Customer Service in a Social World

As a “social media specialist”, I like to pride myself as being up-to-date with the happenings that gain speed with the help of social media. However, sometimes I find myself surprised that days after a story spread across the internet like wildfire, I’m completely clueless to its origins. This is where I found myself this week, and maybe you did too.

If you admittedly fall into the same boat as myself, and even if you do but can’t admit it, here’s the gist of the story:

A now former Comcast customer called to disconnect her service because she and her husband chose to switch providers. After an apparent “oppressive” ten minutes spent explaining to the customer retention representative that they would like to disconnect, the customer’s husband (Ryan) took over the call and began recording. What followed was eight minutes of painful, cringe worthy conversation that finally concluded with the customer achieving his goal of getting the service cancelled.

If you have eight minutes to spare, I urge you to listen to the recording.

After stumbling across this days old story via a LinkedIn Influencer article, I found myself transfixed. If you open the link, you’ll find the author, Frank Eliason, baits the reader with a link to the recorded call at the end of the first paragraph. So, of course, I found myself taking it hook, line and sinker and it was worth every minute. I found myself experiencing a roller coaster of emotions, from disbelief and horror, to amazement of Ryan’s ability to remain calm, – probably because he was aware he was recording the call, therefore, losing his temper would distract from the customer retention representative’s behavior – to sympathy for both Ryan, his wife and the rep.

Now, as I mentioned in the above paragraph, Frank Eliason is a LinkedIn Influencer and Director of Global Social Media with Citi. Did you catch that? I’ll type it again: Director of GLOBAL Social Media. Of anyone who has commented on this story, and if you follow the links in his LinkedIn article you can read several other articles about this call, I believe Mr. Eliason is one of the more qualified. He is in charge of social media for a globally recognized financial company. There’s that word again. And in case you didn’t read the article, he previously worked at Comcast.

How does this call relate to a business that doesn’t have a customer service department you may ask? Because as we shared last week, customer services is more than a department, it’s a way of life. Most everyone will admit things have changed over the last 5 – 10 years, and of course they have – If we don’t move forward we will crumble as a society. However, what we have watched truly change is how freely anyone can voice a praise, or sometimes more importantly, a criticism, of any one or any thing. Social media has given anyone with internet access and an email address the platform they need to share any and all opinions they deem important.

This has categorically changed how consumers spend their money, share their business and communicate with their providers. And time after time, we have watched companies fail to adjust their strategy to accommodate this new way of communicating with the customer. If you need an example, you can find one here, or here, or even here.

According to, customer service is defined as “assistance and other resources that a company provides to the people who buy or use its products or services.” With the voice social media has given us, every employee now has customer service in their job description. Using the definition above, selling a service no longer limits good customer service to the person you are selling the service. Even internally, each department has “buyers” they work for, rather it be accounting, human resources, marketing, IT or any other department that coordinates with another arm of the business. For example, as a marketing professional your buyer is the team requesting the blog, conference material, white paper, etc. You must provide the same level of service to your internal customer as a sales person would to their external client.

The Comcast customer service call is only the most recent example of a customer service fail. I remember working retail in college and being told my first day the customer is always right. While in reality this doesn’t always ring true, as customer service professionals we must still treat our customer with respect, agree or disagree. The Comcast employee may have actually been following his training on this call, or he may have taken his training and decided to throw caution to the wind to “save” this disconnect. No matter, he broke the unspoken customer service rule: the customer is always right. He got angry, talked over the customer and didn’t stop to listen to what Ryan was asking. And social media, yet again, claimed another #customerservicefail victory.

Following up on Ryan’s original recording post, he shared links to his personal Twitter feed asking Comcast not to fire this employee, which I personally find interesting. He was the one who decided to make this call public instead of informing Comcast directly, but I digress. More to my point, while reading Ryan’s tweets I again found myself drawn to the replies.

Here are links to his tweets:

@Ryan Tweet 1:

@Ryan Tweet 2:

@Ryan Tweet 3:

In his own way, Ryan continued to pour gasoline on the fire by trying to persuade Comcast not to punish the employee. He states he understands the position the rep was in and his main goal is to put the spotlight on the industry problem and for Comcast to reevaluate their training. However, just as social media lashed out against the original call and behavior of the Comcast employee, replies to Ryan’s tweets seem to show an annoyance with his position as well. Some users continue to be outraged by the call and applaud Ryan’s position in support of the employee, while others sarcastically point out what I mentioned above: Ryan continued to make this story relevant and circulate online as he tweeted updates.

Social media knows no loyalty and will turn on anyone in a split second. As anything new does, it has brought both good and bad advances in both technology and humanity. An official press release from a company can no longer make a problem disappear, nor can it sell a new product. Business can be made or killed through social media. It is no longer the sole responsibility of the PR department or the C level staff of a company to maintain the company image. Each employee must be aware of what they post, say or even write in an email. Customer service is no longer a department. It’s a requirement. 


Casidy Lemons

Casidy_DBJ Event

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