"I think we will need to have a technician check this out. Do you have a splitter on the line with the modem?"
"We are currently delivering 50Mbps in St Paul, MN."
"I have heard that from someone else. I do know there have been problems with the compression software for 720 and 1080p signal."
"I just want to clarify that I am not a PR person. Customer Service is where all my training is."
Welcome to what might be called the Twitterverse of Frank Eliason, who, under the name comcastcares, has "tweeted" everything above, jumping onto Twitter like a virtual knight in shining armor.
Maybe you've read about him over the last few weeks. He's the guy now appointed by Comcast to communicate with those who complain about their Comcast service on Twitter, and a day in his life is one filled with tweets issued by BlackBerries, RSS feeds that alert him to the latest Internet outage in Palo Alto, and sometimes being the canary in the Comcast coal mine. A recent problem in the Chicago area became immediately apparent to Eliason by monitoring Twitter, and he believes he knew about it before Comcast staff closer to the situation did. "I can take care of pretty much anything -- and if I can't, I'll call someone who can," he says. (If that sounds like a boast, in conversation Eliason is an extremely sincere guy.)
The fact that Eliason's job even exists illustrates the serendipity required for most companies to get with the social networking program today. His emergence on Twitter is the result of his own long-held interest in tracking customer sentiment -- along with a nudge from a Comcast executive a few months ago to check out what people were saying about the company on the micro-blogging service. Eliason just observed Twitter at first before tentatively wading in. But earlier this month, his dalliance with Twitter burst into the blogosphere, when he noticed a tweet from Michael Arrington, who runs the highly influential blog TechCrunch. Arrington was complaining that his Comcast Internet service was inexplicably down. Eliason reached out to help, and Comcast soon dispatched a team to Arrington's house to fix his Internet connection. It was, Eliason says, a turning point, but not in quite the way you'd think. Sure, Arrington's experience with Eliason turned into a lengthy post on TechCrunch, but what seems to have interested Eliason more is how his Twitter followers rallied around him when some said that Comcast had only helped Arrington because he was Arrington. No, his supporters said, he'd helped out many other people too. Comcastcares was forming relationships.
As you can see, it's not as though Comcast's CEO has waded through Powerpoints recommending the company appoint a CTO (chief twitter officer). Instead, it was a combination of a couple of interested parties within Comcast, and some fortunate timing, that led the company down this path.
I'm hoping that going forward, the Frank Eliasons of the world -- whether they communicate via Twitter or elsewhere -- will not only be commonplace but corporate priorities, not picked because they happen to be the right people at the right place at the right time, but because, just as corporations can't operate without PR and marketing executives, it's important to have people on staff in charge of online customer outreach.
As for Comcast, the company is becoming increasingly serious about the role it needs to play in the ongoing, and often negative, dialogue about its services. Just check out Bob Garfield's comcastmustdie.com, if you want to get a feel for how outraged some Comcast customers can be. Eliason is hiring -- and says the company needs, for instance, to become more involved in peer-to-peer forums and measuring customer sentiments expressed online.
As for what his fledgling department is going to be called, he's already discarded "customer advocacy." "We need something a little more exciting," he says. Suggestions? I guess you could send a tweet to comcastcares at Twitter.