Michelle de Haaff

The viral fallout from last week’s Comcast call from “hell” has transitioned to a new phase: damage control and reform. In a leaked internal memo, the company’s COO sent a heartfelt message to employees, where he shared his thoughts on the incident, his apologies, and his plans for the future. The fact that a leader in Comcast has owned the incident is great. But here’s the thing: based on the response, it’s not entirely clear that that anything is going to change.

When reading the letter, one thing really stood out:

“The agent on this call did a lot of what we trained him and paid him — and thousands of other Retention agents — to do.”

The agent who did this works in a “retention” team. And he has thousands of colleagues.

Think about that. Comcast has that many people dedicated to convincing customers — at the 11th hour — that really, their experience wasn’t so bad after all, and really, they shouldn’t quit. They should stay as customers after all.

Comcast is hardly alone in taking this approach. Many organizations do their utmost to stop customers from leaving. But waiting until customers are really ready to quit, and then trying to convince them otherwise, isn’t the way to drive true customer retention.

It almost sounds obvious, but a better way to keep customers: deliver them a fantastic experience that makes them want to stay.

Doing this takes a fundamentally different approach than putting in place a retention team to speak to customers right before they’re about to walk out the door. Instead, every employee — from the c-suite through to the frontline — becomes responsible for customer retention. Customer retention stops being about churn prevention, and starts to be about creating experiences that keep customers coming back year after year.

It’s not easy to do — empowering every person inside your organization to deliver a great experience. Get it right, however, and not only are you going to keep more of your customers. You also won’t need a team whose job it is to argue with customers right before they’re about to leave to one of your competitors.

Photo credit: Roger H. Goun