Considering I work for a media monitoring company and am an avid social media evangelist, I frequently advocate the importance of actively monitoring mainstream and social media sources. Whether you are using a simple Google search alert or a company like CustomScoop, media monitoring is one of the most essential elements of reputation management. Knowing what’s coming gives a brand the ability to put out fires before they start, and to make a good impression on high-profile customers.
Reputation management is a tricky undertaking, particularly in recent years. When engaging online, we are expected to be both completely transparent and accepting that we are not in control of the message. Neither of these things are easy for some veteran communications and PR professionals to swallow, particularly those who work for major brands that are the favored punching bags of disgruntled online customers. There is certainly no shortage of sites that give consumers the ability to air out their frustrations, and allowing a complaint to fester and grow is one of the biggest mistakes a brand can make–and a lesson, apparently that Comcast has recently learned.
As much of the social media world probably knows by now, TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington complained about his Comcast service on Twitter this week, indicating that he planned to dedicate significant energy to “trashing” the company online if his problems were not rectified. Jeff Jarvis, himself no stranger to tangling with the customer service departments of corporate giants through social media (who can forget “Dell Hell”?), picked up on the problem and a mini-meme was born–Jeff likened it to a full-on Twitter-based customer “revolt.”
Within literal minutes of his complaint, a Comcast exec phoned Arrington directly, and his connectivity issues were solved shortly thereafter. It seems that Comcast has gotten with the program, they even have their own Twitter account, and actively monitor Twitter and other sources for complaints. Arrington shared the story on TechCrunch, and pointed out that often in social media, it is possible to catch these small problems before they can turn into major PR headaches. And he makes a point in that post that has stuck in my craw (emphasis mine):
Twitter is the place where conversations are exploding well before they
even make it to mainstream blogs. With the information just sitting
there, it’s surprising that more brands aren’t watching the
To which I can only say, no kidding.
Look at what happened with Dell. Nearly every blogger discussing Comcast’s surprising move this week has cited “Dell Hell,” pointing out the similarities: large company, prominent blogger with a gripe, widespread customer service complaints, etc.
Dell Hell happened in 2005. Check your calendars…where have other companies been in the ensuing three years? Dell’s efforts to improve their customer service and their extensive engagement in the social media sphere have been the targets of widespread praise. Why aren’t more major brands following their lead?
Sure, plenty of big companies are starting up blogs and engaging in other ways, but the Comcast story is the first I’ve heard of a customer service complaint being dealt with as a direct result of the company’s social media monitoring efforts since the Dell story. Why? Is it because no one with the pull of Jarvis or Arrington is doing the complaining? Steve O’Hear points out that many reacted to the Comcast story with skepticism that it would have unfolded the same way with a blogger who was slightly less “A-list.”
Perhaps. I can only hope that as the Internet continues to light up with stories of Comcast reaching out in this manner, that other companies who find themselves frequently in the bullseye (no pun intended) will get on board, particularly with Twitter.
Comcast’s latest Tweet proves their understanding:
The biggest benefit to Twitter is not reach out to Customers, but
understanding the pulse of what is happening. It is truly real time.