If you're anything like me, you hate dealing with large corporate service providers. Phone company, cable company, insurance company -- it doesn't really matter. As soon as I pick up the phone to call, I start to anticipate that a) I'm going to have to battle my way through phone tree hell; b) once I eventually connect with a person, he or she is going to ask me for information I either don't have at my fingertips or don't want to divulge; and c) their first line of inquiry into my problem will inevitably put me into a defensive posture. So a lot of times I put off the call in the first place and suffer (or fume) in silence. Not happy. Not good.
So imagine what a breath of fresh air it was for me when, New Year's Eve, a few days after setting up our new HD TV, I merely dropped a casual line in Twitter: "HD is shiny.... Comcast, why can't you fix my stuttering signal?" and just seven minutes later got a reply from someone with the username @comcastcares offering to help. A person! Reaching out to me!
I'm not going to go through all the details of what Comcast has done for me as a result of this exchange, but believe me when I say we have been well cared for. In fact, I'm expecting my third or fourth call from Nancy at the Comcast "executive office" (nice touch) today. She got us a prompt service call to begin with and keeps calling to make sure things are alright, since we hadn't been watching a lot of TV the first few times she called. In the meantime, I pinged @comcastcares (Frank Eliason, director of digital care) on a major outage we had the other day, and he got back to me with what information he could get on the cause of the problem -- even though it was hours after he was supposed to be off duty and wanted to go to bed.
All of this is particularly important as companies bundle more services together. We rely on Comcast not only for cable TV but now Internet and phone as well. We need to be able to trust that they're going to take care of us, and being connected to a clearly dedicated person in one of my most important social networks helps. A lot.
My tweets about @comcastcares caught the attention of Kumud Kalia, CIO of Direct Energy, who was intrigued by the approach. He observed that Comcast is using frequent and sustained interaction with customers to develop deeper relationships and enhance corporate reputation, all the time in the public domain and on free infrastructure. But what was really interesting was Kumud's musings on where this might go. For example, he wondered if the use of platforms like Twitter might extend to more employee functions so that customers can actually work in concert with individuals - or components - that are a part of a delivery or supply chain. For example, rather than check the FedEx site to see where your package is, what if the truck carrying your package was tweeting where it was and how close it was to its next delivery destination? What if the package itself was tweeting to you as the recipient, to tell you where it was? The same could work for a service or delivery person (no more four hour windows wondering when they're going to show up!), an airplane en route to the airport, your daughter's snowboard to let you know where she is on the mountain... (of course the package and snowboard applications would have to tie a Twitter feed into some kind of geo-location signal). the possibilities are intriguing.
In the meantime, I'm impressed and happy that a company I rely on for critical services is using Twitter so well for customer service. And my experience made some of my Twitter-skeptic friends take another look.