Comcast Exec Says in Leaked Memo That Infamous Service Rep Was Following Training

In leaked memo, COO says agent was doing mostly "what we trained him" to do.

July 23, 2014, 11:15 AM

— -- In a leaked memo from cable giant Comcast, a top executive expresses contrition for the now-infamous behavior of a service agent that led to a nearly 20-minute recorded call that went viral, but at the same time he conceded that the agent "did a lot of what we trained him and paid him" to do.

Meanwhile, Comcast reported Tuesday that it gained 203,000 high-speed Internet customers in its last three months, the strongest for a typically slow second quarter in six years. The company reports having 21.3 million high-speed Internet customers.

Dave Watson, chief operating officer of Comcast Cable, wrote in a memo to employees on Monday that the "painful" experience of the customer who recorded the call and posted it on the Internet last week wasn't representative of the "good work" its employees are doing.

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"That said, it was painful to listen to this call, and I am not surprised that we have been criticized for it. Respecting our customers is fundamental, and we fell short in this instance. I know these Retention calls are tough, and I have tremendous admiration for our Retention professionals, who make it easy for customers to choose to stay with Comcast," Watson wrote, according to the memo published by Consumerist.

Comcast apologized last week to the customer Ryan Block, co-founder of tech site Engadget. A spokeswoman for Comcast confirmed the authenticity of Watson's leaked memo.

"The agent on this call did a lot of what we trained him and paid him -- and thousands of other Retention agents -- to do," Watson wrote. "He tried to save a customer, and that’s important, but the act of saving a customer must always be handled with the utmost respect."

While Comcast retention agents may be particularly aggressive to stop losing customers, business has been good. While the company lost 144,000 cable video customers in the second quarter, that was mostly attributed to seasonal losses. It still has 22.5 million video customers. In the same period a year ago, the company lost even more cable subscribers (162,000), which was preceded by two quarters of growth.

Comcast is still a very profitable company. It reported $1.99 billion in profit and $16.8 billion in revenue, both up from the same period a year ago, as its high-speed Internet service grows.

"Comcast's second-quarter results again demonstrated the strength of the cable business in general and the firm’s solid execution in particular. Customer metrics were solid, as the firm posted the strongest second-quarter Internet access customer growth in six years," Morningstar analyst Michael Hodel wrote in an investment note.

"Television customer losses totaled 144,000, reflecting the seasonal weakness of the quarter within a very mature business," he wrote.

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