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XFINITY customer service: Posture versus performance

When it comes to serving customers, most companies are more concerned with posture than performance.

Posture is based on what companies say they do—a stated claim or promise. Performance is based on what companies actually do—fulfillment or disregard of that claim or promise. Would you rather do business with a company that projects exceptional customer service or one that delivers it?

Consider the example of XFINITY (formerly Comcast). On its website, it claims:

“Our goal is simple-we want to provide you with a superior customer experience. We’ve been working in many ways to do that since we first told you in late 2007 about our company-wide commitment to improve. For example, we’ve been giving our employees new tools and training so they can answer questions and fix issues the first time you contact us.”

Sounds good XFINITY. Now let’s see whether this claim is more about posture or performance.

Here’s the situation:

Last Friday night, I was relegated by my family to the basement to watch the NCAA Tournament so they could watch a recorded American Idol episode on the large screen in the family room.

After watching two hours of college hoops, I emerged from the basement. The American Idol episode had ended and I saw that my oldest son had just downloaded Happy Feet Two via XFINITY’s On Demand service at a cost of $4.99.

Unbeknownst to my son, I had purchased a Happy Feet Two DVD earlier that day. And since the movie had just started (there hadn’t even been a single line of dialogue), I asked him to turn it off while I fetched the DVD from my office.

The next day I phoned XFINITY Customer Care to report what had happened and request that the $4.99 charge be removed.

How would you expect a cable services company with the above commitment to a “superior customer experience” to respond to my request?

Like many of you, I’ve seen the television commercials about XFINITY’s Customer Guarantee featuring seemingly earnest employees who genuinely want to do right by their customers.

We’ve had Comcast/XFINITY cable service (including voice and data services) for years, pay a monthly invoice that averages about $200, and do not have a history of requesting that On Demand movies be refunded. (This incident was an exception.)

Maybe it sounds naïve but I fully expected the XFINITY employee I spoke with (who had been given “new tools and training” in order to “answer questions and fix issues” the first time a customer called) to refund the $4.99 charge under the circumstances.

Instead, the employee said that since the movie was ordered, he’d split the cost with me and reduce the charge from $4.99 to $2.50.


I told him that I was not satisfied with that proposal. He put me on hold for a minute—presumably to speak with a supervisor. When he returned to the line, he agreed to remove the entire $4.99 charge.

I thanked him but the damage was done. This experience with XFINITY in no way increased my loyalty to the company—a frequent byproduct of successful problem resolution. In fact, if it wasn’t such a hassle and I didn’t have to wait between the hours of 8:00am and noon for a tech to arrive, I’d seriously consider switching to an alternative provider.

According to this article in The New Yorker, a survey of more than 300 big companies revealed that while 80% described themselves as delivering “superior” service (based on their stated priorities), consumers put that figure at just 8% (based on their actual experiences).

This demonstrates the chasm that exists between what most companies say they do and what these companies actually do.

Of course, there are exceptions that recognize the importance of aligning stated priorities and slogans with actual performance.

Zappos, the online retailer, uses the slogan, Powered by Service. Its slogan matches its performance. What Zappos says it does and what it actually does is one in the same. Zappos has a great deal of integrity. There is a consistency to Zappos. Highly-trained employees genuinely empathize with their customers. Loyal Zappos customers are confident that, if there is a misunderstanding, Zappos will do the right thing.

Imagine a Zappos customer calling to say that his wife had recently purchased a pair of sandals that she had expedited to arrive in time for an event that weekend. The sandals arrived but had not yet been worn.

Meanwhile, he came across a pair of sandals locally that his wife preferred but had been unable to find in her size. She ordered the sandals from Zappos before he made the discovery. For that reason, he wished to return the sandals purchased from Zappos and have the cost of the shoes and $15 expedited shipping charge refunded.

Can you imagine a Zappos customer service rep saying, “Well, you did order the sandals. How about we split the cost of the shipping with you?”

I can’t.

In fact, I posed this scenario to a Zappos customer service rep this evening and asked if he would propose splitting the shipping charge with the customer. When he stopped laughing, he said, “We have a lot of leeway. I don’t think that would ever happen.”

Me either.

The difference between XFINITY and Zappos is that, while XFINITY postures by saying it wants to provide customers with “a superior customer experience,” Zappos performs by actually doing it.

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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