Lest it be said that I refuse to acknowledge a virtue when I see it, allow me to voice my agreement with Mehan Jayasuriya over at Public Knowledge on Comcast’s efforts to track down problems on Twitter and elsewhere.
Mehan refers to this NYTimes piece, which discusses how Comcast customer service folks are looking for complaints about Comcast or its services on open blogs or social network sites and trying to reach out to disaffected customers. Frankly, I see nothing “creepy” about it. I actually think this is a pretty good idea for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, if I am complaining about the service I am getting, I would actually like someone to fix the problem. Most companies have laid off workers and have you go through endless phone trees before you can confirm for someone that yes, I’ve already tried the obvious and would like to get someone who can move past the script and help me with my actual problem. Even sending an email can take a few days for response. I had one incident where I was having difficulty with my cell phone service, sent an email, then resolved the problem, and got a call back two days later (at my work number as requested — they were not completely stupid, just way too slow). This is not useful response time for a service on which I rely pretty heavily.
So I think it’s actually a smart idea to have people monitoring publicly available info to see if you can reach out and solve problems. It may save the company major publicity headaches and help users get their problems resolved.
The other thing is I think it’s a good thing to remind users that what they write on social networking sites or blogs is open to everyone unless they take action to make it private. In this case, the reminder is harmless, perhaps even beneficial. But if you find it “creepy” that a Comcast customer care agent found your complaint about a billing glitch on your personal blog, consider what happens if your boss or coworker discovers your post about what you think of your current assignment and team workers. Heck, even a sophisticated Federal judge can sometimes be surprised with what goes public on the web.
My one caveat is that this works great as long as Comcast, or any other company, identifies itself honestly when making contact just as they do one the phone. For example, if I get a follow up call from my Saturn dealer after my nth gajillionth mile check up, the person identifies himself or herself as calling from Saturn and wanting to know how my service appointment went. From the article provided, it would appear that Comcast staff are identifying themselves as Comcast staff and generally offering help as Comcast customer service staff. Go them.
But it doesn’t take a genius to guess that folks may well begin to wonder whether they can start to use this for direct marketing. Perhaps when you gripe about Comcast on your blog the person that responds won’t be from Comcast but will be from AT&T, offering you a better deal. No problem with that, as long as you remember to change your defaults if you don’t want to be relentlessly market to in this manner. But the real problem is when folks selling products will disguise themselves or their identities. If the helpful commentor that points you to a promotional on DISH is actually working for DISH, but doesn’t identify himself or herself as working for DISH, it starts to get into some very dicey territory.
But again, Comcast actually seems to have a bright idea here. Good for them.
Stay tuned . . .