Intercepted: Confidential Memo From Comcast to Time Warner

Feb 14, 2014 at 1:53 PM ET

Dear CEO of Time Warner Cable (TWC), ROBERT D. MARCUS,


Welcome to the Comcast family! Just a quick FYI: This letter may be monitored or recorded for training purposes.

Just kidding!

(Kind of.)

Bob, we like to joke around here at Comcast. You guys at Time Warner can take a joke, right? We find that, here at Comcast, a little humor goes a long way. For instance, here’s our company’s latest motto: We invite you to check out the competition.

Just kidding!

(That’s sarcasm, Bob.)

But seriously, we wanted to extend you a warm welcome to the Comcast family. After all, it is Valentine’s Day, and we aim to create an atmosphere of love, respect and compassion.

(You’ll find none of our signature humor in that sentence, Bob. It’s literal.)

Still, now that you’ll be joining the team, we thought we ought to let you know what to expect, culturally speaking, as well as EMPOWER you, from day one, to troubleshoot your own problems. We’re radical believers in EMPOWERMENT, Bob. We can’t emphasize that enough. Have you ever heard of self-reliance? We believe human beings desire to be self-reliant, and it’s our job to help them realize that dream.

That’s customer service 101, Bob. That’s a self-sustaining ecosystem. Be the ecosystem, Bob. Be it.

We’re not exactly sure how things worked at Time Warner, but here at Comcast we like to say, “When in doubt, unplug and replug.” This pertains both to Internet and cable. Periodically, there will be service interruptions, which tend to cause feelings of anger, anxiety and aggravation. (The three A’s, Bob.) In order to relieve the tension, but avoid high call volumes, we’ve devised a method that, in truth, may have no efficacy whatsoever, but, psychologically speaking, will keep our customers from killing themselves.

(Bob, dead customers equals unpaid bills.)

However, some customers will be incorrigible, regardless of the tools you provide them. When this happens, we have a first line of defense: automated voice messaging (AVM). The key is to impart information to the caller without giving him any information at all. (Bob, we have no idea what causes a service interruption. We, too, unplug and replug.) The ideal AVM goes as follows: “We are currently experiencing outages in your area. Some may be experiencing service issues. Our technicians are working on it. Thank you for your patience.” Bob, always thank the customers for their patience.

But now you’re probably wondering: What if, despite the odds, the AVM fails?

Bob, don’t worry, we’re prepared for that, too.

Believe it or not, there is a second AVM, which asks a variety of broad questions, such as: “Would you like to pay your bill?” or “Do you have a question regarding your bill?” or “Would you like to check the balance of your bill?” Assuming the answer is no, no and no, the AVM will offer the opportunity to speak with a customer service representative (CSR), but not without issuing the standard customer ego stroke (CES), followed by the severe warning (SW): “You’re call is important to us, but due to high call volume, you’re expected wait time is nine hours.” Bob, the first clause is the heart of our company.

Nine hours later, when our sole CSR is prepared to receive the IC (inexhaustible customer), the IC will likely be suffering from the three A’s. First, he will threaten to cancel his service. Because we maintain an exceptional standard of professionalism, we have coached our CSR’s to never say, “Sir, where else will you go?” That would be inappropriate, and even insensitive. Instead, our highly trained CSR’s will offer to transfer the IC to a different representative, who will walk them through the process of service cancellation. At this point, reality tends to set in for the IC. He’s been on hold for nine hours, is slightly demoralized, is approaching psychosis, and realizes that Comcast is the only life raft in a vast ocean. Our CSR is trained to home in on this moment, at which time, in semi-sympathetic tones, he will gently remind the IC that, should he cancel, there will be a hefty fee, due to an obscure clause in a contract that he has never seen. The IC is now at his wit’s end. He has student loans. He has a mortgage. He has four children, one of whom is dependent on an iron lung. The cancellation fee will be the proverbial straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s proverbial back. He suddenly realizes, My God, I love Comcast! He decides he wants to work with the CSR, explain his problem. The CSR will remotely “send a signal” to the IC’s cluttered apartment (CA). The signal will inevitably fail, as there is no signal, per se, just a eunuch we keep on retainer, who sits in a dark room, tightly closes his eyes, and massages his temples on demand. Still, the IC is forgiving. In fact, the IC is practically begging for our forgiveness. So what do we do? We offer him a selfless act of generosity (SAG). We say, “Sir, we can send a technician to your home in three weeks. Would you like that?” The IC is in tears, crying from gratitude like a stranded refugee in the arms of an American soldier. Our CSR remains humble, says he’s not a hero, sheds a tear of his own for the sake of empathy, and then tells the IC, “Please make sure you are home between the ours of 8 a.m. and midnight.”

That’s how things are done around here, Bob. Like I said, we’re not sure how you handled your business at Time Warner, but at Comcast we prize ourselves on putting the customer first. So, thanks again for joining up, and should you have any further questions, please contact corporate headquarters; you can find the number on our website. Press zero to skip the main menu.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


The Comcast Team