Remember that Comcast customer service representative who just wouldn't let Ryan Block cancel his service? That employee was in Comcast's retention department, which is a customer's last stop on their way out.
Retention specialists are trained to persuade a customer to stay, or at least not cancel all their lines of service.
"We locked down the ability for most customer service reps to disconnect accounts," a billing systems manager who worked for Comcast from 2008 to 2013 told The Verge. "We queue the calls for customers looking to disconnect to a retention team who are authorized to give more deeply discounted products to keep subscribers. Even if the subscriber disconnects cable, maybe we can keep them on internet or voice."
A current employee at Comcast who participated in the Comcast Confessions series provided The Verge with a copy of the 20-page guidelines the company uses for evaluating retention specialists. The guidelines are divided into 13 sections:
1. Greet customer clearly
2. Clarify reason for call
3. Relate and empathize
4. Take control
5. Set the agenda
6. Ask targeted questions
7. Consider unstated needs / active listening
8. Take ownership / make offer
9. Overcome objections
10. Close the save
11. Confirm details
12. End on a positive note
Following each guideline — from greeting the customer clearly to avoiding "trap words" like "disconnect, downgrade, cancel" — earns the specialist more points. Other actions, such as forgetting to perform a credit check or failing to attempt to save the customer, are "auto-fail behaviors."
It's pretty standard call center stuff, but Comcast throws in some of its own tactics. If a customer is calling to cancel cable because they only watch Netflix, the rep is directed to push an internet speed upgrade. If a customer who says they're moving declines to provide a new address, Comcast warns the rep to "ask probing questions" because the customer "may instead be planning a move to a competitor." If a customer wants to check with their roommates before agreeing to a sale, the rep is supposed to communicate urgency by reminding the customer how tough it is to get an installation appointment.
Reps are also encouraged to build rapport with customers with lines like, "Enjoy Game of Thrones tonight." It's all about keeping or adding as many RGUs, or revenue-generating units, as possible.
Reps are also encouraged to build rapport with customers with lines like, "Enjoy Game of Thrones tonight"
Comcast has stock responses for every reason customers might want to cancel: bill too expensive, competitive offer, promotion expiring, don't use the service, technical or customer service issue, move, rate increase, or extended vacation. "What do you value the most about your current services? You mentioned you had a wife and children. How do they enjoy _____ (per RGU)?"
The biggest takeaway for customers may be on pages 11 and 12, where Comcast outlines the scenarios in which it is not possible to save the customer. If you're having trouble canceling your service, one of these lines might work. (Although not always; one commenter on The Awl claims a Comcast retention specialist once asked her if she truly wanted to move somewhere where there was no Comcast service.)
Save Attempt is Not Applicable in the Following Scenarios
Customer is moving in with an existing Comcast customer (CAE must verify Comcast services active at new address)
Customer is moving to a non-Comcast area (CAE must verify by looking up zip code)
Account holder is deceased / incapacitated
Temporary / seasonal disconnect and Seasonal Suspend Plan is not available in their area
Customer doesn't know what address they're moving to
Block should have told his persistent retention specialist that he was moving to, say, Iceland.
Read the full guidelines below.
Disclosure: Comcast Ventures is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge's parent company.