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A Rebel with a Customer Service Cause?

Posted on : 18-01-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Comcast, Customer Service

Tags: ,


I try to avoid talking specifically about Comcast on this blog, but today is an exception.  I avoid this because Comcast will be introducing a blog in the future and that is the appropriate forum (Mark, I know you will come across this in the your search, no need to include in our newsletter because I may be a little bias).  Yesterday I received a few Tweets regarding a Wired Magazine article “The Dark Lord of Broadband.”  In the article there were some valid criticisms that Comcast is working on, and other commentary that I would like to clarify.  I am doing this on my own and this is simply my opinion.

In the opening of the article it refers to the company as arrogant, unresponsive and overpriced.  Some may feel this way about Comcast but our goal is never to be arrogant or unresponsive.  I think our products are very valuable to most of our customers but everyone has their own opinion on pricing.  What I am very upset about is the way the reporter made it seem like these are traits of Brian Roberts. In my opinion this does not describe a man I have a lot of respect for.  Yes I have met Brian on a number of occasions.  My first meeting with Brian was via email before I even thought about working for Comcast .  What occurred was after his wife had a battle of cancer, Mr. Roberts made a very large donation to bring new, important technology to a Philadelphia area cancer center.  For those that have read this blog in the past you know this is a cause close to my heart.  I shot Mr. Roberts an email thanking him.  He responded personally and with the warmth I have seen him share in person.  It was this email that when I was considering looking at positions within Comcast became my reason to be willing.  I could tell by the warmth of the response that this leader was looking to improve the Customer experience.  Otherwise there would have never been a reply.

Comcast has always had a number of charitable initiatives from the contributions to causes in areas we serve to Comcast Cares Days (No they did not name days after me, but rather I “borrowed” the name from this great cause).  I knew of this because I too assist many charities and I have had the privilege to be part of events that were sponsored in large part by Comcast.

Since joining Comcast I have had a number of interactions with Brian.  To me he seems a little introverted (as I am) and always thinking.  He actually reminds me of another CEO that I have had a great respect for in the past:  John “Jack” Brennan former CEO of the Vanguard Group.  Both men have an intensity and thought process that is amazing to see in person.  This intensity is not arrogance but rather part of this thought process.

One of the first in person interactions I had with Brian was the day we moved into our new building.  I came in early to unpack and get settled in before the rest of my team started.  It was October, 2007 and I was one of the first to be in the building.  Brian was walking the halls by himself after the grand opening presentation.  He saw me in the office and came in to chat.  The conversation started with your typical pleasantries, but quickly evolved to service.  He was very concerned about our performance with Customer Service and he was asking my opinion.  I know he did not want service to be at the level it was at.  He was making changes to ensure that we as an organization headed into a different direction, including bringing Rick Germano to corporate to serve as the Senior VP for Customer Service operations.  But this is a change that we knew would take time before it was seen by our Customers.  What we can do now is concentrate on 1 Customer at a time.

Later that same day I had the privilege to meet Brian and his family.  During that interaction it was also easy to see that he is a family man.  Once you see people in this type of setting you begin to realized they are just like you.

In the article it does talk about many of the network management discussions that have occurred.  In my opinion it is that, more than my work, in which demonstrated the benefits of being part of the conversation.  Were mistakes made?  In my opinion, yes, but that is the nature of being human.  Even companies like Comcast are human in many ways.  Mistakes will be made.  What you have to do is learn from them and change going forward.  This too was mentioned in the story as engineers were encouraged to talk openly about the changes to network management.  That is the story here.

The final section of the article discusses my work referring to me as “Famous Frank,” a nickname from David Cohen, Executive Vice President.  In this section, in my opinion, makes me seem like a rebel within the company.  I want to be clear that I have always had the encouragement of senior Customer Service leadership and other senior leaders in the company.  At the time we started on Twitter my team and I were already active in other social media spaces and this was a natural progression.  We were referred to this space by @ComcastScott and we could see value in it.  But since there were not any books on the proper way to engage with Customers we had to learn as we go.  We started “tweeting” in April, but in February I was named manager of Digital Care (I was promoted in the summer to director).  As you can see from that progression, the company already saw value in social media and the work of my team.  We are advocates for the Customer, but it is my belief the same should be true for anyone in a Customer Service role.  I can assure you that I have shown this during every interview prior to joining the company so I know the interest of having someone like this in Customer Service is prevalent in the leadership in Philadelphia.  In my 17 months at Comcast I have always been encouraged to represent the Customer viewpoint and question things we were doing.  It helps for everyone to hear the perspective.  So I am not a rebel, unless you see everyone I interact with in the same light.

Now in closing we do have to continue to work on many things, including being more transparent, integrating systems and creating a more consistent experience for our Customers.  It is important for our Customers to see the value of our products and the service we provide.  We will work to do that.  These changes, just like the way we got to this point, will not be created by one person but the collective of all Comcasters.  We will get there!