[Excerpt from The Consumerist, referring to a Comcast employee:]
The insider tells us that employees were told not to say a word outside the pre-ordained script. Management said that anyone who otherwise discussed the issue would be terminated.
Full article here:
Leaks: Comcast’s “We Don’t Throttle BitTorrent” Internal Talking Points Memo
You know, I’ve always really hated it when for some reason I feel the need to call a large corporation, and it becomes obvious to me during the course of the call that the customer service rep is trying to feed me a corporate line that is of, shall we say, dubious truthfulness (I’m trying to say this nicely). Even if they are only stretching the truth and not entirely breaking it, I still tend to come away with a very bad feeling about that company. And should I discover that they are outright lying to me, that’s the point at which I tend to start making calls or writing e-mails to regulatory and/or consumer protection agencies.
It’s one thing when an individual employee takes it upon themselves to spin tales, in a misguided attempt to protect their employer’s interests. It’s quite another matter if a company actually instructs their employees to lie to customers, under penalty of termination of employment if they don’t spew the company line (note that I am not saying that’s what’s happening in this particular case; I’ll leave that to the reader to judge. I’m just observing that it’s a very, very bad thing when a company feels the need to twist the arm of their employees to be less than truthful with customers, and I would hope that Comcast is not doing that – or if they are, I hope they will revise their practices) .
BroadbandReports.com has also been covering this issue, and it’s even starting to gain attention in the mainstream press. Companies that think they can quietly interfere with Internet connectivity (for which customers are paying their hard-earned money) may be learning the hard way that there are no secrets that go unrevealed on the Internet for very long.
The ironic thing is that this whole issue of “traffic shaping” is breathing new life into the Net Neutrality debate, which had been losing momentum. People are even starting to once again talk about the possible need for structural separation (something I’ve been advocating for years), although I’ll be really astonished (but really happy) if that idea takes hold anytime soon, given that the lobbyists for the big phone and cable companies would doubtless make it their #1 priority to sink any serious structural separation legislation.
Now, a disclosure: A very long time ago, I worked at a radio station that had specific policies about the types of music they would or would not play. That’s not unusual, of course – every station has a specific format. The problem was, when a listener called to request a specific song that we were not allowed to play, we were instructed by the station manager to tell the caller we didn’t have it, even when we did. The problem with that was that we’d often play other songs off the same album, so often the caller knew that we had the song, and called us on the lie. I finally got to the point that I simply refused to lie any longer; I would instead tell callers that the song was not available for us to play, and if they asked why, I’d simply explain that it didn’t fit in with the station’s format. Callers may not have been happy that we wouldn’t play the song, but at least I wasn’t getting accused of being a liar. Oh, by the way, did I mention that this was supposedly a “Christian” radio station? They couldn’t very well fire me for refusing to outright lie to callers (it was a different time back then, before the big corporations took over the local stations), but I don’t think they were happy with me when I made it more apparent to callers that it was a management policy that we couldn’t play certain songs (basically anything with a beat to it or drums in it, or that the station manager thought sounded too much like rock and roll), and it was probably one of the least emotionally satisfying jobs I ever had.
So remembering that, I wonder how it affects employees today when they are instructed to be less than truthful to customers? A certain percentage of customers probably detect the deception and resent being misled, and an even smaller percentage (but maybe not an insignificant number) probably become verbally abusive with the customer service reps. An even smaller percentage go a step further, and may do things like smashing company equipment with a hammer out of pure frustration (I certainly don’t recommend this course of action, but can understand why some people may consider Mona Shaw something of a folk hero).
The thing is, this has to take an emotional toll on the employees, at least those who actually believe that their job is to help customers to the best of their ability. So it is my personal opinion that companies ought to think long and hard before going down the dark path of asking employees to deliberately deceive customers. That not only results in angry customers, but also disgruntled employees, and it seems to me that a disgruntled employee can do a lot more damage to a company than any annoyed customer (even one wielding a hammer) ever could.
And in closing I’m going to make one other comment that may upset a few readers, though that’s not my intent, but it fits in with my disclosure above, and may be helpful to some readers. You know how some businesses go out of their way to let you know that they are supposedly “Christian” businesses, or are run using Christian principles? The type that put a small fish symbol or a cross in their advertising, to tip off the “faithful” that this is a company they should do business with? Well, in my personal experience, these are the companies most likely to conduct their business less than honorably. In other words, the “Christian” auto mechanic was the one that tried to overcharge me for repairs I didn’t need (or charge much more than the normal rate for labor). A relative of mine had a home built by a “Christian” builder, and had nothing but trouble with the guy because the builder wanted to do things his way rather than the way the customer (that is, the person paying for the home) wanted them done, and talked constantly when he should have been listening. I’m certainly not saying that non-Christians don’t do such things, but when I’ve made this observation to friends, they’ve all had similar stories. I bring this up only to say that it’s probably not a good idea to rely on someone’s profession of faith as any indication that they will deal with you honestly, or that they will be easy to work with, or that the quality of their work will be better than that of anyone else. I wish that were not the case (it would make it a lot easier to find reliable businesses if you could rely on some symbol in their ad, or their appearance in a “Christian” business listing), but (again in my personal experience) I simply haven’t found that to be a reliable indicator of anything other than an increased probability that I will not have a satisfactory experience with that business.
Edit: I should clarify that I am only, and specifically, referring to businesses (and some individuals) that in effect “wear their religion on their sleeves” – that is, they go out of their way to let you know about their beliefs, often with the specific intent of getting you to hire them or utilize the services of their business. I do not mean to tar all “believers” with the same brush – I’ve known people who had very strong beliefs, but didn’t go out of their way to advertise them, and my experience with those types of people has on the whole been very positive. It’s the ones that promote their beliefs. or their religious affiliation in their advertising, or that drop it into the conversation when you first meet them (while you are still considering whether you want to do business with them) that I would personally watch out for.