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How Frank Eliason Brought Social Business to Comcast

Frank Eliason took questions from an inquisitive audience at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Santa Clara last week. He answered questions related to how he was able to move Comcast into the world of social business. Here are some of his insights.

How were bloggers and people in the web communicated with?

At Comcast we actually picked up the phone and called bloggers and that wowed them. We would also look up who owns the domain that the blog was hosted on and see if we had an account for that domain to get more information on the person.

We always did some investigative work. We tried to call bloggers, if that failed, then we emailed them. If that failed then we actually left a comment on their blog. As a result many angry bloggers either deleted their posts or wrote follow up posts (or edited their angry posts) thanking Comcast!

How was all of this organized? What was the impact and how did you get people empowered?

When I interview people to work at Comcast the biggest question I always asked was, “what’s wrong with Comcast.” Even if the interviewee was wrong about something they were still hired if they had passion. The reason I did this is because you can’t coach passion but you can always correct the misconceptions and facts that people have.

Many people don’t realize that “social” will really change the dynamics of your whole company. The cable company for example is usually a whole bunch of different silos. When I started working there 3 divisions of the company existed just in California, they all had their own marketing, their own services, their own rules and their own procedures and systems. One of the ways we got employees involved was by telling stories.

Grannie Annie was a sweet little older lady that lived in Indiana; she had just received cable service in her area and was having a lot of problems. Comcast knew about them but nobody really did anything about it. When we circulated the story of grannie Annie inside of Comcast people said, “oh now, we can’t possibly be doing that to her!” But we were, and we were doing the same thing to thousands of other people as well.

Employees and the organizations they belong to need to actually hear about these things. People always ask me why I left Comcast; the truth is because when I left the silos were already coming down. We went from 21 silos to 4 and soon hopefully to 1. I wanted it to happen faster but it just wasn’t the case.

Whether you chose to buy into or not, there is a shift in a new type of leadership that is coming. It’s amazing to think that right now you can go to your CEO and install a twitter search widget right on his desktop so he can see what’s going on with customers. People need to remember that social encompasses quite a lot of different components.

Some Numbers Around Help Forums

In June alone the help forums had 14.9 million unique visitors, 80% of them found the right answer to their problems the first time they called. Now multiply by that by around $8/call which we saved and all of a sudden you’re talking about a lot of money.

We also found that twitter told us things before the call centers ever did. During the NHL playoffs (years ago) for example, the sports network went off the air. People were tweeting that it as Comcast’s fault. However, it turns out that all the other networks were off line as well (and we found out about this via twitter). The networks were actually down due to a lightning strike. We knew all of this within 3 minutes of it happening and put up an automated message telling people what happened. Just for that Comcast was able to save 1.2 million dollars because people called to complain, heard the message and then hung up. Usually it would have taken quite a while to find out about the problem and fix it, not to mention the fact that it would involve a LOT more people.

Social always helped Comcast find product improvements or flawed processes. The challenge is that you have to get different people from different departments in the room to understand what the value of social means to them. People are trying to own things themselves instead of owning it together. Too many people playing in their own silos that don’t want to come together is never a good thing.

Is social going to be another channel that call/contact centers need to adjust to?

Actually it already is. Every brand is a little different. There is always going to be a group of people that may be fine with calling you on the phone to discuss a problem while simultaneously calling you out on social while they do it. Social is just another communication tool.

What about influence?

I like to stir things up a bit so let me the first person to say that influence is pure bullshit. In fact, influence is a dangerous perception to create. All people are on the same playing field, anyone at anytime can create a good or bad reputation for your company, regardless if they have “influence” or not.

Many people remember the video of the sleeping Comcast technician right? It received millions and millions of views. However, the person that put up that video up only had 1 other posting on YouTube in their whole life. The person would not be considered influential at all yet had such as an impact.
 

 
 
 
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