October 23, 2008

Comcast Startles Customers With Cyberteam Help

Comcast is beginnging to curb customer complaints with the help of cyberspace teams.

Jordan Goddard is just one customer, who was angry when both his Internet access and cable TV started fading in and out.

His recourse? Firing up his blog.

"Dear Comcast," the West Virginia University senior wrote. "You suck."

A few days later, Goddard was amazed when a cyberteam member of Comcast Corp. called and apologized for the problems.

"That's honestly the first company that contacted me like that without me going to them first," Goddard said.

Comcast is known in the industry for poor customer service, it ranks near the bottom in customer service surveys.

Last winter, Comcast formed a team of seven employees at its Philadelphia headquarters who scour Web postings for complaints and try to resolve them.

Some customers like Goddard have changed their attitudes towards the company.

But in a survey released this month by J.D. Power and Associates, Comcast still ranked near the bottom in customer satisfaction among residential TV providers.

The team checks tech Web sites, Twitter and other social networking sites, consumer sites and even YouTube.

The Comcast team tracks down customers by matching clues in postings to the company's internal database of customer phone numbers and e-mail. If they can't figure out who posted a given complaint, they may contact the customer directly in a blog.

"I hire people who are passionate about customer service," said Frank Eliason, senior director of digital care. "I want them to be jumping up and down and saying, 'We're wrong here.' ... I don't try to toe the company line."

Bob Garfield, a Comcast customer who happens to be a columnist with Advertising Age, improved his view of the company after the cyberteam got its start.

Last year, Garfield was so angry at Comcast's customer service he ran a Web site called ComcastMustDie.com.

However, he's handing off the site, which will change to include complaints about other companies, under a new name.

"My work is done," Garfield said. "They're discovering it's to their benefit in many ways to try to start conversations instead of dictating the terms of service."


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