- Frank Eliason is a Comcast employee. – how … uninteresting.
- Frank Eliason is a Social Media Celebrity – how exciting.
Both are true. Frank is better known as @comcastcares on Twitter – he is the Customer Service Director who came up with the idea to use Twitter in an effort to improve the Cable Giant’s tarnished image.
The program took off, he now has a new title, Director of Digital Care, his team is growing, Comcast is now often quoted as a company that “gets Social Media” and Frank himself has become a brand, getting conference speaking engagement left and right. Suffice to say, should he and Comcast part ways, he would likely land a new job in 30 minutes… The buzz surrounding @comcastcares served as eye opener to many other companies who are jumping on Twitter in his footsteps.
What about customers? Has this program helped them? I can attest to it myself, having been helped by Frank a good year ago. The attention I received from Comcast Executives both from HQ in Philadelphia and here in California was quite amazing, almost overwhelming – my problem got resolved in no time. But I was the exception, not the standard care a customer receives.
The big question here, whether these examples are PR acts or real customers service? The individual complaints are resolved, for the customers involved, including yours truly, it’s real service. But Twitter or not, publicly “loud” unhappy customers are just a fraction of all cases.
The big question for @comcastcares is: How will they scale? – asks Frank. He trusts this outreach program is scalable, by:
- allowing, in fact encouraging more and more employees to reach out via social media, i.e. personalize Customer Care
- hiring dedicated teams, assigning responsibilities within
- applying technology
I still have doubts about scalability of this service level, but I think we’re asking the wrong question. It’s not whether it is scalable, it’s whether it should be.
In the above example I was an exception, and so was Mike Arrington. As long as there are few of us (and in the case of Comcast, hundreds are still few), companies can afford to go out of their way to satisfy us, and score PR credits by being “the good guys”. But we are making noise because traditional Customer Care channels failed us in the first place. The solution?
I trust that simple market mechanisms will force companies -large and small- to improve service in the long run. The economics are simple:
- The PR damage (and potential loss of sales) caused by “noisy” individuals far exceeds the cost of helping them, so companies pull out all stops in order to put out these fires.
- But fire-fighting is costly, may work with dozens, hundreds of customers, but not all.
- Companies will reach a tipping point, where all the after-the-fact fire-fighting will become so costly, that it will actually be cheaper to train their support personnel and provide better service in the first place, thus the Twitter-heroism will decline.
We’ll all be better off after #3.
Image by Life is Comic.
Update: While a lot of companies learned the importance of social media in Customer Relations, Ryanair is certainly not one of them:
It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again. Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere [sic] all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel.
- Comcast’s Twitter Man (Business Week)
- Comcast, Twitter And The Chicken (trust me, I have a point) (TechCrunch)
- Customer Service is the New, New Marketing (PR 2.0)
- Presenting: 10 of the Smartest Big Brands in Social Media (Mashable)
- A Day In The Life Of Comcast’s Frank Eliason (Consumerist)
- Ryanair trades blows with ‘idiot blogger’ (The Register)
- Ryanair doesn’t want anything to do with ‘lunatic’ bloggers! (Travolution)
- Ryanair and the ‘idiot bloggers‘ (The Times)
- Ryanair – Their Attitude To Online PR Part Of A Bigger Reputation Problem (datadial)
- Ryanair policy: not corresponding with “idiot bloggers”