Frank Eliason: So Where Are We Today?

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It was September 2007. I just started a new job in an industry I was only familiar with as a customer. Little did I know at that time how the events over the next few weeks, months, and years would completely change my life. My new job was at Comcast and I would be managing the executive complaint department, or so I thought.

Frank Eliason @FrankEliason
Formerly @ComcastCares, Author of @YourService, Director Global Social
Media for @Citi & board member for @BBB_US & @Socap.

When we go into new jobs we have thoughts and dreams of the potential success. I never could have anticipated what the next few years would bring. Within a few days of starting the job, a NPR & AdAge writer (now with MediaPost) started Comcast Must Die. All of a sudden my job shifted and I was learning about reputation management, social media, public relations, and so much more.

Note: This is an excerpt of the white paper “Five Years of Social Customer Care: The Pig Puts on Some Lipstick and the Fish Come Out to Play!”, arranged by Guy Stephens published in cooperation with Brand Embassy. You can download the full white paper here.

We had a great team at Comcast and our efforts were truly a team effort, especially the corporate communications team. Now we were interacting with customers in all kinds of spaces on the internet. In February 2008, when I first saw Twitter (before there was a way to even search it), I had no clue how we could use it. Then search was born via a website called Tweet Scan and Twitter servicing could be born. On April 6, 2008 Michael Arrington published “Comcast, Twitter, and the Chicken (trust me I have a point)” after a Sunday afternoon after I contacted him because of tweets I saw. That is the day the ComcastCares Twitter handle was born.

“They never wanted social service, they wanted to be treated right the first time.”
— Frank Eliason

So what has gone on since that day? After spending several years in the cable industry I returned to financial services at Citi three years ago. I have had the opportunity to work with countless businesses and organizations regarding social media. I am also the author of the book “@YourService” published by Wiley. We have watched an evolution in social media, mainly as a marketing force, but as more and more companies entered the space, they received engagement from their customers, but it was not always in the manner they envisioned. Customers were coming at them through every social media channel to complain about products or service. The marketers responded! Their customers must want social servicing.

The challenge is they were not fully listening to these complaining customers, and I am not sure companies are still doing a great job at that. They never wanted social service, they wanted to be treated right the first time. Companies started advertising their social servicing welcoming the public complaints of their customers.

They often treated them better than other channels, causing more customers to come to social media to blast the brand. We watched studies galore profess the need for social servicing and how the process turns these complainers into brand advocates. The problem is that is not the case and never was. That was spin based on someone thanking the company for the good service experience, but the reality is when they need help again they will first turn to blasting the brand to get the best help. The challenge is people did not see all the work companies like Comcast were doing to improve the actual customer experience.

I cannot talk about Comcast over the past three years, but while I was still there we implemented many new tools and new procedures based on the work of the social media team. The same is true during my time at Citi. We recognize that customers just want the right experience the first time and we need to deliver that.Social media can help us listen to our customers, but so can so many other means in which we interact with our customers.

So where are we at today? I think we are at the beginning stages where businesses recognize the need to fix the customer experience. I am thrilled to finally see the message we have been delivering for years being seen by the leaders in these organizations. Companies are now starting to listen not just to social, but across all touch points. They are realizing the importance their front line team members are to the brand and the value they can offer to all facets of the business. Okay, maybe this has not fully gotten to this stage yet, but we are seeing organizations move in this direction. We are seeing more and more companies insource customer service and find ways to have top leaders closer to the customer. This was always the power of social media! We are in a new era that is more relationship driven than marketing or message driven like the 40 years prior. I think the next few years will be an incredible time for customer experience professionals and the rate of change that we will be able to lead! I look forward to doing this together.

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