Can Comcast Scale Social Media Customer Engagement?

Authentic social media engagement has the power to transform brands that have a declining reputation for customer service. Microsoft, led by Robert Scoble and the Channel 9 team, reversed their image as a company out of touch with its developers. Dell, spurred on by the public complaints of A-list bloggers like Jeff Jarvis (here’s a recent post with links to the highlights of that story), has now become a case study for excellent corporate social media engagement.

One of the most entries into the field is Comcast. As my business partner Jay Deragon points out in his blog, Comcast customer satisfaction is in the dumps.

But Comcast is stepping out into social media, dealing with customers directly to cut through clunky corporate processes where possible, as Carter Smith (another biz partner of mine) details on his blog. If you’re active on Twitter, you may have seen @ComcastCares doing their thing.

Now I have no doubt that Comcast can start reversing their reputation for customer service, and that social media will be a key component in that strategy. But I do have to wonder about a couple of things:

Scalability – While Twitter has exploded in popularity, it is still very much an early adopter tool at this point. I asked Frank Eliason if what they’re currently doing on Twitter will be sustainable. He said he thinks so, but admitted, "The difficulty is having one voice with others assisting." If it were straightforward to replicate the customer service experience of dealing with someone like Frank vs. the typical customer service agent you get when you call in, Comcast wouldn’t be in the situation they are in the first place. Once people start realizing they can bypass the clunky phone process with a tweet to @ComcastCares, will Comcast be able to maintain the quality of experience there as it gets to be more than two or three people can handle?

The Digital Divide – Sure, Comcast is an ISP and a lot of their customers are online. But what about those who aren’t? Or what about those who are online, but not on Twitter? Not a blogger? How does Comcast engaging in social media improve the customer service experience for those customers? And if Comcast starts giving preferential treatment to bloggers and Twitterers, they run the risk of being accused of simply oiling the squeaky wheel. Do they really want to improve the customer experience, or just improve their visible reputation for customer experience?

Social media is a powerful tool for engaging customers and improving a company’s reputation. But a social media initiative undertaken for PR purposes can’t stand on its own — it has to be an integral part of more comprehensive changes at the company. Improving the experience of your company for bloggers and Twitterers is great, but if you don’t improve it for all your customers, it’s a house of cards.

Is Comcast prepared to make that kind of full organizational commitment? It will be interesting to watch.

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Comments

  1. As I read towards the end about bloggers and twitterers, I wondered about an initiative including text (SMS) messaging, since that’s more likely to cross the digital divide.

    Many of us can (and some do) get SMS text updates on our mobile phones from Facebook, Twitter, and even MySpace, but SMS can go phone-to-phone, too, right? And I think more people have a cell phone than even Comcast . . .

  2. Scott,
    As I review this particular challenge, I am struck with a familiar theme – “…where’s the integration?”.

    Seems the (external) customers are often disconnected from the suppliers – whatever the communication technology that supports their (demand side) interaction.

    Then (in the back office) the technology layer has similar disconnects between the (internal) participants in the conversation about “what correctives to consider” (to the supply side) .

    Can’t we just “INTEGRATE” – from me to you to us to them?

    What if one ‘framework’ was used to enable then capture the shared intelligence (knowledge-base) – regardless of the connection/interface type (blog, Twitter, land-line phone, etc) – and regardless of one’s perspective in the VRMCRM conversation?

    All that requires is:
    - for the content to be NORMALIZED to reflect a common basis of discussion – of understanding – of benefit
    - for access to be FORMALIZED so that all participants can equitably participate – without repressive constraints
    - for the interaction to be MEDIATED to ensure that all viewpoints are considered in route to a mutually beneficial consensus

    Wouldn’t we all benefit? Are we ready to ask for it – individually – locally – globally?

    And, we might call it “[Sic] Sigma”
    – sounds the same, much simpler ;-)

    NOTE: George Colony – Forrester, describes the benefits of “Social Sigma” at GM and other companies in his post at: http://blogs.forrester.com/colony/2008/02/social-sigma.html.

  3. Our efforts on Twitter and within the blogosphere are a small part of a much larger effort to improve the Customer Experience, no matter what channel the Customer comes in through. The blogosphere is just one channel, but the experience must be the same no matter which channel we communicate with the Customer.

    To learn more about our efforts visit
    http://www.comcast.com/Corporate/Customers/customercare.html

    Thanks!
    Frank

  4. The challenge for Comcast, or any other large organization, is to “connect the dots” internally. While many companies are pursuing the “social space” a large percentage fail to start the process internally before attemtping to look social externally.

    Given that social networks and social media are a fairly new phenomena there is a need to define an evaluation criteria from which effective measures and critical thinking can be applied. Our assessment of the issues needing careful examination and subsequent planning led us to five factors for consideration. These include:

    1. Enablement

    2. Empowerment

    3. Engagement

    4. Enrichment

    5. Enslavement

    Most coporations have built “silos” that enslave both the employees and the customers thus the “system” does not enable people to maximize items 1 -4. This will be the first challenge for any company, remove the barriers to open and creative conversations aimed at Socialutions.

    What say you?

  5. As for their agenda, we could only assume. But what's good is that they're living up to the promise, as most may have doubted. And that's improving the customer service experience.

  6. exploded in popularity, it is still very much an early adopter tool at this point. I asked Frank Eliason if what they”re currently doing on Twitter will be sustainable. He said he thinks so, but admitted, “The difficulty is having one voice with others assisting.” If it were straightforward to replicate the customer service experience of dealing with someone like Frank vs. the typical customer service agent you get when you call in, Comcast wouldn”t be in the situation they are in the first place. Once people start realizing they can bypass the clunky phone process with a tweet to @ComcastCares, will Comcast be able to maintain the quality of experience there as it gets to be more than two or three people can handle?

    The Digital Divide – Sure, Comcast is an ISP and a lot

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