Customer service lessons from Comcast woes


We all know that successful businesses are built around stellar customer service. Having a great customer service department is a relatively low investment compared to the enormous impact it has on your business. Especially, today.

It used to be that if your customer had a negative experience with your brand, they’d tell 9-10 people about it. Now, with more and more consumers changing their media habits, the trend for consumers to air their discontent online has skyrocketed—leaving your brand vulnerable in a way that it has never known. 9-10 people ‘talking smack about your business’ was the good old days.

Comcast is a great example of a company consistently under customer service fire. A flawed internal culture along with an outdated customer service model perpetuates their adversarial relationship with their customers. (It also doesn’t help that they have a notoriously long and negative customer service track record. ) In an effort to turn things around, Comcast has been digging in deep this year. Here are five things that they are paying much better attention to.

  1. What happens offline, can (and usually will) be shared online. Traditional medium supports like call centres and email support are no longer safe from online public shaming. One embarrassing incident for Comcast involved one of their customers posting a recording of his conversation with a customer service rep (who had refused to cancel his service) on high-profile social media channels. The eight-minute recording (you can listen to a copy here) went viral, and since negativity breeds negativity, other Comcast customers felt compelled to share their own negative experiences on the shared posts.
  1. Be socially ubiquitous. Having a well-armed customer call centre is awesome, but closing your eyes to customers that prefer to interact with your company online is a recipe for disaster. Give customers the choice of medium to experience your customer support on—in a platform they most often frequent. And then be there to receive them.
  1. Every interaction with a customer should be handled with a personal ‘face-to-face’ diplomacy. Re-invent your customer service policies to avoid standard responses and single-stream monitoring. Train service reps to adopt a more socially engaging and conversational tone online (as well as offline), and engage directly to the individual in the appropriate medium. (If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it at all.) Online tools can be very effective for listening and monitoring, however, with the growth of online mediums and cross-platform shares, the context of conversations can be lost.
  1. Evolve your customer service socially. The marketplace has evolved to include social support. Your competitors are providing confident support online, and improving customer retention. Get ahead of your brand reputation with an integration of consistent customer service strategies across ALL mediums. It is important to ensure that you have dedicated resources in place to manage volume and stay ahead of potential problems.
  1. Actions speak louder than words. In the social networking world, people communicate casually. Thoughts are abrupt, albeit personal. It is incredibly easy for good intentions to go awry. Acknowledge your customers timely—even if you can’t provide an answer. Send a non-automated acknowledgement that you “hear” them, and that you’ll be back in touch soon. Nothing makes the online crowd crankier than silence. Acknowledge everyone—with the exception of obvious trolls. Be personal, and humanize your customer experience. Adopt the same conversation style as your customer.

Exemplary customer service is more than just a hot topic in the news, it’s a core building block of every business. Learn from Comcast (and others like them) before you spend your resources putting out reputation fires that could have been avoided. Invest in a new approach to customer service using social media that relates to customer engagement and customer experience. Invest also in social media training for your customer service reps, and hire consultants or agencies with social customer service expertise to evolve your support organization.

Managing negative customer posts online may feel like babysitting children, and there is some truth to that. There is a degree of anonymity when posting online, and when customers feel wronged, they will create an emotional wildfire of words for the whole world to see. Do not give lip service to quiet them. Do not ignore them, or delete them. Be creative, dynamic, and human in offering customer service—and mean it.


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