Last week, Ryan Block, VP of Product at AOL, and no stranger to technology, tried to cancel his Comcast account.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, that phone call turned into an 18-minute ordeal for Block and his wife, and after the recording Block made of the conversation went viral, a major embarrassment for Comcast.  And it really couldn’t come at a worse time for Comcast since they are currently trying to convince the FCC that their proposed merger with Time Warner will be good for customer service.  Good luck with that.

The most interesting thing about the exchange for us at Opticom Consulting, is that it has brought out some former Comcast employees and they are telling their stories about the way that the incentive structure at Comcast (and we suspect, other telecom giants) are constructed to make this behavior almost mandatory for their beleaguered Customer Service Reps.  According to this article in The Verge, one verified former Comcast employee laid out the following metrics:

First call resolution:

“Anytime a customer calls back within 30 days, all the people in every department who’ve talked to that customer within the 30 days (except the brand new person taking this call) get hit for first call resolution, this is a metric everyone is judged on (everyone on the phone) regardless of what department they’re in.”

Average call length:

“You’re supposed to be off the phone within 660 seconds, anything longer and your metric for Average Handled Time is impacted (which is bad). In the billing department their AHT goal is even lower, at about 350~ seconds.”

Incentive “gates”:

“Let’s say that if you retain 85 percent of your customers or more (this means 85 percent of the lines of businesses that customers have when they talk to you, they still have after they talk to you), you get 100 percent of your payout — which might be $5-10 per line of business. At 80 percent you might only get 75 percent of your payout, and at 75 percent you get nothing. The CAEs (customer service reps) watch these numbers daily, and will fight tooth and nail to stay above the ‘I get nothing’ number.”

The bottom line is that the pay structure at firms like Comcast apparently force their reps to get customers off the phone quickly and to retain them at all costs, or risk losing part of their paycheck.

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