Social Media, Customer Service & Comcast


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I was in Las Vegas last week at IQPC Call Center Week and I was thrilled to see Frank Eliason, Sr. Director of National Customer Operations at Comcast, on the agenda for this morning’s keynote. BusinessWeek has called Eliason “the most famous customer service manager in the U.S., possibly in the world.” Eliason is a pioneer, he was one of the first to use Twitter (and other social media outlets) as a channel for customer service.

As I settled into my seat Eliason asked the audience, do you think social media is a fad? Surprisingly, quite a few people raised their hands. Eliason, of course, disagrees; he claims social media is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate and that Twitter changed the culture of cable giant Comcast. To prove his point he shared one of my favorite YouTube videos: Socialnomics, the Social Media Revolution. The video, set to hip house music, flashes stats that wowed the audience, including:
• If Facebook was a country, it would be the 4th largest after the US
• 80% of companies are using LinkedIn as their primary tool for recruiting employees
• 25% of search results for the world’s top 20 brands are links to user-generated content
• 34% of bloggers post opinions about products and brands
• 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations; only 14% trust advertisements

Eliason shared a few Comcast anecdotes including a story about a man who started a web site called Comcast Must Die. It was their customer’s use of social media to air grievances that really started to shake up the company and drive change. The first step, Eliason explained, is to actually admit that the customer experience you are currently providing is bad, or at the very least not good. The next step is changing the company culture, a huge endeavor to say the least. Eliason said Comcast focused on human connections, transparency and honesty. As a matter of fact, the Comcast social media policy includes 3 simple principles:
• Be nice
• Be honest and transparent
• Don’t share proprietary information

Monitoring social media allows Comcast to be proactive with its service, but it also gives the company an opportunity to identify problems and fix them before they become monolithic customer disasters and costs thousands and in some cases millions of dollars.

Here ( are some highlights from Eliason’s keynote; you will hear great examples of transparency and proactive service using social media.

Katie O'Connell
In her role as director of customer programs, Katie meets regularly with RightNow clients to learn about their challenges and successes. Previously, Katie ran RightNow's North America public relations program. Prior to RightNow, she helped drive strategic public relations for Oracle, Siebel, Commerce One, and Informatica.


  1. Interesting you mention that video. It’s interesting that there are a number of these very hip, cool bits, which pull statistics and make them see important. It reminds me of political propaganda.

    If you want to evaluate objectively where social media is, and where it is going, you need to pay attention to the numbers and information that is absent from the videoclip.

    All of a sudden when you realize that Twitter and YouTube have not made a penny in years of operation, and they have lots of company, the perception changes. Same for success in advertising in social media, and other commerce related things.

    Social media may not be a fad, in the sense that it will die out, but a heck of a lot of it IS going to be gone or changed completely in the next two years.

    So, as I say to all social media writers. Stop repeating what you’ve been told, and start asking about what almost nobody wants you to know.

  2. Hi Katie

    An interesting post.

    The proof of the pudding in Comcast’s apparent makeover is in the eating. What Frank Eliason says about Comcast is almost irrelevant. What really matters is what customers sense, feel, think, do, and what they say about Comcast to others. What also matters is what MSN Money says about Comcast, in particular, whether Comcast can escape from the Customer Service Hall of Shame where it is had a continuous starring role for the last few years.

    Culture change is not a trivial matter. My experience of effecting change over the past 20 years shows that it is perhaps the most difficult feat management can pull off. Often this requires painful changes to how a company is run, and in some cases, the removal of ranks of managers who block progress towards a profitable customer-oriented culture. I very much doubt whether Twitter has had anything like the impact on Comcast’s culture that Frank Eliason claims. As Robert writes, it sounds very much more like Comcast propaganda than honest, fact-based analysis.

    Time alone will tell. The proof of the pudding is indeed in the eating.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  3. I’m a consultant working with Palo Alto Networks; they have an excellent whitepaper on the subject of blocking social networking apps that you may have to worry about, “To Block or Not. Is that the question?” here: It has lots of insightful and useful information about identifying and controlling Enterprise 2.0 apps (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc). Enjoy!

  4. Thanks for the comment Graham. I agree culture change is no trivial matter; it is a long uphill battle, especially for a large organization with a well earned reputation for terrible customer service. I hope I didn’t misrepresent Eliason’s presentation. He readily admitted Comcast still has a long way to go to become a truly customer-centric organization. He and his team are, as he said, the first step in the journey to transform the culture. I think his assessment is that Twitter galvanized Comcast to at least attempt to change.

    Don’t you think if the CEO says Twitter has forced the company to listen to clients and make changes [see this video: that is a big step forward in a culture change?


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