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The big question for @comcastcares is: How will they scale?

Posted on : 16-01-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Social Media

Tags: ,


This past week BusinessWeek.com posted a story called Comcast’s Twitter Man.  Of course I am one of a number of people on Twitter from Comcast.  These positive stories have come about because of the great team I have and their efforts to improve the Customer experience.  I am still shocked by it all.  Whenever a story comes out like this it always brings about questions:  usually scalability and existing Customer experience through other channels such as phone and chat.  This post will answer the question on scalability.  I am saving the discussion on improving the experience through all channels for the future Comcast corporate blog.  That is a topic that is more relevant for that space instead of this one.  But since I am a believer that social media engagement will be important in the coming years, I thought scalability is a great discussion for here.

Jeremiah Owyang is an analyst for Forrester Research.  He likes to ask the difficult questions, and I appreciate that about him.  I look forward to more questions in the future.  Follow this link to see an interview Jeremiah did with me during the Forrester conference in Dallas.  After the BusinessWeek.com story he tweeted the following:

To begin to answer this question I should point out that I personally believe that social media is another form of communication, similar to phone or email.  To me there is no difference.  People post in social media to be heard.  It is really just a question as to who is listening.  I believe in the coming years, as companies begin to understand social media you will see more of it.  If someone has this belief, then they  also must believe that it is scalable.

There are multiple answers in the way in which social media outreach is scalable.  The first and most obvious is as social media continues to expand more and more employees will be participating in these spaces.  If the employees are passionate they will assist.  There are 2 keys in making this successful.  The first is company policies must permit them to do so.  Many companies have been scared of this, but who is a better advocate for the company then the employee.  If they are not then the company needs to review their own hiring practices and the manner in which they treat their employees.  By the way, no matter what the company policy is, employee will still be participating in social media anyway, so it is best to embrace it.  Second is companies should teach their employees how to participate in social media spaces.  @Zappos and other companies do a great job with this.

The other model for scalability (BTW it works with the one above very well) is engagement by a team of individuals.  This too is very scalable, but it requires the right tools.  Many companies over the years have built listening tools or have a listening service.  I personally like our friends at Nielsen Online.  They have great ways to “hear” what is being discussed regarding your brand and strong analysis.   If a company is not listening, they should be.

There are also tools that are used for engagement in social media spaces like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, forums or many other websites where conversations are happening.   These tools are still being developed by many companies and I believe they will continue to get better.  We have been reviewing a few of them.  One such tool is Radian 6.  This tool not only pulls these conversations into one single place, but you can also assign it to someone to review and reach out to assist.  The tool also gathers the data so you can reference again in the future if necessary.  You can also track how the conversation changes.  With this tool in theory you can have many people assisting Customers in social media.  Here is a screen shot of Radian 6.

Radian 6

Radian 6

Now tools like this will continue to improve in the coming years.  I think the keys to the tools would be speed, yet provide the ability to keep it personal.  I find social media to be about relationships, so it is also key that the tool can make sure the same person is able to assist if someone comes back for help.  I would also love to see it integrated with email communication.  This will further the analysis tools but also a great way to fully understand a Customer story.  At the same time it definitely makes engagement scalable.  There is an ability to have 5 users or 10000.

Beyond the tools, companies have to continue to grow comfortable with allowing the relationships to develop.  It is imperative for anyone working in these spaces to “be themselves.”  Companies must be comfortable that every word said will not be reviewed by many different people.

So to recap here are the keys to scalability:

  • Company support
  • Speed of response
  • Assignability
  • The ability to keep it personal

There is no need to go out and purchase these tools yet, although they help.  For now, until you understand the space and how you will use it, tools like Twitter Search or Google Blogsearch will work well.

The tools will continue to evolve as social media will, but it is really making the world much smaller for individuals and companies.  How do you see this evolving?