Archive for the ‘Comcast’ Tag

Companies Without Conversation: Comcast Gets Twitter; Circuit City Does Not

Comcast and Circuit City have many things in common.

Both companies sell products and services that deliver video and internet to American consumers.  They also share the dubious distinction of consistently scoring near the bottom of their respective industries in the American Consumer Satisfaction Index surveys (see here & here).

With limited competition, Comcast’s dismal rating doesn’t pose as great a risk to their future profitability as does Circuit City’s score, which is clearly reflected in their ever sinking stock price.  Over the last few years, Circuit City has not executed well at meeting customer expectations.  As a result, they have lost a big chunk of their base and aren’t attracting new customers as fast as the old ones are leaving.  Consumer Electronics retail is a commodity industry and customers can buy their CE products just about anywhere. Bringing customers back to Circuit City should be the company’s top priority.  Doing so will require a number of things, but consistently meeting or exceeding customer’s expectations would be a good place to start.

Another good place to start might be engaging with customers within their Social Media channels to better understand where the experience breaks down, and to offer unexpected support for problem resolution.  Interestingly, both companies are also getting involved with Social Media.  Circuit City maintains a blog on its website and both companies have started using Twitter; however, the ways in which they are using it couldn’t be farther apart.

Comcast has been receiving a significant amount of positive press from their use of Twitter. Frank Eliason, Comcast’s digital care manager and the man behind the Twitter account, comcastcares, tells me their   Twitter program started back in March ’08.  Using a number of monitoring tools, Frank and his small team listen to the stream of “Tweets” coming from Twitter looking for comments about Comcast.  When they encounter one, they immediately reply to the person who made the comment, usually asking if they can help.  As of this writing, comcastcares has made over 10,000 updates and has over 2700 followers.  They operate comcastcares like some kind of proactive help desk, contacting customers who have publicly shared that they are having a problem.

Think about that for a minute.

A company that is actively trying to address every complaint made about it on Twitter.  Every problem solved here equates to a customer whose expectations have been exceeded.  Those customers will are going to tell others about their great experience.  More importantly, by listening to its customers, Comcast is learning about the things that are getting in the way of a great customer experience.  It’s a feedback loop that can be used to drive improvements into their operational programs.

Circuit City on the other hand doesn’t seem to understand the basic concept here.  They established their Twitter account, Circuit_City, about the same time as Comcast, but roughly six months later, they haven’t even broken triple digits in Updates. Circuit City isn’t using Twitter to listen for and help frustrated customers or to find opportunities for improvement in their operational procedures.  Instead, they are treating Twitter (and their CityCenter blog) like any another advertising channel.  There is no conversation, just one-way messaging.  There is no “How Can I Help You?”, there’s just “Here’s some more stuff that you should buy”.   Most of the tweets are links to posts on their blog which is focused on products that Circuit City sells.

One could argue that Circuit City does not have as many detractors as Comcast, but there are clearly opportunities out there.

Earlier this week, I saw a Twitter user contemplating going to Circuit City to purchase a wireless card (see the accompanying Twitter thread).  When he tweeted “Circuit City sucks!  Why are they still in business?“, it would have been a great time for Circuit’s Twitter team to step in and try to salvage this experience.

Unfortunately, Circuit City isn’t listening, they are just talking.  Business as usual.

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Study:Majority Use Social Media to ‘Vent’ About Customer Care. Are You Listening?

An recent study commissioned by a Burlington, MA-based provider of voice-recognition solutions found that 72 percent of respondents used social media to research a company’s reputation for customer care before making a purchase, and 74 percent choose to do business with companies based on the customer care experiences shared by others online. The online study of 300 volunteer respondents doesn’t qualify as statistically accurate, but it is informative from a directional standpoint.

59 percent of the respondents said they regularly use social media to “vent” about their customer care frustrations. Readers of this blog know that I occasionallyventhere and so do many others that I follow. Michael Arrington’s recent Comcast experience is a high-profile example which has received a fair amount of discussion in social media circles. If you haven’t heard the story, ends up with an executive at Comcast contacting Arrington because of a Twitter post that he had made about how frustrated he was with Comcast.

Two thirds of the study’s respondents felt that companies don’t take online complaints seriously. Think about that for a minute. Empowered by the powerful online search capabilities, customers have grown accustomed to instant access to information and have developed increasingly high standards for customer service. They no longer need to be tied to a company. Add in Social Media, where the customer has a global voice and you now have citizen marketers who can potentially impact a company’s reputation for good or bad.

Nick O’Neill over at Social Times recently asked if a large brand like Walmart could monitor all the comments made about them on Twitter and contact people that had a poor experience in their store. After measuring the volume of Tweets pertaining to Walmart at around one every half hour, O’Neill suggested that the answer is Yes. Of course, companies are skeptical about the need to participate in social media. How much of a difference will reaching out to a couple dozen irritated customers a day (most of whom are nowhere as influential as Arrington) make? I would have to say that today it’s probably not as impactful as many of us in the Social Media Echo Chamber would like to believe.

On the other hand, intercepting and satisfying a pissed-off Michael Arrington can go a long way in preventing a social media comment from escalating into a much larger public relations issue. Moreover, as Millennials. for whom social media is a typically a natural extension of their lives, move from consumers to customers, it’s going to become increasingly important for companies to be listening and engaging in these channels. These customers aren’t going to be letter-writers like their parents were. They are going to be vocal about their experiences, expectations and frustrations as customers publicly and on-line. Companies who learn to listen and engage now (and I don’t mean using Social Media as another one-way marketing vehicle) will be better positioned to compete for these new customers in the future

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¿Habla Español? and Other Direct Marketing Annoyances

enterprise.jpgEarlier this week, I received an email offer from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Too bad I couldn’t read it. It was sent to me in Spanish. Now I’ve supported Direct Marketing IT operations in the past, so I understand how this could have happened. Still, that doesn’t make it right. Companies who use direct marketing often walk a fine line between sending junk mail/spam and something that will be of value to the customer. The objective of course is to be highly accurate in the targeting to maximize response rate and minimize costs. Web-mail marketers don’t have the cost incentives that snail-mail marketers have, but they should still be vigilant to ensure that their marketing is, at a minimum, not an annoyance, and optimally, seen as something of value to the recipient.

In the case of Enterprise, I don’t know if just my record has been mistakenly updated to indicate a Spanish preference, or if this was a larger problem affecting many people. Apparently Enterprise either doesn’t know about it either or perhaps they do but don’t care enough about their customers to send a follow-up explaining what happened. Either way, it’s sloppy marketing and reflects poorly on their company.

With that as a backdrop, here are a few other annoyances that I’ve been meaning to whine about for some time now.

Comcast

It’s bad enough that your monopoly (in my area) on highspeed internet access allows you to gouge me for your services, but when you send glossy, four color mailers to me every other day and usually send multiple copies (one for me and one for my wife), I have to wonder how much less I could be paying each month if I didn’t have to subsidize your highly inefficient marketing.

Geico

Geico must have one of the largest advertising budgets of any company. You can see their messaging everywhere from TV (multiple simultaneous campaigns) to banners flown behind crop dusters that fly up and down the Northern Outer Banks of NC and yes, I switched a year ago and I am saving 15% or more on my car insurance. So why do you keep sending direct mail pieces to me telling me to switch to Geico??? Do you not update your prospects list after people switch to you? Like with Comcast, I wonder how much more I could be saving if you stopped wasting money soliciting customers you already have.

Capital One

Back in August, both my wife and I received notes from Capital One saying that they would be raising the rate on our cards to some outrageous figure north of 20% in 60 days. That was an effective campaign for their competition as we immediately took the “offer du jour” from one of the other 10 credit card companies that solicit us and transferred our balances to fixed low rate accounts. Perhaps that’s what Capital One wanted, but clearly, the message that I heard was that we were not valued customers. Of course, Capital One continued their weekly barrage with offers telling me I can get low interest loans and even transfer balances at a low fixed rate to our newly zeroed credit cards. They never did raise the rate on our cards and I have not used any of their services since.

Takeaways

I could go on with things like misspellings and blatantly wrong names, but you get the point. Whether big or small, companies that choose direct mail/webmail, must earn and maintain the respect of their valued customers and prospects. Here are some thoughts on that:

  1. Take the time to validate your campaign at critical points prior to release. Was the target group selected accurately and was that same group sent to the production house?
  2. Are you ensuring that your data is scrubbed and accurate. If you don’t care enough to get my name right, why should I consider your product or service? Are you sending things addressed to people who no longer live at my address? Does the rest of you operation lack the same attention to detail?
  3. If you are selling a service (like Geico or Comcast) stop sending solicitations once your prospect signs up with you. I know that the target lists are often selected weeks ahead of the actual mailing, but it’s pretty easy to insert a process to pull names from the list just before the pieces are generated by the production house. A couple of weeks overlap is OK, but much longer than that becomes annoying for me and costly for you.
  4. Ensure that the message you are sending in a marketing piece does not conflict with other messages, whether from marketing or other parts of your organization.

What are your direct marketing pet peeves and what suggestions do you have for direct marketers to help them earn and maintain the respect of their customers?

Update

Apparently Enterprise became aware of their Spanish email problem. Today I received another email from the apologizing for their mistake and offering me a discount or upgrade on a future rental. Which reminds me of another takeaway:

    • Make sure you monitor your campaigns to ensure that they execute as planned. When they don’t, as in the Enterprise case, make sure you follow-up with your customers with an apology.
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