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My @ComcastCares Customer Service Story

A lot has already been written about Frank Eliason and the @ComcastCares Twitter customer service story, so I’ll only recap briefly to set the context for my own personal experience.

On June 26, 2006, a Comcast customer uploaded to YouTube this video of a Comcast technician sleeping on their couch:

As of this writing, the video has 1.4 million views. This was before Comcast discovered Twitter but the beginning of the realization of the magnitude of their customer service problem.

The cable industry has a built-in branding problem in their failure to provide ala carte pricing. No one buys the argument that ala carte pricing isn’t a viable economic model, so there is almost uniform resentment because no one really wants to buy stuff they don’t want. That’s what cable television’s current pricing model amounts to.

When people watch their cable television, they are not experiencing the brand of the cable provider, they’re experiencing the brands that are communicated through their provider through programming and commercials.

The one consistent branding experience customers have with their cable provider is when they pay their bill and that is invariably a negative experience because of that resentment. Now, pile on top of that cable companies’ historic poor customer service, and…you get the picture.

Now, I’m a media omnivore. I get all the digital tiers, I get premium channels, I get HD; I pay a lot of money to Comcast every month and I’ve been a customer for more than a decade, so I feel righteously entitled to superior customer service.

How Frank Eliason Turned Me Into A Comcast Brand Evangelist

Sometime shortly after Mr. Eliason launched the @ComcastCares Twitter account, my DVR went on the fritz. I tried to get it fixed over the phone but they determined it was fried and I’d have to go to downtown Saint Paul to exchange the box for a new one.

Fine. I’d had the box for a few years and this stuff happens, so no biggie. I did have to take time off work to go exchange the thing but that was only mildly annoying.

I got it home and installed it and, of course, I couldn’t get it to work. I called customer service the requisite three times only to discover the inevitable: They couldn’t resolve it over the phone so they’d have to send a technician out to fix it, for which I’d have to take time off from work between 8 a.m. and noon to wait for them to arrive.

Now, my blood was starting to boil. Seriously? They can’t make precise appointments so I only have to miss two hours of work rather than half a day?

But then I remembered the Comcast Twitter account, so I DMed Frank, told him I had a customer service issue, and asked for his email. I emailed him a long, detailed email about my problem and why, as a long-time customer, I expected quality customer service.

Within an hour of sending that email, a Comcast technician was at my door, DVR in hand, and was soon at work installing the thing. He stayed long enough to ensure that it was working properly and before he left he gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him in an hour, regardless of whether or not there was a problem.

An hour after he left, I got a call from the St. Paul office. We got an email from Frank Eliason, they said, indicating that you had a problem with your cable; how can we help? I’m all good, I said. Your guy has already been here and fixed it, thank you very much.

An hour after that, the original technician called me back to make sure everything was all right.

When people get frustrated by customer service these days, they often take out their aggravation on Twitter or Facebook and let their networks know about their experience. That was my first instinct until I remembered @ComcastCares.

My experience turned me from someone who was entirely likely to hate on Comcast to his online network to someone who tells this story to anyone who will listen.

So what Frank Eliason has done by actively seeking out people on Twitter with customer service problems, is to 1) quiet some of the people who are most likely to shout the loudest to the most number of people about their problems and 2) turn those very same people into Comcast fans.

For those reasons, Comcast deserves the accolades they’re getting for their Twitter customer service and as the poster child case study for online customer service.

Brian Roberts, Comcast CEO, Discusses How Twitter Has Changed Company Culture

Finally, an interview with Comcast’s CEO about how the Comcast Cares Twitter channels have changed the company’s culture.

Found at Fora.tv.

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About David Erickson

David Erickson is principal of e-Strategy Media, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minnesota. David has extensive experience in digital marketing and is often used as an expert source by media and asked to speak on the topic before organizations and to sit on panel discussions.

8 Comments

  1. […] they like; and another of Tom Scheck discussing the affect social media has had on journalism; my @ComcastCares customer service story; and a post about the importance of challenging our […]



  2. Anonymous on April 12, 2010 at 2:43 00 pm CDT

    I always have mixed feelings about stories like this because I can’t help but to think that someone else had an even *worse* customer service experience as a result of Comcast diverting resources to take care of a “VIP” (not that I begrudge it to you — I’d do the same thing!). At the same time, it makes sense for the brand — take care of the folks who squawk the loudest, and you protect the reputation…there’s probably value to making one more noisy fan over a dozen more quiet ones.

    But the other issue I see is that for Comcast is that this strategy only works as long as people don’t catch on. In other words, can Comcast scale if people started going on Twitter in droves looking for better service? Would they quickly be forced to tier Twitter requests? Would the volume of requests overwhelm the voices of genuine “tier one” customers? Would these requests slowly but surely migrate to the typical queue, to be scheduled in 4-hour blocks…?

    From a reputation standpoint, will they find that they grow a giant disconnect between “the media” in all its forms and everyone else…one that eventually hits sales?

    Seems to me that Twitter is helping Comcast staunch the wound, but may have a ways to go to truly transform their service reputation…



  3. kenkadet on April 12, 2010 at 9:43 32 am CDT

    I always have mixed feelings about stories like this because I can't help but to think that someone else had an even *worse* customer service experience as a result of Comcast diverting resources to take care of a “VIP” (not that I begrudge it to you — I'd do the same thing!). At the same time, it makes sense for the brand — take care of the folks who squawk the loudest, and you protect the reputation…there's probably value to making one more noisy fan over a dozen more quiet ones.

    But the other issue I see is that for Comcast is that this strategy only works as long as people don't catch on. In other words, can Comcast scale if people started going on Twitter in droves looking for better service? Would they quickly be forced to tier Twitter requests? Would the volume of requests overwhelm the voices of genuine “tier one” customers? Would these requests slowly but surely migrate to the typical queue, to be scheduled in 4-hour blocks…?

    From a reputation standpoint, will they find that they grow a giant disconnect between “the media” in all its forms and everyone else…one that eventually hits sales?

    Seems to me that Twitter is helping Comcast staunch the wound, but may have a ways to go to truly transform their service reputation…



  4. mattsweb on April 12, 2010 at 4:59 00 pm CDT

    I’m glad to hear you found a way to get quick service. And follow up too!
    But is this really an example of good customer service? After all, you only got the service you expected because you knew about @ComcastCares. Their website only lists the official channels: FAQ, email, chat, and phone which, in your case, failed miserably.
    I think kenkadet has it right – they can’t offer excellent service to everyone because it’s not scalable.
    They’ve acknowledged the problem so they’re almost there. But they don’t have a real solution yet – just a short term fix to cover over the ugliness.



  5. mattsweb on April 12, 2010 at 11:59 50 am CDT

    I'm glad to hear you found a way to get quick service. And follow up too!
    But is this really an example of good customer service? After all, you only got the service you expected because you knew about @ComcastCares. Their website only lists the official channels: FAQ, email, chat, and phone which, in your case, failed miserably.
    I think kenkadet has it right – they can't offer excellent service to everyone because it's not scalable.
    They've acknowledged the problem so they're almost there. But they don't have a real solution yet – just a short term fix to cover over the ugliness.



  6. Top 20 e-Strategy Posts Of 2010 on December 31, 2010 at 3:09 58 pm CST

    […] My @ComcastCares Customer Service Story […]



  7. Twitter Customer Service on November 3, 2011 at 8:19 59 am CDT

    […] lot of things but one of the primary functions it serves is as a customer service tool. I have had a direct experience of excellent customer service by Comcast through Twitter, that turned a customer that was constantly aggravated with the company […]



  8. […] satisfied and unsatisfied ones – are watching, reading and reacting.  You can become the next @ComcastCares or you might have to do a complete public turn-around of your brand image – but you need to make […]



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