Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher

Customer Service Failures: It’s the Little Things

So many customer service failures could be solved with the tiniest effort on the part of companies’ reps. For example…

… consider my interaction today – which is Sunday – with Comcast telephone/internet/tv service. I was on a quest to compare pricing packages, to lower my mother’s bill, considering her current plan doesn’t even include DVR functions. So I went to the page, punched in her address, and started looking at options. After staring at the confusing puzzle of options, a welcomed chat-screen popped up. It started off well:

Chris: Hi, I’m a live Comcast product specialist. Would you like my help checking out?
Chris: Just type your question below.
You: I’m trying to find an alternative package for my mother’s bill
You: $130/month is too much
You: and she doesn’t need phone service really
You: her $130 month doesn’t even include DVR functions, either which is really really disappointing
Chris: I understand that you’re mother is looking to reduce cost and would want to save as much as possible. To discuss lower priced options, please call our Customer Service Team at 1-800-COMCAST (1-800-266-2278) for more information. They will be able to access her account information and see what options are available to her as well.
You: ok, i will do that
Chris: You’re always welcome.
Chris: Is there anything else I can help you with today before you call in?

At this point, I had picked up the telephone and dialed Comcast’s customer service line.

After punching in my phone number, I had to navigate about seven layers of auto-attendant to get to “if you want to add or remove services to your service, press 1″…. which I did, and got…”This department is not open at this time. Please try us again, when this department is open.” Yup.

So I returned to the chat room and typed:

You: I just tried to call them and it said they were “not open at this time”
You: wt?
Chris: Our Customer Service team is available Monday through Saturday, 8 AM to 7 PM.
You: oh, ok; well you might have mentioned that before I pressed a dozen auto-attendant options… I’ll call them tomorrow

Alas, this is probably just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to customer service failures at companies big and small. Yet it confirms something I’ve long suspected: Companies aren’t losing customers to competitors: They are losing business to themselves. How hard would it have been for the chat-room rep to have included the hours of operation into the obviously cut-and-pasted blurb he originally posted? It’s another example of how customer service “rep” means repeat not representative these days.

If it’s not on the flash-card or flow-chart, it doesn’t get thought.

Who needs competitors – foreign or domestic – when over and over again we see companies blowing their own relationships with customers? It’s not a loyalty problem, or an internet-gives-us-choices problem, when the little things  are omitted when providing customers service guidance. Don’t blame outsourcing, either, because the problem isn’t a poorly trained or ill-educated chat room rep: It’s a management problem, stemming from a philosophy that customer service calls are expenses, not opportunities.

Whether it’s the cashier at the big-box store who doesn’t say thank you, or the online chat-room operator who can’t think ahead enough to include important information, today’s companies continue to treat their most valuable moments – customer interaction moments – with disdain. They aren’t being beat by their competitors lower pricing or better marketing: They’re losing the game to themselves.


  • My internet has been running slow, so I called my service provider (on Sunday) because they offer 24 hour tech support.  I received their prerecorded message, “Technical support is closed on Sunday, please call back during normal business hours.”  So much for 24 hour service…Monday through Saturday-ish. 

  • Another great example, Kyle, of companies who just can’t keep their own basic promises. Not unlike the hotel who recently “promised” me in writing I could check-in early, only to arrive from the red-eye flight to find “no rooms available” and the front desk say, “I don’t know who that is who wrote you that confirmation email…”
    Thanks for your comment!

  • Contrasted with a recent Apple experience. My iPhone died and couldn’t be restored through the normal procedure. The website offered some suggestions but said if they didn’t work it would “need service”. 

    I scheduled my visit to the Genius Bar online and got confirmation. I was waited on promptly, The Genius was able to replicate my issue. They switched out my phone even though it was 29 days out-of-warranty and waived the replacement fee.
    All in a very friendly and professional manner. I fell in love.

    Comcast (one large company) can’t seem to ever get it right. Apple (another larger company) gets it right the first time. Why is this?

  • Great story, Ken! Apple continues to prove that superior customer experience brings superior corporate results. – Matthew

    Matthew Ferrara & Co.
    (t) 978-291-1250
    (cell) 508-878-6223

  • AmyR

    It’s not just customer service, it’s logic in general that’s lacking. It’s rare to find anyone in business that can be pro-active and anticipate a need. I encounter this daily from a variety of businesses and it never fails to amaze me. I don’t know if it’s a general lack of caring or if people really just don’t get it. To me, it’s common sense and second nature. It’s really frustrating to say the least.