The man who spoke to Block is a “retention specialist,” a position Comcast describes as “equal parts detective, ally, troubleshooter, and negotiator” in job listings. Comcast’s retention reps are paid a low hourly wage supplemented by a monthly commission that depends on how many customers they are able to drag back into the fold.
In other words, the incentive structure is really about punishment. Reps start out the month with a full commission, but every canceled product deducts from that amount. Once reps fall below a certain threshold, they get no commission at all. That means a rep could get all the way to the second-to-last day of the pay period only to have a customer cancel four products. Suddenly the rep is below her goal, losing $800 to $1,000 off her paycheck.
This reminded me of Joel Spolsky’s Measurement article from 2002. (Spolsky cites a book about Amazon customer service by Mike Daisey—yes, that one—and parts of the book have since been shown to be exaggerated.)
A week after the posting of the neediest customer-retention call in Comcast history, the fallout continues, with the company’s Chief Operating Officer telling Comcast employees in a memo leaked to Consumerist that the incident was “painful to listen to,” but that the rep “did a lot of what we trained him…to do.”
Update (2014-07-29): Adrianne Jeffries:
Dozens of current and former Comcast employees told The Verge they had to constantly push products, even if they worked in tech support, billing, and general customer service.
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