Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Customers are talking: @comcastcares - not just conversation

I recently spent some time with Frank Eliason, known to the Twitter community as @comcastcares. Frank has become a minor internet celebrity in the last year because of the work he and his team do resolving problems for unhappy Comcast customers who tweet or blog their frustration with Comcast.

His work is fascinating to me because Comcast is a gigantic, engineering-driven company and one which you wouldn't have expected to embrace a "customers are talking" approach.

I think there are two reasons Frank and his team stand out. One is novelty. There aren't a lot of companies who have prominent profiles on Twitter (Dell and Zappos are two others). That won't last, of course, as more and more companies jump on board.

The second reason is more sustainable. The term "conversation" is everywhere in social media. It's all about the conversation. Not for users of products and services. When they talk about products and services and companies on Twitter, it's not just to have a conversation. In many cases, it is to highlight a problem.

The Comcastcares team doesn't just engage in conversation. They solve problems. Here's an example (for readability, these tweets are ordered from earliest to latest--the opposite of how you would read them on Twitter):

The biggest reason for me Frank and his team succeed is that they are customer-service and tech-support people, not PR people. Frank in particular has years of call-center experience, and therefore is able to skillfully engage with unhappy customers, listen, and, best of all, get them a quick resolution. In other words, your company can say it's serious about social media, but actually using it to help people is better than the best messaging in the world.

Did you see from the example above that this problem was reported in the hour before the Super Bowl and was resolved before kickoff?

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