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bad customer service Another corporate deaf ear in the social media era.

Update: Since the publication of our blog entry “Customer Dislike, Comcast Style” we’ve received a call from them. Apparently the social networking shares from our readers, and probably some Google search traffic caught someone’s attention at corporate – which was the whole idea. The upshot? Comcast just wrote to say:

“Matt, I am responding to the blog posting. Comcast has decided to stand by the terms and conditions of the agreement, the 60 day policy for disconnection would apply.”

So, there you have it. Another example of company policy trumping common sense and customer service. Another company deciding that $80 today outweighs customer loyalty in the future. Another organization that traded away an opportunity to show it’s responsive to customer feedback – in a social space – just to pick off a few extra bucks.

Remember the issue, from our original posting:

We’re moving our office… When we contacted Comcast to disconnect the service, we were told there would be two additional months of charges before the disconnection is complete. After explaining that we would not physically be able to use their service in any manner for two months – we’ll be out of the building – we were simply told “it was in the contract” and “it’s our policy.” Mind you, we had completed our service agreement of two years; but it was in the “fine print” that we had to give them two months notice before terminating in the future.

This is a victory for the bean-counters, to be sure. But do companies survive by spreadsheet alone?

That’s most unfortunate: A company whose policy is to operate an organization that charges someone for nothing. To embrace an ethics that says, enforce the policy not do what’s right. To build a culture where it doesn’t matter, there’s another customer undermines every marketing dollar.

Our choice: pay a lot for nothing, or pay a little for nothing.

And why miss out on an opportunity to turn an “oops” into a “wow” moment? For $80 – probably less than the cost of a day’s pay for the person they assigned to my case. Maybe being just a “little guy” I don’t understand how the big-guys work, but does customer service change as your company gets bigger? I’d like to hope not.

Sadly, a search of the Twitter-stream shows that plenty of people are struggling with Comcast today (and others, to be sure). But don’t think that social media is only about upset customers. In fact, 61% of people who follow brands do so to “praise” them, while only 52% only do so to criticize them (TNS, The Impact of Digital on Growth Strategies, 2012). You’ve got to be trying hard to have a stream of customers tweeting who are more sad than happy.

This week alone I tweeted praise for Hertz Rent-a-Car, who made an accounting mistake, fixed it, and got some social kudos – all within a few minutes.

Isn’t that the goal of great customer service? Apparently not for us all.

Comcast plays the game by believing it will “all blow over” because tweets and status updates are ephemeral, right? Customers get mad, them move on. Even evergreen content like blogs eventually drop off page one of the search engines. So what’s the risk: Take the $80 and run.

As for me, the rest of the story is really quite good. For $80 I’ve just picked up a great cautionary tale about customer service and social media to share with audiences around the world this year. And next year. And the next. Maybe a chapter in the book; certainly a story for our video channel. While I’d have preferred to spend my $80 in other, more positive ways, perhaps I – and my readers – have got our money’s worth. A lesson we’ll never forget – or stop telling – about what not to do with unhappy customers in the age of social feedback, courtesy of Comcast.

Don’t forget it. Better yet: Share it.