well) and we would email each other book recommendations all the time.


Q:

That's really cool. I think a rule against exchanging e-mails is kind of dumb. If a customer has a positive experience, let them have a positive experience. That's just better for everyone, I think.

I understand if you're busy with other questions, but do you still maintain contact?

A:

I think they don't want their reps making personal connections with customers, you know? Keeping it strictly professional.

I haven't heard from her in a long time, but this thread actually make me think about emailing her :-D


Q:

Making connections is how the world goes 'round! Anyway, thanks for answering my questions!

A:

No problem!


Q:

That's interesting, because at my company they actually want us to make personal connections. it's part of our training on how to connect with the customer, because it doesn't become a "person vs person" experience, but a people vs problem experience. It's really unique and nice, and a breath of fresh air after doing support for so long. We actually have emails to give to customers so we can maintain a relationship with them.

A:

At ours, they wanted us to resolve the problem as quickly as possible and get them off the phone. There could be a little generic chit chat while systems are loading or whatever, but that's it.


Q:

Did working for a notoriously horrible American company and seeing their dickery first hand make you feel more appreciative of Canadian companies? Or do ours suck too?

A:

Some Canadian compaies suck (Bell is a friggin nightmare), but generally our companies are better over here, in my opinion. Except for Bell. I can't stress how much I hate Bell.


Q:

Hope this is understandable, but did you ever have any problems with supervisors catching you on little things like 'Not enough Empathy' or 'Was on hold for over 2 minutes'?

I used to work as an AT&T tech support (same thing with you, worked for a client who worked for AT&T). It was horrid, and I am glad I have a wonderful job now.

A:

Oh, ALL THE TIME. They were always like "why are you still in after work"? (when you're not on a call, but not ready to take a new call yet because you're finishing up work on another account"


Q:

Oh lord, that que. We had like less than a minute to get back in it, no matter the situation. Sometimes we would be taking a new call while wrapping up an old call.

Bless you man, im glad to know of someone else who went through the ditches of a call center.

A:

I've come out on the other side and it is beautiful and shiny! :-D


Q:

What was the longest call you ever engaged in? What happened?

A:

I've had a few long ones (like an hour or so). 90% of the time they are just old people who won't stop talking, and I usually let them ramble, because I didn't care. They'll tell you about their kids, vegetable garden, etc.


Q:

How much training do you receive for your job? I recently dealt with a comcast customer service person who kept referring to my internet speed in "megagigabits". I sure do wish. How long does it take before they release trainees to take calls?

A:

Oh god, if you KNEW how absolutely very little tech support knowledge the reps have. They train you how to use the computer systems, you get NO tech support training.

Comcast has a computer system that reps use to trouble shoot. It tells you what question to ask, such as "Is the power light on?" and then you click yes or no based on what the customer tells you. That answer takes you to the next question to ask, and so on and so on, and once the questions are exhausted and the problem isn't fixed, it takes you to the screen to book a tech.


Q:

How did they treat their employees?

A:

Well I worked for the call centre that Comcast contracted their business to. So I didn't deal with Comcast directly. But all call centre employees are treated like shit. It's the nature of the beast. You're micromanaged to death, all the managers are power-tripping assholes, it's just always an awful place to work. Although Comcast themselves did occaisionally spring for "Employee Appreciation" days for us, they were really sad. Like, 10 bags of Tostitos and 5 jars of salsa for us all to share.


Q:

What's the best way to get what you want when dealing with Comcast? (ie correct bill, note that equipment is returned, cancel service, etc)

A:

Well, the reps are more likely to be helpful to you if you're really nice and polite. If you're angry and yelling, they're probably only going to do the bare minimum. I always did more for the polite people. If you can cry on command, that helps too, because then they will feel really bad for you.


Q:

did they give you your soul back when you quit? or do they get to keep it?

A:

I did get it back, but it's taken a few kicks.


Q:

How much power did you actually have to help people? From reddit it seems like no matter what people call in for, they have an awful time trying to get anything done. Do you actually have the authority to resolve issues, or are you just there as a gatekeeper to keep people from getting served?

A:

You have no power. You can give small credits, resolve small issues. Any big issues, you have to "create a ticket" in the computer system, which is then supposed to be resolved by someone higher up, but it rarely is. It's just another way to dick the customer around.


Q:

You seem like a nice guy. But Comcast is known for their terrible customer service, so are you just one good apple in a barrel of bad ones, or are the representatives trying their best under the worst orders?

A:

I am a lady :-) And I consider myself a nice person, and a hard worker, but call centres suck the life out of you. Customers scream at you all day, management treats you like shit, and you just.stop.caring. The customer is no longer a person, they are a hassle, and you will do/say the bare minimum to get them off your line. The nature of a call centre creates miserable, unhappy employees who resent the customers. So on a good day they could care less, on a bad day they will actively dick you around. There are a few people who still manage to care and do a good job, but they are few and far between.


Q:

I live in the UK so have zero first hand experiences with Comcast but given that, do you like fried eggs?

A:

I looooooove fried eggs. Kind of funny you ask, since literally about 2 minutes ago I finished eating a fried egg, bacon & cheese sandwich.

.....are you watching me?


Q:

Well, I would say it was criminal that you neglected to put some HP Sauce in there.

A:

That actually sounds disgusting!


Q:

Which one of your customers was the most difficult to pacify?

A:

Oh god, over the years there were too many to count. Luckily those ones pretty much always escalated to a supervisor and I didn't have to deal with it anymore.


Q:

Were you ever allowed to compensate them?

A:

Oh yeah, we could definitely give credits. The max you could give was $50, iirc, and you had to be able to justify why you did it, or else you could get in trouble.


Q:

Have you ever had someone call Comcast, ask for a simple request, and then do something that was against your own will because of the company policy?

A:

If I'm understand the question correctly, then yes, all the time. There were plenty of times I wanted to do the right thing (aka grant a customer's reasonable request) but couldn't because Comcast policy forbade it. At least a few times a day.


A:

Money.


Q:

Sweet. I always want to know more about the people doing AMAs Especially things that are unrelated to the title. These are the things that make up a person

P. S. If I may, how old are you?

A:

I'm 33! I worked in call centres from about ages 20-30 (I live in a city with one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada, but call centres are plentiful so everyone just seems to get sucked into working there)

But I got laid off three years ago, and because I didn't have anything other than a highschool diploma, I was eligible for Second Career, which is where the government pays for people to go back to school. So I went to college on the government's dime and became a Law Clerk, and now I have a job I love. I work in a single-lawyer practice, my boss is 75 and he is awesome. He is currently napping in his office, lol. But he's such an awesome guy to work for, and I rarely deal with clients. So getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me.

And I did meet my husband in that call centre, so it wasn't all bad!


Q:

What is your favorite color?

A:

Teal! :-D


Q:

Most people hate you with a passion, because you're the face of a terrible terrible company. How did you deal with that?

A:

Well I live in Canada, and Comcast service isn't offered here (but there are a lot of call centres in my city because we're right on the US/Canada border, and the Canadian dollar used to be a lot less than the American)

So no one in my real life even knew what Comcast was, and if people on the internet or the phone despise the company, it doesn't really affect me.


Q:

I like that. Comcast has call centers in other countries where their service isn't offered so they can avoid riots outside their buildings. Seems reasonable!

A:

Hahahhhaa yeah, that makes sense. Maybe they closed the Canadian ones because it was too easy for people to drive over the border. They had to move them to the other side of the world.


Q:

Are there still a lot of Comcast offices in Canada? I know you mentioned they started to outsource your job, specifically, but I'm wondering what else they outsource and to where?

A:

I have no idea, honestly. They don't have "offices", they contract their business out to call centres. So it's very easy for them to move from one call centre to another, as they can just change who they contract with. I know that the company I worked for lost all of it's Comcast business, and even before that, tons of it was already in Manila (in the Phillipines)


Q:

How can we turn the tables and get things for free from them?

A:

The best way to get free things and discounts is to say you want to cancel and speak to retention.


Q:

Why does comcast charge $2.99 anytime you call, even when the source of the problem is comcast's fault?

A:

I didn't even know they did that now! They didn't do it when I worked there (there was a fee if you wanted to make your payment with a rep as opposed to through the automated system, but that was it)