The Twitter effect on organization culture

comcastcares One of the most oft-cited examples of how Twitter can open up effective communication channels between the customer service parts of an organization and its customers is the US entertainment and information services provider Comcast and a man known on Twitter as @comcastcares.

That man is Frank Eliason, Senior Director, Comcast National Customer Service, who has diligently and consistently engaged with his company’s customers and other on Twitter – people often very unhappy with Comcast’s service – since March 2008.

BusinessWeek had a terrific profile of Eliason in January in which it describes his strategic approach to using Twitter as an engagement channel with customers.

Now TechCrunch brings word from Comcast’s CEO Brian Roberts who describes the far-reaching effects Eliason’s activities have had on the company as a whole:

[…] [Twitter] has changed the culture of our company, Roberts said. Comcast has for a while now been using Twitter to scan for complaints and engage with customers. The idea was not his, but rather rose organically when someone in the company realized that a lot of public complaints were being sent over Twitter.

Roberts went on to note that “Famous Frank,” also known as Frank Eliason (Comcastcares on Twitter), now has 11 people working under him simply to respond to information about Comcast being broadcast on Twitter. Roberts says that it’s an entirely different kind of dialogue coming in then the usual phone complaints, and he seems very pleased about the work the team has done with the customers on Twitter.

He also noted that it’s not just Twitter the company is using now to engage with customers. They also use Facebook and some of the other networks.

Another organization’s far-reaching experiences with, and the culture impact of, Twitter and other social media tools come readily to mind – Dell.

Two different organizations but with one key thing in common: individuals within those organizations who understand what direct, unfiltered and honest engagement means, and have the confidence, ability and senior-level support to put into action some change-making principles.

Great examples.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Graham White

    Good post Neville. I am a firm believer, as a PR practitioner, that social media channels have given organisations some great vehicles to have open and honest dialogue with their constituents. With a belief that our role is as a boundary scanner for the organisation, social media gives us many rich insights to better understand our stakeholders, get their opinions (good or bad) and actually have a conversation. The brave organisations are those that will do this. Others will simply bury their heads in the sand and hope it will go away. We all know the danger of that approach.

    • neville

      What this illustrates is what is possible in Comcast specifically. There are some terrific lessons here that anyone can study to see what may be possible in their own situations.

      It won’t work for everyone. And it’s not really about the channel or the tool: it’s about the three things I mentioned – the confidence and ability of the individual making the change together with senior-level support. Plus all the other things that add up to ‘all things being equal’ :)

  2. Marie Young

    Kia ora Neville,

    The twitter adoption rate for New Zealand organisations is still in it’s early days. Twitter just became mainstream earlier this year.

    Your last paragraph hit it on the nail…

    As a customer service champion I’m staggered at the lost opportunity I come across everyday in B2B. The other day I was on hold for 17 minutes waiting to be told whether I could rent a car or not. Imagine if this company were on twitter?

    They want to see ROI first, not realising the opportunities in front of them. I find showing is far better than telling.

    Thanks Neville! Simon @audaciousgloop and I @flyinglens are your longtime FIR fans from New Zealand. We hope to come your way one of these days.

  3. neville

    Thanks, Marie, appreciate your sentiment. Hope you do make it over here sometime. I have desires to visit NZ one of these days – blame Lord of The Rings – so who knows.

    It’s interesting seeing how companies are on Twitter as a customer service channel. Comcast has it worked out well. Others, here in the UK not so much yet.

    Everyone is trying to figure it out.

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