Monday, March 15, 2010

Being the squeaky wheel

Had an interesting experience with Comcast this weekend. Husband and I finally decided to give up cable and start a Netflix/Hulu diet. The decision was borne partly out of frugality but mostly out of a need to break bad habits. (Seriously, how many times do I really need to watch the "Diversity Day" episode of The Office?)

Saturday morning the cable guy came to disconnect us. He was 3o minutes early and completely neglected the we're-on-our-way call, thus waking us with the doorbell and causing us to scramble out of sleep to run to the door. Lovely way to start the day.

Now, I was somewhat apprehensive about the big disconnect, nervous that something would go wrong with our Internet in the process. And sure enough, Internet was down a few hours later, at which point my patience with Comcast was officially shot.

Then Husband called them. Estimated hold time: three minutes. Actual hold time: 15 minutes. Enter: fuming rage.

Husband spent the next 20 minutes on the phone with a tech; no avail. They set up an appointment to come check it out Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday afternoon! This is Saturday, and we just had our cable disconnected. Unacceptable.

So what did I do? I turned to trusty Twitter and threw my anger about, knowing full well that Comcast is a company that responds to tweets.

Yes, I chose to be the squeaky wheel. And guess what? It worked. By Sunday afternoon, our Internet was back up and running. I squeaked, and I got the grease.

I was extremely grateful for Twitter and @ComcastMelissa for making our problems go away. And then it got me thinking about how the company is using Twitter in their customer service matrix.

Twitter's role in customer service
What was the cost of us getting our problem resolved? Some innocent Comcast tech was going about his regular Sunday routine (probably already completely booked), when he got an order to add a rush job to his plate to deal with "some corporate thing" (his words). Don't get me wrong -- he was absolutely congenial, helpful, and courteous. But I knew we'd probably screwed up his day.

What are companies like Comcast going to do as Twitter gains scope, as more people get the "tweet to cheat" memo? This model can't possibly be sustainable. You can't routinely send your front line on emergency errands just to protect your online presence. Can you?

Should you?

I know your online presence is important, but so is the sanity of your front line.

And what about the customers who have to actually wait until Tuesday to get their problems fixed? Do they deserve lesser treatment just because they didn't run their mouths?

Realistically, if you're using Twitter as a customer service tool, you're going to need a better plan in place than one person pushing her agenda down to the front line at all costs.

Have other companies found a way to do this better? What tactics are they using to ensure that both the customers' and employees' needs are met?


Natalie said...

I totally agree that it can't be a sustainable method. Kevin Smith squawked about the injustices of flying as a big person, and he got fed, but that was partly because of this Twitter phenomenon and partly due to fame. I'm frankly surprised you got treated so well by Comcast. Props to their Twitter team, but yeah... I think what it may do is force them to ramp up their customer support and tech team. said...

What companies need to look at is a more integrated approach to solving these problems and issues proactively. The problem is you have a marketing department, cust service dept, Tech dept, twitter dept and guess what I bet my next pay check they are all silo'd separate goals, objectives, and expectations to deliver and receive a bonus.

Now image if that same company had an integrated channel management approach to this problem, the company would have a team of the above depts. as one organization and operate as a swat team to solve issues like this when it comes up. So people sign up for a somewhat "pop-up" schedule.

The integrated and collaborative approach has to be the path! Then the squawker sitch has a team already dedicated to a more real time customer. Lets face not every customer needs real time and they will tell you. Some people mig