Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and CEO, admitted recently that the customer service delivered by the cable giant needs work. He, and Comcast EVP Neil Smit, claim that they are taking action to address it.
The question is, of course, can they do it? The odds aren’t in their favour.
It’s hard enough for any organization to make significant changes to their culture. Harder still for a giant like Comcast with 80,000+ employees. And then, when you compound that with their track record of creating angry customers (there’s even a “Comcast Sucks” Facebook page), we’re getting into the territory of miracles.
If Mr. Roberts is serious – many think he isn’t, and is saying those things just to help clear the way for a merger with Time Warner – then they have a long and difficult path ahead of them. Here are the things that have to happen, in the order they have to be addressed:
1. Make it clear at the executive level that customer experience is the number one priority. Quickly weed out individuals, no matter what level they are at, who aren’t actively and genuinely promoting this direction.
2. Set employee satisfaction, happiness and engagement as the dominant KPI for all managers – including senior leadership. Their biggest issue right now is cultural. Most of the collossal customer service failures we’ve been reading about have come from disengaged employees who just don’t care.
3. Set immutable standards for leadership and customer service, together with non-negotiable consequences. They will need to quickly weed out the negative influences.
4. Flatten the escalation process. Give front-line employees broad empowerment to fix things that aren’t right. Let them make decisions, with the understanding that they won’t get in trouble as long as a decision is focused on the right thing to do for the customer.
5. Identify all of the policies, processes and practices that are having a negative impact on customer experience. Prioritize them, then fix them all.
6. Make the investment in solid customer service training for all of their employees. None of the e-learning stuff – real, interactive group training
7. Mandate all managers to relentlessly and positively coach employees to consistently deliver outstanding experiences.
8. Measure performance – reward performance – get rid of those who don’t contribute.
Doing this will require decisiveness and raw, relentless, unapologetic action over many years. Not many companies have that appetite, and not many CEOs have that vision and persistence. Whether Comcast has what it takes remains to be seen…