Comcast Blasted for Outsourcing to Call Center “Sweatshop”

The Consumerist posted an alleged "insider’s take" on issues faced by CSRs in Comcast’s outsourced call center: Convergys.

Among the allegations:

  • CSRs are reprimanded for calls that go over the ACT (Average Call Time) with no regard to whether the customer’s issue was resolved or if the customer was satisfied.
  • Supervisors are simply agents pulled from the floor but given no empowerment to handle escalations or resolve issues.
  • CSRs aren’t allowed to escalate customers.
  • CSRs are hired for tech support without ever having touched a PC.

Based on personal experience, I can verify that some outsourced call centers operate in this manner. The blame, however, lies on the client company who refuses to hold the outsource center accountable and refuses to invest in quality. Most outsource call centers will admit that they are focused on one thing – keeping cost per call down so that it increases profit and keeps their clients happy. Reputable outsource centers will provide a modicum of service, but they claim their clients generally refuse to pay for more than that.

Our group has known and worked with numerous outsourced call centers. There is a sincere desire among many outsource centers to provide good service at a competitive price, but it can be a cut-throat business. The vast do not believe that companies are willing to pay for good service, so they aren’t willing to provide more than the bare minimum required to keep the client’s business. The customer is often left with the short end of the straw.

It seems to me that there are companies who would be willing to pay more for an outsourced call center who will measure, coach and guarantee exceptional service quality.

Does anyone have a story to share?

  10 comments for “Comcast Blasted for Outsourcing to Call Center “Sweatshop”

  1. July 3, 2007 at 12:11 am

    I think sometimes there is a counter-productive business dynamic working in these all to often heard sad stories. Outsourcing, especially off-shoring, often attracts customers who are looking to save money. Saving money is a good thing, it allows a company to focus its resources on its core strengths and abilities and it creates returns for shareholders. But too much of a good thing is not a good thing, that’s a paradox. Another seeming paradox is that businesses that focus on goals other than saving, for example process improvement or raising CSAT, tend to save more through outsourcing.
    Outsourcing companies take it in the neck when contracts are written focussing narrowly on cost. This is not to say that they are not complicit in any resulting poor results. Outsourcers need to find a better sales story and commit themselves to selling a better product. We should be showing customers the way to improve customer satisfaction and improve results, and still reap some savings along the way. As long as the whole process is slanted strictly towards cost and not towards real customer satisfaction, process improvement and value, we’ll keep hearing these sorry tales.

  2. July 6, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    Do you really want to hear about my latest Comcast experience? It involves the tech not calling, showing up 7 1/2 hours late, telling me he would only do the work if I signed a waiver saying any mistakes weren’t his fault, my putting a customer service agent on the phone with him live, and then leaving to work on his car and disappearing without doing the work on my line. I called back customer support, dumbfounded, and they agreed to get me another tech–in THREE DAYS!

  3. July 7, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    I can tell you a lot, being a Comcast customer. It is impossible to escalate a call to a supervisor, for one thing. They are always busy, according to the CSR. And if you request a callback from a supervisor, be prepared for a long wait. The Eiffel Tower will fall slap to the ground before you will get a return call.
    I have a bad habit when I’m on the phone with a call center. I will give them a mental QA. I compare them with the CSRs at my call center. 95% of the time, Comcast CSRs will fail my QA evaluations. 80% of the time, they will fail miserably. It’s not a pretty picture. I am so glad I don’t work for them: things would either have to change or I wouldn’t be there long.

  4. July 8, 2007 at 6:20 am

    You and me both, Ann. You and me, both.

  5. Nick
    November 3, 2007 at 7:06 am

    I feel that the comments made above in regards to the Comcast ethics are no all true. I am a current Comcast employee and I happen to love the way we work at our call center and stand behind our customer service 100%.
    I understand that some times not all CSRs can assist with a problem a customer is having. However, if the equipment is not owned by the company, or has nothing to do with the internet… why should the CSRs support it!? Nine out of ten calls that I take are customers that are having issues with their routers. If I support the customers router because I know about it and how to work it, and they call back and the next CSR doesn’t know anything about routers… how are they going to provide the same type of technical support? They can’t! Our training can only cover so much.
    Not to mention that not all companies have to get certified and licensed by the manufacturer of the product to be able to support it. The ability to do so will cost more than what it would cost to just give the customer the number to get the proper support for the product.
    I honestly feel that a lot of the customers that have been trying to get calls escalated are customers that are upset because they have no video on their tv or they are trying to get onto their X rated web sites in the middle of the night. We as CSRs try to talk the customer down so that we don’t have to get a supervisor. And, a lot of the times, we don’t need one! It’s a simple issue and the customer just wants credit, OR, THEY DIDNT PAY THEIR BILL AND WONDER WHY THEY HAVE NOTHING ON TV!!
    That’s fine, I am glad to help, but… when you get upset because you want me to credit you back money for an x rated movie that you ordered and it didn’t meat your expectations… I don’t think so!
    Comcast is not as bad of a company that it is played out to be. Everyone has a bad impression with a company every now and then when trying to get support with an issue. Every technical support team has it’s flaws or has misinformation that is lost in translation. However, we are all here to do a job and provide the best technical support we can. If you reach a foreign country… I’ve been there! I know the frustration, however, they are there to help you as well. Just remember, where ever you work, if a customer came in and started screaming at you because the product that your company made had malfunctioned… and you had nothing to do with it, but it’s your job to support it, you know that you do all you can to make the customer satisfied! You will get frustrated but it’s your job… as it is mine. I deal with all the upset customers and the yelling and them wanting free movies or money. I will not justify someone that has a bad attitude with money that is my discretion. If you have a lagit problem that needs to be addressed, I will credit you for the inconvenience, however, don’t call me just because you want me to fix your computer or the virus on your computer that you got while surfing x rated sites. Call them and yell at them for putting the virus there.

  6. gg
    September 19, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I disagree Tom.I called comcast with my order number .All i wanted for them to do was send someone over to set up my internet connection.I was transferred 5 customer reps and none of them were able to help me.It is extremely frustrating when a simple request to get internet set up cannot be processed.

  7. gg
    September 19, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    sorry that comment was meant for nick ..comcast employee

  8. unknown
    October 22, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    as a comcast employee in call centers.. here is my side of the story.. yes.. we do have a handle time we need to meet.. and some procedures for escalations.. but its following comcast policy on quality.. funny how people threaten to have me fired when i dont transfer to supervisor its comcast policy.. and unfortunatly i have to deal with it. people a big word of advise.. if you are going to escalate the call it is very important to have the rep with the account open and verified dont be frighten when we ask for the last 4. we have it infront of us.. and if you want to make a promise to pay.. or get rebundled.. well unfortunately if the rep says cant do.. sup will say the same thing.. he looks at the same info.. we understand the frustration.. believe me i hate comcast policy.. but.. dont scream at the reps.. we get written up if a call has screaming on it.. again.. sadly comcast policy… well i hope some of this feedback helps you have a better comcast experience.. trust me handle time is not as important to reps as quality.. just be patient..

  9. David
    December 30, 2009 at 1:44 am

    WOW! Getting written up for screaming? On who’s end, the rep’s? A rep has no control over a customer if they want to scream or start screaming at the beginning of the call. So…I don’t understand why a rep would get written up for a call with screaming on it. Could you explain?

  10. Nani Eng
    September 26, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Interesting news..Call Center Services

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