The Six Stages of Customer Engagement in Social Media: Why Comcast Still Sucks

Customer service can use social media to do an outstanding job, but the real problem is that the whole organization has to change to empower the customer. That’s much tougher than being available via Twitter.

Well, I’m finally in to my Comcast account.  It took so long, I had given up. For several months, I couldn’t access my Comcast account online.  I just decided that I wouldn’t check my bill online. Then, a friend on Twitter pinged me, saying he had seen my earlier blog post, and wondered if it ever got fixed.  @comcastcares picked up on the tweet, and they reached out to me again.

Over email, they fixed the problem in a matter of a couple of hours.

I emailed back and forth a bit with the customer care rep about how I thought they were doing a great job, but that it wasn’t very customer-centric to require people to use email addresses that they didn’t want and should never have been assigned in the first place.

He wholeheartedly agreed, and even opened up a little about how tough it was to get buy-in across the organization for really putting the customer first in the decision making process.

This is a very typical story. I see it every day with clients – the basic story is:

1. Social media throws customer management into upheaval

2. Some trepidacious souls within the organization take the bull by the horns, and start representing the brand in public

3. Those people are lauded in the (let’s admit it, still insular) social media community

4. They try to share their success internally, but everyone is concerned about encroaching on their own numbers

5. They re-double their efforts to engage with customers and prospects in social media, working against the internal tide that wants to maintain the status quo

6. They burn out

So, individuals who engage in social media come out looking great, but the ship can’t turn fast enough to keep them empowered. The brand image doesn’t change.

Comcast is actually a great example of this (though, to be fair, Frank and his team seem to be slowly building buy-in.  But, I emphasize s-l-o-w-l-y).  Within social media circles, they are seen as a great success in improving customer service. But, ask someone on the street what they think of Comcast – they will tell you a horror story, and that’s about it. They are just not aware of the turnaround story that the social media junkies use as a case study.

And why should they think any different? Nothing in the organization has really changed.  There’s just a band of rabble rousers out there on the internet fringe fixing a few people’s problems in public.

In order to avoid this fate, you have to find a patron within the organization that will protect you and get obstacles out of your way. This person needs to be high up, and they need to understand your goals – they don’t need to know the tools, but they do need to understand the concept.

Executive buy-in is going to be the biggest challenge to advancing customer-oriented change in 2010. What are you doing to build it now?