Companies, today, have many avenues in which they can interact with customers. Quite a few companies, many who had (or still have) awful reputations for customer service have embraced these new avenues and are, albeit slowly, changing that perception and embracing a more open and honest relationship with their customers.
Take Comcast, for example. This company has never been known as a customer friendly company. Ask pretty much anyone who has had to deal with them for a problem and they will tell you just how rough an experience that can be. Well, I”m happy to report that Comcast is trying to change that. They now have people dedicated to helping customers via the Internet. I have experienced this first hand. I had written a post about an email issue and in short time, I got a response directly from them. It was very nice and the person did a good job at explaining just what had happened. I was OK with what they did, AFTER I got that message. The problem was that the email they sent me was very poorly worded and, in effect, accused me of being a spammer. The person who responded to my post explained why they did what they did (re-assign my outgoing port to something other than the default) and that went a long way to changing my opinion. I also Twittered a couple of questions about the 250gb cap and I got several responses. Very nice. Comcast not only monitors blogs, but also Twitter. I can only guess that they also monitor My Space, Facebook and other social sites. Kudos to them for doing that. My only issue with this is that they really should retrain the front line people (as well as those who send out the emails) to be more friendly and upfront. (Although I can certainly understand that they deal with many irate people on a daily basis. I’ve worked retail and can understand how one’s patience can get might thin. I won’t ding the front line office people too much. They do an OK job, considering the people they deal with everyday.)
Other companies also monitor their own forums, Twitter, chat rooms and other social sites as well as blogs. Companies like Microsoft, Apple and Palm all have people who respond this way.
Another impressive company is Peek. Since I purchased my Peek, I’ve been actively reading the Peek community forums. They also monitor and respond via Twitter (@peekinc) and email. Many, if not most, of the questions posed in the company forums get an answer from the company (tmel is one person I see answering questions) and they do seem to try to address the issues they can actually fix and don’t get too defensive with criticism. It is very refreshing to see such responsiveness – and politeness – from a commercial entity.
There is no doubt that the Internet and social media in general, is re-writing the book on company-customer relationships. The few companies I mentioned here are by no means the only ones using the new tools, but they do stand out to me as good examples. Comcast, especially. They have had one of the worst reputations of any company that I have ever dealt with. They are actively trying to fix that. The steps they are taking are small, but they are also very important and prove just how effective things like blogs, Twitter and other such things really are.
I, for one, no longer feel helpless or like I am being brushed aside. Having this new toolset is very empowering. There is a danger of abuse, though. I certainly hope that that abuse – on the consumer side – is kept to a minimum. It would be really bad if all of this progress got swept aside because a few people abused it.