Comcast: Opening Up A Can Of Worms?

As reported very nicely by Todd Zeigler of The Bivings Report, Comcast has been incorporating Twitter into how they perform customer relations. They’re actively monitoring Twitter for conversation surrounding the company and offering customer service. Says TechCrunch‘s Mike Arrington:

“Within 20 minutes of my first Twitter message (about technical problems) I got a call from a Comcast executive in Philadelphia who wanted to know how he could help. He said he monitors Twitter and blogs to get an understanding of what people are saying about Comcast, and so he saw the discussion break out around my messages.”

While Mike Arrington is a big “celeb” around these parts, they’re responding to nearly everyone, including my friend David All:

“Comcast just pinged me via Twitter and asked for feedback to the SVP of Customer Service. He just got a nice rant.”

But after David talked to them, he hasn’t heard a thing. Yesterday, David tweeted this:

“Still haven’t heard back from Comcast about resolving this matter. Was their tweeting simply a PR move?”

So, to test this out, I thought I’d see what happens, myself, if I referenced Comcast in a reply. I said:

Likely just a PR move. Look forward to hearing about Comcast’s response from that tweet. Comcast and promises generally don’t mix.”

Sure enough, a few moments later, I received a tweet asking me if I’m experiencing technical problems.

As of right now, no, I’m not. But the word “Comcast” leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It’s not anything that can be solved tech-wise. They’re systematic changes, like updating the on-screen menu for the first time in 10 years, fixing their auto-bill-pay system that it doesn’t take weeks to cancel (so when you cancel your account, you still get billed and have to wait for a refund check), or them telling me that I have to go and exchange boxes, in-store, if my cable box is nuked.

J.W. Crump of The Bivings Report says that I’m not alone. Of recent Twitter posts,

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“178 were about the company itself, 66 were problems with the Internet or cable completely not working, 33 were about slowdown, and 22 were about pricing concerns. It is interesting that on Twitter there is a lot of general venting about Comcast (bad for the brand), and less specific complaints.”

Under the current Twitter system, how can Comcast solve these concerns? It’s a nice effort if they’re trying to solve tech problems, but that’s not what’s the “problem” is that we have with Comcast. Instead, the Twitter initiative will likely evolve into a “why I hate Comcast” free-for-all, and we’re going to overwhelm the poor Comcast rep with our complaints.

What Comcast is doing with Twitter might be a good first step, but like David All warns, they have to live up to their promises in helping us solve said tech problems. The problem is, of course, how a representative in Philly can ensure that everyone who needs help gets real help. He’ll be overwhelmed, and he’ll be lost in the technical argument of “hey, this still doesn’t work.” And if things still don’t work, negative will will form.

There’s no winning, because the only good thing that can happen out of this model is resolving a negative issue that a customer has with a service that they’re already paying for, and that they expect to work optimally.  The model is not about improving experience.

Instead, Comcast needs to use Twitter as a means to solicit real opinions about Comcast to promote systematic change. That’s the only way they can “win” here, and really solve the problem that people have with Comcast. And if they’re not up for that, then this might not be the right experiment for them to take on.

~ by Brad Levinson on April 9, 2008.

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