Gary Littman


Garry Littman is the owner and director of The Language House in Geneva which organises English language training for professional people, companies and students. He was a radio and newspaper journalist in his native Australia and ran a restaurant in Kathmandu in his younger days. He is an English language trainer and an aficionado of pétanque.

Please, please cancel my contract…

Signing on with a corporate service provider is easy enough. But signing off, (cancelling your service contract) can be a humiliating experience, not unlike having your teeth pulled out.

Unknowingly, you will be transferred to the department of the last line of defence whose job it is to make sure you don’t go to a competitor.  These well-trained, fast-talking, thick-skinned, persuasive individuals are known as retention specialists whose salaries are often based on the number of clients they can keep on the corporate books. They use all available weapons of psychological warfare to keep you on their books.

Here, there is a fine line between customer service and customer disservice. Take the example of Ryan Block and his wife who tried to cancel their contract with Comcast, the largest cable and home internet provider in the USA. The call has been described as the worst customer service call ever. The final eight excruciating minutes of the 20 minute call were recorded by the client. It is painful listening.

Rep: I’m just trying to figure out what it is about Comcast service that you don’t want to keep.

Client: This phone call is actually a really amazing representative example of why I don’t want to stay with Comcast.

Rep: OK, but I’m trying to help you.

Client: The way you can help me is by disconnecting my service.

Rep: But how is that helping you! How is that helping you! Explain to me how that is helping you!

You can listen to the last eight minutes in full here, which Ryan Block describes as aggressive, condescending and oppressive.

The sad fact is that many business commentators says that Comcast’s retention specialist was basically doing just what he was trained to do, but just a touch too aggressively.

Shortly after the above call went viral, the training manual for Comcast rentention officers was posted on the internet with its long list of recommended phrases, expressions and words under chapters that include Take Control, Set the Agenda, Overcome Objections and finally Close the Save.

The conundrum (difficult problem) is that only by saving clients can retention specialists save their jobs and earn a decent salary. This is not always in the interest of the client.


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