Cable operators are working on their social skills.
Comcast is the latest MSO to overhaul its social-media efforts to win over customers, with plans to triple the number of employees dedicated to its social-media team.
The goal: help customers solve problems and air grievances via their Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts.
Comcast said it plans to have about 60 employees fully dedicated to the social media customer-care function by late spring or early summer. That will enable the Philadelphia-based operator to support customers across more platforms and to get to them faster. Comcast hopes to reach that staffing goal by late spring or early summer and will continue to support social media like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, expanding to other platforms as the unit expands.
WORKING TO IMPROVE IMAGE
“When we first launched our social-care team in 2007, the idea of engaging with customers on social media was brand new,” senior vice president of customer service Tom Karinshak said in a blog post announcing the plan. “Today the world looks completely different.”
Consistently placing at the bottom of customer-satisfaction reports from J.D. Power and others over the years, cable has tried various ways to improve perception of its service.
They include winnowing service appointment windows to as little as one hour and using online and automated methods to solve service issues and outages.
Social media also has evolved from being a last-resort method to solving service problems to being the first place customers go when they have an issue, according to several operators. That and the instantaneous nature of social media seem tailor-made for cable’s customer-care efforts, offering customers the opportunity to voice their complaints in real-time and giving operators another avenue to solve problems quickly.
Other cable operators have used social media to encourage customers to report service outages and other issues through Facebook accounts and Twitter.
Cablevision Systems has had a Twitter account — @OptimumHelp — since 2012 that has about 11,000 followers and has trained social-media agents that specialize in customer support, account information, product information, sales and others.
At Time Warner Cable — which hopes to merge with Comcast if the federal government approves — social media has been a large part of the customer-service function.
TWC said it has grown its social-media team from to 25 since launching the unit in 2010 with three on the staff.
Cox Communications, Suddenlink Communications and Mediacom Communications also have embraced social media as a way to provide quick solutions to service issues, identify potential trouble spots in the network and bolster good will.
Charter Communications, which does have a Twitter and Facebook presence, has focused its social media efforts mainly on promoting shows and events. In December 2012, Charter laid off the bulk of its social media team when it shuttered its Umatter2Charter social-media care unit. Asked to comment for this story, Charter said in a statement: “Social media is an important component of our marketing and customer service strategy. Charter continues to invest in social listening and uses various social media as a means to engage with our customers, respond to our communities with timely information and provide helpful hints that will keep customers more informed about their service, answers to frequently asked questions, and solutions for common problems.”
Suddenlink has used social media as part of customer care since 2006 and has several people dedicated to the function. Suddenlink has about 1.4 million customers in nine states.
“Like Comcast and others, we recognize the growing importance of helping customers in the social space,” Suddenlink said in a statement, adding that customer activity was initially focused on forums and blogs but has shifted to Facebook and Twitter. “We’ve adjusted our focus accordingly.”
Mediacom Communications has about nine employees dedicated to the socialmedia function, which given its size (about 1 million video customers) is a better ratio than most MSOs.
Senior vice president of customer service and financial operations Tapan Dandnaik said social media can be a valuable tool in engaging customers with the company and its products as well as determining service problems.
MEDIACOM GETS PROACTIVE
Mediacom vice president of customer service Jon Coscia, who manages the social-media team, said the company seeks out negative reviews and reaches out to customers who report problems via social media and forums like DSLReports .
“Sometimes they will alert us of technical issues that are going on underneath the covers,” Coscia said of sites like DSLReports. “It’s a highly technical group and we’ll get good balanced feedback on how certain issues are being received by the technical community.”
Comcast said its social media care team has access to the same tools as call-center agents — they have a direct line into tech teams so they can schedule appointments. The cable company also will add analysts to monitor activity on social media to identify broader potential service issues. Comcast also has set a goal to respond to social media requests within 30 minutes, no small task when you consider Comcast has about 22 million customers.
“We are going to continue to grow social care as much as it takes to make it a real, vibrant way for customers to get their questions answered and issues resolved,” Karinshak said in the blog post. “We’re just beginning the hiring process now and it’s going to take some time to get up and running, but we are really excited about the possibilities.”
Cable operators are beefing up their social-media presence in an effort to enhance the customer service experience. Here’s a look at the efforts of one —
Time Warner Cable.
► Launched Social Media Team in 2010; expanded from three representatives to 25.
► TWC’s Social Media Team opens 12,000 customer cases per month on average, in addition to moderating its peerto-peer community forums; responds to 50,000 posts per month on average and, overall, reviews 200,000 mentions of TWC per month.
► TWC responds to most posts via social within 60 minutes.
► Operates primarily on Facebook and Twitter, the TWC Community forums and third-party forums.