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Comcast admits their “customer service” reps are salesman

August 4th, 2014

Comcast-Logo (1)Mark Pavlic was hired as a customer account executive at Comcast in October 2010 after graduating from a technical institute. He figured he’d be troubleshooting TV, phone, and internet service, but most of his month-long training focused on sales. Every day when he walked into the call center, he’d see a whiteboard with employee names and their RGUs, or revenue generating units.

“I didn’t know that I was going to be selling things,” he says. “The customer is calling in to tell you what’s wrong, and you’re looking for ways to sell them service.”

The longer he was there, the more the company emphasized sales. “They pushed it as a way for us to earn more money,” he says. “[But] if you were low on sales, you got put on probation.” He quit after 10 months.

Pavlic’s call center in Pittsburgh is operated by Comcast, but the company also uses third-party and international call centers. Exact training and incentive structures vary by call center, and on whether employees are working on business services or residential services. Our interviews revealed a common thread across facilities: what often started out as a carrot — bonuses for frontline employees who made sales — turned into a stick, as employees who failed to pitch hard enough or meet their quotas were chastised, or worse.

Brian Van Horn, a billing specialist who worked at Comcast for 10 years, says the sales pitch gradually got more aggressive. “They were starting off with, ‘just ask,” he says. “Then instead of ‘just ask,’ it was ‘just ask again,’ then ‘engage the customer in a conversation,’ then ‘overcome their objections.’” He was even pressured to pitch new services to a customer who was 55 days late on her bill, he says.

At the same time, Karinshak says that Comcast may need to “do some retraining” to reinforce those values. COO Dave Watson also issued a memo acknowledging internal policies may be encouraging employees to overlook “the balance between selling and listening.” You can judge for yourself.

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