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The Story of ComcastCares

Posted on : 29-06-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Comcast, Customer Service, Social Media

Tags: , ,


After seeing the USA Today story on Friday, I was shocked to be referenced as “something of a legend.”  I see everything I have done as really being Customer Service 101.

I started with Comcast in September, 2007 as a manager of Customer Service in Philadelphia.  On my fourth day with the company we were asked to locate a blogger and reach out to them to assist with a problem.  We called and assisted the Customer.  From that day forward, on occasion, we would reach out to bloggers when we had time.  Each and every time we did that the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.  In December I was asked why we did not write on blogs.  I did not realize we could (my background was in financial services and we were not allowed to write on the web regarding work).  This provided us the opportunity to reach out to many bloggers that were typically anonymous.  Reaction remained overwhelmingly positive.  In February, I became the manager of Digital Care (I later became Director of Digital Care), a new role to look at ways we can meet Customer where they already are.  At that time we started to review ways we can assist Customers in this digital world.  We outlined our goals, which were to listen to our Customer and help when we can.  It is very simplistic, but that remains the same goals we work from today.  Early on we learned from others regarding the space (my only experience in social media was a website for our daughter, and, later, our family website ).  We learned quickly that each space is its own community, and you have to treat it as such.  Forums, for example, are peers helping peers, and you do not want to take away from that.  Based on this, we typically private message within forums.  We were introduced to Twitter by a VP of our southwest region, Scott Westerman.  Like other spaces we watched for a long time, reaching out on occasion via phone.  At one point we reached out to Michael Arrington.  In fact it is a day that stands out for me.  I was procrastinating putting in ceiling fans and I was reviewing emails instead.  I was also reviewing RSS feeds that I had set up, including the one for Twitter.  I noticed Michael’s post, and I called him on the phone.  The next day he posted “Comcast, Twitter and the Chicken, Trust me I have a Point.  The neat part about that post was the first few comments were they reached out to you because you are Michael Arrington.  That was simply not true, we reached out because I saw it.  But other people started posting and telling Michael, “They reached out to me, and I am nobody.  That to me is what it is all about, helping anyone in need.

Anyway, that was the first day I actually tweeted.  My original intent behind ComcastCares, was this ID would be used by all members of my team as I learned how to engage in this space.  My original avatar was the Comcast logo and not my picture.  Well after Michael blogs about you, many follow.  Every post offered different types of feedback.  I read every one, and when possible, incorporated the feedback.  I realized the space was personal, and people wanted to interact with other individuals.  It was then I added my name and later my picture.  It is also why now each of my team members has their own ID.  They also decide background and avatar.  All of my tweets, 31,500 and 15,000 direct messages were done by me.  One of the more memorable blog posts discussed me using the word ‘perception and how it was not typically used.  At first I laughed, because I have always used that word, in writing and speaking to people.  What the post really was telling me to do was loosen up a bit.  So I did.  I also learned very quickly that when you are reaching out to someone, do not try to interfere in any way.  So instead of just providing an answer, we may open the conversation with “Can I help?  If they want assistance, they will respond.  I did learn to tweet about other things and loosen up a lot, but you still need to be careful.  I remember during the first Presidential debate I was following much of the discussion via Twitter search.  I really wanted to get involved in the conversation, but I know politics and religion can be difficult when you represent a company.  During that debate Jim Lehrer tried to control both candidates.  Not thinking it was political, I tweeted “Jim Lehrer for President.  I did not realize that some people view him leaning one way or the other, but responses I received made that clear.  So much for being too personal!  The fact is we are writing the book each day as we learn more and more through every social space.  I always enjoy learning and I love when I have the opportunity to learn even more.

One of the best learnings in this space was not so much the interaction, but the valuable feedback and the speed of information.  I now have so many people watching Twitter search, because it usually provides information even before calls come in.  We are then able to react to it and provide Customers the best information.

So that is enough of this after school special!

Time for Reflection

Posted on : 02-05-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Comcast, Customer Service

Tags: ,


The past few days I have taken a true vacation from work and it feels good!  Not that I do not miss my team or being engaged, but we all do need a rest at times.  Since we began the digital care initiative at Comcast I have worked 7 days a week and all hours of each day.  But now we are at a time where this effort, and the ability of my team is now shining.  I am so proud of each of them.  Through these efforts we have been in numerous media publications, such as:

NY Time – Griping Online? Comcast Hears and Talks Back

ABC News – Still on Hold? Twitter Can Rescue You From Customer Service Line Waits

Business Week – Comcast’s Twitter Man

I realized a few weeks ago that we have really changed the entire Customer Service industry.  It is amazing.  I have received emails and had calls with many companies as they work to replicate what we have done.  But what is it we really accomplished?  Based on feedback from our followers on Twitter we have really made Customer Service more personal again.  Customer Service started to shift to a “self service” model in the `1990’s.  This was great for companies to reduce costs but it did take away from the personal connection that happened when you knew the person you were meeting with, or the personal conversation on the phone.  Around the same time companies shifted to measuring things like handle time, schedule adherence and other numbers that did not reflect the intent of service.

Today best in class companies are measuring things like Customer Satisfaction and first contact resolution.  This is what service is about.  Handle time is good for broader measurement for planning purposes but it is not appropriate at the agent level.  It brings the wrong focus by the agent.

What else have we learned?  Customers, just like most Customer Service agents, are craving real time, unedited information.  If something is wrong they really want to know what it is, what is being done and when it will be back.  We are working to create that environment at Comcast.

A year ago I was presenting to many people from our communications team.  I made the mistake to say that part of the success was that I was not one of them.  But really in this new world order, marketing, public relations and Customer Service are really becoming one.  It is all about talking with, but not at, Customers.  So yes, I admit, I was wrong (but please do not tell my wife!).  This has been a learning process that you have to learn from every interaction, whether it is to many or more one on one.

We have done so much in a short period of time, but I can not help but think what is next?  At Comcast Rick Germano and his team have been working very hard to improve the Customer experience.  The senior leadership staff revamped the corporate credo to ensure everyone was working on the goal of creating the right experience.  It is not something that will happen overnight, but will happen.  I am proud of what we accomplished up until now but I look forward to achieving all our goals.

But beyond Comcast, how can we further improve the Customer Service industry?  What are the next big tasks to tackle? Where do you see Customer Service industry going?

Now it is time to get ready to go to @ComcastBill‘s wedding!