free html hit counter An Interview With @comcastcares | John Battelle's Search Blog

An Interview With @comcastcares

By - December 06, 2008

Comcastcares Pic

Perhaps the best example of a company leveraging new media to turn nasty customer complaints into happy customer evangelists is Comcast. Yes, you read that right, Comcast. This nifty piece of conversational jujitsu has been accomplished in large part by Frank Eliason, better known by his handle @comcastcares on Twitter.

I’ve been following Frank’s work on Twitter for a while, it seemed he was always listening to what folks were saying, and when folks (inevitably) ranted about Comcast service, he jumped in, and almost always seemed to fix the problem. Then it happened to me, in October, my service started acting deeply flaky, and I complained about it.



I quickly got a response, and when I moved to a new place last month, he helped again. Then just this weekend, my new Internet service started acting flaky again, and in ten minutes, Frank had assessed the problem and helped me fix it, calmly, intelligently, and in the grammar natural to social media.

I wanted to learn more about Frank and Comcast’s efforts in this area, so I emailed him and asked if he’d do an interview. Below is the result. Thanks Frank!

So question one: How did you end up being Comcast’s Twitter agent? Whose idea was it, and how long have you been doing it?



I started at Comcast back in September, 2007 managing a small service team. Starting on my 4th day we reached out to a few bloggers via phone after they made a post. Based on comments on the web, we were seeing success. Starting in December we started posting on a few blogs. This brought a new round of success. In February I was asked to create a team and make this a full time job. My title evolved to Director of Digital Care. Responsibilities included blogs, forums, and moderating our own help forums. At the time we started a daily newsletter. A VP from our Southwest Area, Scott Westerman (@ComcastScott on Twitter) responded one day in February that we should check out Twitter. We started watching it, reaching out via phone on occasion. In April we began to Tweet regularly.

The service we get in Twitter is superior, in my experience, to calling the support number. You quickly access the issue, you get things done – for example, sending a service rep out right away, or finding the right information to solve a problem. These things take forever and don’t work very well in traditional channels. Can this scale past Twitter? Are senior execs at Comcast paying attention to what you are doing?

We are working hard to improve the overall experience for all our communication channels. We view social media as simply another communication channel similar to phone, email or chat. I thank you for the compliment regarding my service, but I do know others with in the phone and email channels that are much better than I. One of the ways we are making the improvement is through improved tools. One of the tools is something called Grand Slam. Now I have been using this tool for awhile. It makes everything much easier. We are in the process of rolling this out to everyone. You can think of it has a dashboard of the technical aspects of your service. Everything is in one place. It also provides other diagnostic tools that are a click away. As a good example, here is a blog post from this week on Crunchgear:

http://www.crunchgear.com/2008/12/01/truly-comcastic-service-for-real-this-time/



I know from experience this is from this tool. She was able to analyze the signals which were good, but then she ran a ping test and most likely a traceroute to the modem to determine that something was incorrect. Not only is this good for the Customer it is also good for our technicians so we are looking to make the corrections at the right area.

This effort to improve the service for our Customers stems right from the senior leadership of Comcast. They are dedicated to seeing this happen. In terms of the work of my team, they are very supportive and they have cited my team as examples of what we should all be striving to do for our Customers.

The folks on Twitter might be called “influencers” in the world of tech media and the web. How are they different from other folks you’ve helped? Have you noticed an “amplification” effect of helping them in terms of the Comcast brand?

We monitor the entire web to assist when we can. This is done through searching blogs, help forums, other social media websites and Twitter. In terms of how many we helped, that is a little hard to completely assess because in Twitter we sometimes fully resolve via tweets. In forums and blogs we will provide a response if we can but sometimes we will call or shift to email. Our email address (we_can_help@cable.comcast.com) also sees a lot of activity from people that have located it on the web. We have estimate that since the start of the year we have assisted over 10000 Customers. This is based on the amount of emails we have resolved, the number of tickets we have worked with other areas to resolve, and analysis of some of our tweets. Since actively tweeting I have had 19,895 public tweets and 5,925 private tweets. I also have over 5500 followers.

I really do not help anyone different whether it be a person on the street, someone who randomly sends an email, or those I meet on Twitter. What people see with me is what they get. There are a number of people on Twitter that like to blog and certainly share their life events. We have built relationships and we are a part of their life so we have seen 1 or 2 blog posts about our efforts. But I am a simple service guy, that is not my goal or objective. I just want to help if I can.


But you are a director, right? What did you do before Comcast? How many people do you manage?

I am Director of Digital Care. Today (I manage) 7, but I am in the process of hiring 3 additional.
Prior to joining Comcast I was a manager of Quality Assurance and Customer Satisfaction for a bank. 


Congrats on hiring in this economy! Would you be willing to answer questions in comments here?

Yes.

Thanks Frank!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

14 thoughts on “An Interview With @comcastcares

  1. >”I really do not help anyone different whether it be a person on the street, someone who randomly sends an email, or those I meet on Twitter.”

    That’s so key, Frank. Really impressive what you’re doing.

    Thanks for doing the interview John.

    I’d love to also see a Director of Digital Collaboration that works with customers to share with them what’s coming, find out what they need, and involve them in mapping out and offering new services.

    Is that in the works?

  2. Tom Nocera says:

    I REALLY like the title “Director of Digital Care”. It carries the idea that at least at Comcast it isn’t business as ususal. In this period of economic change companies of all sizes, to succeed need to evolve. Utilization of new digital communications media is, as Comcast has found out, making a big impact in customer satisfaction. Customer service is a cost of business, and going digital can increase both productivity and customer satisfaction for the same cost as CSR’s manning landline phones.
    Good on ya! to both Frank and John for bringing this to the attention of The Whole Damn Net.

  3. Big kudos to Comcast for taking advantage of Twitter for customer service!

    Ease of communication with effective customer service representatives is what separates my favorite companies from those companies which I simply tolerate. (Note: I am not a customer of Comcast – I use Time-Warner Cable, which is an impenetrable monolith.)

    Too bad Amazon has not yet achieved this type of availability of communication. While their service is great, it is still very cumbersome communicating with them since they do not provide any way to do it via readily accessible tools. It is important to allow customers online to use tools which make archiving of sent messages easy (hence my preference for email).

    In contrast, T-Mobile’s customer service is readily available via email, but the folks that I have reached have generally sent me around in circles without any resolution.

  4. TS says:

    Give me a break. It seems that they basically decided to manage their online reputation by looking for online complaints and giving preferential treatment to people who might influence a lot of others. And giving them interviews, I guess.

    Do I have a grudge? You bet. Went through all their levels of “support”. They admitted they were wrong, but said it somehow couldn’t be resolved and that I was out of my money. Maybe I need to start blogging.

  5. seems like good damage control. The Twitterers are people influencers, so keep them happy by directing all your effort there. Free PR for Commcast as well.

    How about for all the other angry customers that don’t have twitter?

  6. oyun says:

    Good on ya! to both Frank and John for bringing this to the attention of The Whole Damn Net.In this period of economic change companies of all sizes, to succeed need to evolve. Utilization of new digital communications media is, as Comcast has found out, making a big impact in customer satisfaction.

  7. martha says:

    Really nice Interview….
    Thanks for sharing with us….

  8. ComcastCares says:

    TS,
    I apologize we did not create the right experience for you, but I would like to help change that. I would be happy to try to resolve your trouble. My email address is below.

    Inspired Worlds,
    I do want to clarify most of our interactions are via email not in the blogosphere. My background is in Customer Service and what you see with me is the same through all channels. I have never worked in PR or marketing. I really do not have an interest in those areas. I simply like helping people.

    Thank you everyone for the kind words!

    Frank Eliason
    Comcast
    frank_eliason@cable.comcast.com

  9. John Young says:

    Brooks: to address your question, we are launching a blog at http://www.comcast.net/

    As our customer portal site, we have big plans to help people get more out of their Comcast services. Our blog will be a place to solicit user feedback on what we should be building and to surface what’s in the works. The blog should be live by next week! Hope it addresses your suggestion.

  10. Malibu Michelle says:

    I started out as an intern at Comcast in an LA submarket 15 years ago and Customer Service was considered an in-house joke.

    I’m glad that Comcast has realized that Customer Service is what makes a company strong and will determine long term success.

    Thanks for the informative interview.
    MB

  11. Barbara says:

    It’s nice to read about your “digital care” service but why should customers have to “discover” on a blog how to get service from Comcast?

    I recently emailed Comcast to inquire as to why I was able to access SOME but not ALL of the special free OnDemand Holiday “screensaver” shows. My email stated:

    “Although I can view a couple of them (snowman, Yule log) most will not play. All I get is a black screen. I am being careful NOT to choose from the HD listing. Do you know if the problem is on your end?”

    In response I got a canned message that makes it obvious no one ever really READ my message. It refers to a possible wiring problem, cable connections, etc. Since I’m getting SOME of the shows, it should be obviously that the problem is NOT with my wiring! Finally, their response says I should call them.

    On the one hand, Comcast tries to encourage people to use email but then doesn’t bother to respond properly to those emails and just tells us to call.

    This is why so many customers are frustrated with Comcast (and other big companies).

  12. Todd J. Kurzbard says:

    (I will preface this by saying that below is the text of my complaint against Comcast to the Department of Commerce. It tells pretty much the story up to the time I wrote it. It also includes the update following the complaint, explaining the Comcast rep’s attempt to screw me by getting the case closed.)

    In May 2009 I entered into contract to upgrade my services with Comcast. I was told I would receive cable, phone service, and the highest available speed internet service for the price of $114.99 all inclusive (taxes, modem, etc.). I confirmed the price & services with the Comcast representative at least SIX times to make SURE there was no misunderstanding. I agreed to the offer as offered to me by the Comcast representative.

    I have since been overcharged TWICE: the first time was an “error” of approx. $30-35. (which was later resolved). My last bill was for $130.31, NOT the $114.99 I was REPEATEDLY promised. Calls to Comcast (Ann\Amy?) to resolve the matter were absolutely useless (she claimed the extra charges were for modem rental & taxes, NEITHER of which were stated as ‘extra charges’ by the original representative when I accepted. I had been told each time I asked that the 114.99 cost included EVERYTHING), and a promise of a call from the supervisor from that representative never came. I went to the local Comcast office on tuesday, where, not only was it not resolved, but I was informed I was not even getting the promised highest speed Internet EITHER.

    On 9/14 I called the Comcast Escalation Department [1 (866) 279-5024) and spoke to David. I was essentially told, ‘I’m sorry, but these are our packages & prices & there’s nothing we can do”. He suggested I “misunderstood”; I find it difficult to accept that I “misunderstood” an offer I CONFIRMED 6 TIMES with their very own representative.

    I am not being provided the agreed-upon contracted services, and am being overcharged even for the services I AM receiving. The ‘package’ as described to me since by Comcast’s subsequent representatives (‘Ann\Amy\David’) is one I would NEVER have agreed to or accepted had it been offered to me at the time. Comcast & it’s representatives are practicing price-gouging & fraud, and I do not see why I should have to pay a bill that A) is in excess to what I was told SIX TIMES & agreed to B) is not providing the promised offered & agreed-to contracted services.

    All attempts to resolve this with Comcast have proven absolutely fruitless.

    UPDATE: I received a call from Richard Spence,Executive Support\Research Specialist, West Palm Beach Region, Office of the Vice President (866) 279-5024 approximately 2 weeks ago. After explaining my complaint with the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services against Comcast, he told me he would get back to me next week and they would try to work something out to my satisfaction. No offer was made, and today I received a letter from the DOA&CS claiming they had closed my case, following correspondence from Mr. Spence which consisted of false & misleading information on his part.

    So now we can add ‘lying to a government agency’ to the list of charges.

  13. Jamie Oswald says:

    While I refuse to hate on Comcast (it isn’t really fair, since I don’t use them), I am interested if any sort of financial gains have been realizes by Comcast since this Digital Care Initiative took place. Have satisfaction scores risen? I’m considering recommending this sort of thing to my company, but first I wanted to know if it had any tangible effects.

  14. Todd J. Kurzbard says:

    I am the same one who wrote the above comments about a year and a half back. At some point, Frank Eliason did in fact contact me; unfortunately, he left the message on the voice mail rather then my answering machine, and since I only check the answering machine for messages (I only go to the voice mail once in forever), I never knew when he left the message, it could have been months. Regardless, I called him back at the number he left, explaining that I’d only just gotten the message, giving my number so he could call me back.

    He never returned my call.

    I gave it about a week or 2, and then called him again, once again leaving my number.

    He never returned my call.

    At this point, I just gave up on trying to contact him, being as he clearly wasn’t interested in resolving this. Obviously, ‘comcast cares’ is just a lot of empty, false words, as I believed.

    (BTW, I am STILL getting screwed by Comcast every which way. At THIS point, the $114.99 is up to $157. Not to mention having my “service” shut off this month and a “reconnection Fee” applied DESPITE my paying the bill ON TIME. And STILL the Internet I was offered is not being provided.)