I read an interesting article in the Boston Globe yesterday about a disgruntled Comcast customer, C.C. Chapman, who Twittered a complaint about his TV reception and got some stellar customer service. Within minutes a Comcast customer service rep contacted him on Twitter and within a day he had a technician at his house to fix the problem. This quick response turned this disgruntled customer into a brand evangelist almost overnight; the Boston Globe caught wind and created a little bit of a buzz regarding Comcast's customer service. Come to think of it, this could be the first time I've ever seen a positive story about Comcast on Digg's homepage. This was a huge win for Comcast as their reputation online has been less than enviable to say the least.
What I find significant about this story is not the fact that they responded so quickly but who they responded to; C.C. Chapman knows his way around the web and when he talks, people listen. He runs his own marketing agency, The Advance Guard, as well as a number of very popular podcasts including the award winning Accident Hash. As you can imagine, this guy has a lot of reach online. I would be pretty surprised to learn that they addressed his complaint by chance considering that another tech blogging power-house, Michael Arrington, had the exact same experience a couple of months earlier.
In his post, Arrington suggests that using Tweetscan to monitor complaints on twitter is a good way to nip potentially big problems at the bud. The Boston Globe article mentions companies assigning employees to specific social media monitoring tasks such as Southwest Airline's Chief Twitter Officer. Comcast is most probably doing both. I would also speculate that Comcast is using a much more robust system of reporting that would allow them to track speaker reach, influence, sentiment and much more when it comes to deciding which mentions of their brand to respond to. There are a number of companies out there who are providing clients with detailed, segmented and actionable reports that give brands an incredibly clear picture of who's saying what about them online.
The image below is only part of Visible Technologies' TruCast reports. As you can see, their 'Ecosystem' maps out the main people discussing your brand online and makes it very easy to see who's being nice, who's being mean, how they're connected to each other and what sort of pull they have. By clicking through to each speaker, you can see exactly what they're saying, who's listening and engage them directly.
Andiamo Systems has a very intuitive and newly redesigned UI that makes it easy to find what's being said and who's saying it. They provide a 1-100 rating of the speaker influence, which is a factor of speaker reach and authority (you mouse over speaker influence to see the 1-5 rating for reach and authority.). Again, you can click through to the specific mention and engage the speaker directly.
With this level of reporting available to them, I don't think there's any way Comcast caught on to Chapman and Arrington's complaints by chance. This Digg comment shows that not everybody gets this type of 1st Class treatment; however, I'm not sure it would be a viable solution to respond to every complaint that comes through Twitter or is posted on a blog. By responding to the right complaints in a timely fashion, Comcast secured a number of positive high-profile tweets and blog posts (not to mention an article in the Boston Globe) that helped combat the bad image they've been suffering from online.
My two quick blurbs don't do any justice to the true capacity and functionality of Visible Tech or Andiamo. If you find their tools interesting, I highly suggest requesting a demo here and watching one here