There’s a running joke that you can get better customer service from @comcastcares than from your local Comcast customer service center. Over the past six months or so, that joke has become perceived reality—and the requests for help/service via Twitter have taken off. So beyond Frank Eliason’s first @comcastcares account, we now have @comcastbill @comcastbonnie @comcastgeorge, @comcastsherri, @comcaststeve, @comcastdete, @comcastkim, and @comcastscott.

There is no doubt that Comcast should be applauded for their early and progressive efforts in social media—but is this model truly scalable? If the demand continues, and even more resources are allocated, who’s to say Comcast won’t be plagued by the same customer service issues that has given their call centers a bad name? Frank Eliason has a plan to utilize the appropriate tools, generate internal buy-in, and hire/assign the right people—and smart businesses should take note.

Customer service is undoubtedly one of the most exciting, measurable and effective uses of social media. We can provide feedback quickly, much of which may apply to another customer’s problem, interact in a uniquely personal manner and show customer’s how much we value their input. If a community has been created and effectively promoted, customers can interact with one another, discussing issues they may be having, sharing tricks, hacks and fixes that can help alleviate and drive down customer service costs.

These new tools offer immediate, public spaces to excel in customer service, but they also provide us with countless megaphones to broadcast our failures. With an eye on “getting in on social media,” companies often make the mistake of falling back on the same principles and human resource strategies that made their traditional customer service tired and ineffective.

Today’s smart businesses should identify the launch of a social media customer service program as an opportunity to start clean.

Hire the right people (maybe not so junior anymore) to execute your social media customer service programs and train them like official spokespeople. Like it or not, these people are now the frontline of your marketing and PR campaign(s).

Companies like Zappo’s, Qwest, HR Block are scaling their social media customer service programs in interesting ways. Who else is changing the game?

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15 Responses to “Social Media & customer service: Are you scalable?”

  1. ablaz says:

    It seems to me that some companies are using social media as a "band-aid" to their poor Customer Service. Companies should use social media as an extension of their current service. To rely on Twitter to create a great service experience is foolish. It should start with a great CS core, by fixing the problem internally.

  2. Mariano says:

    So funny — I literally just wrote about my own customer service experience with Miva Merchant and InternetSecure on my blog.

    I think that because Twitter is so new, few people think of it as an option to receive customer service. As people become inundated with contact requests, however, new software will be created to "manage" those customer interactions. It's certainly going to be an interesting ride…and your question of scalability will be the most poignant in the years to come.

    Thanks!

  3. [...] Social Media & customer service: Are you scalable? [...]

  4. Matt says:

    I believe Comcast is a horrible company. I agree with a previous comment that social media for customer service should be an extension of existing, or primary methods of customer service, not the crown jewel of an over zealous corporation that is happy to spend millions on advertising, but lack caring call-center customer service representatives and proper logistics to bill customers appropriately.

    – Matt

  5. I agree with the comments about Twitter being used as a band aid in an attempt to cover up poor product/service provision. It is only a channel. Organisations need to consider their entrie social media space and learn what needs to be fixed from analysing coversation not only in Twitter but also in blogs, forums, message boards, audiovisual sharing media,discussions linked to online media articles/podcasts/videos etc etc. Hey they even can supplement it with old school market research. Put that right and then engage with customers via all social media as well be other channels

  6. [...] SmartBlog On Social Media » Blog Archive » Social Media & customer service: Are you scalable? on The big question for @comcastcares is: How will they scale? [...]

  7. [...] SmartBlog On Social Media » Blog Archive » Social Media & customer service: Are you scalable? on The big question for @comcastcares is: How will they scale? [...]

  8. [...] Overall, I applaud USAA for taking the right steps to pay attention and help foster the online conversation. Strong online presence and engagement will undoubtedly pay dividends down the road as more and more members recognize the value of utilizing the Web as a parallel access channel. It will now be a matter of how the organization adapts to the changing role of online customer service. [...]

  9. [...] absolutely a business case for using social media as a customer service response channel. But again, it depends on the [...]

  10. [...] absolutely a business case for using social media as a customer service response channel. But again, it depends on the [...]

  11. [...] understand the time sink social media presents and the significant issue of scalability. The trick is to figure out which channels are the most productive for you and to focus on [...]

  12. Sean says:

    Rob, I have just taken over a team tasked with our social media customer service efforts. Can you help me with best practices on the management of them, specifically?
    • Does your team continue to take calls and monitor the queue as well as focus on your social media efforts? And why do or don't they?
    • What metrics are used to quantify/qualify your efforts?
    • How do you establish goals and coach for better performance?
    • Have you provided your team with a job description, if so could you provide me with a copy?
    • And any additional nugget you could provide would be helpful.
    At times I feel I’m groping in the dark, trying to establish the validity not only of an effort such as this, but, that we need to segregate this team from the queue and have them focus their efforts on resolving these “cloud” issues. I’m unsure if multi-tasking (taking queue calls) is an effect way to gauge the effectiveness of an effort such as this (I’m aware they’ll need to call customers, I just think they should not be tethered to the queue). Any insight you can provide will be more than beneficial.

  13. [...] SmartBlog On Social Media » Social Media & customer service: Are you scalable? smartblogs.com/socialmedia/2009/06/08/social-media-customer-service-are-you-scalable – view page – cached There’s a running joke that you can get better customer service from @comcastcares than from your local Comcast customer service center. Over the past six months or so, that joke has become perceived reality—and the requests for help/service via Twitter have taken off. So beyond Frank Eliason’s first @comcastcares account, we now have @comcastbill @comcastbonnie @comcastgeorge, @comcastsherri, @comcaststeve, @comcastdete, @comcastkim, and @comcastscott. — From the page [...]

  14. [...] SmartBlog On Social Media » Social Media & customer service: Are you scalable? smartblogs.com/socialmedia/2009/06/08/social-media-customer-service-are-you-scalable – view page – cached There’s a running joke that you can get better customer service from @comcastcares than from your local Comcast customer service center. Over the past six months or so, that joke has become perceived reality—and the requests for help/service via Twitter have taken off. So beyond Frank Eliason’s first @comcastcares account, we now have @comcastbill @comcastbonnie @comcastgeorge, @comcastsherri, @comcaststeve, @comcastdete, @comcastkim, and @comcastscott. — From the page [...]

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