Tweeting as a Life Skill: Customer Service on Social Media

Now this is a first for me – social media network turned lifesaver.  Last Wednesday we had an electrical storm that fried my router.  A word about that storm – intense, lightning every few seconds.

My wireless didn’t work, and since the modem was plugged into the router, I didn’t realize I was online, just my computer couldn’t connect through the router. I was under the impression it was an area service outage – except the outage didn’t end, and no one else seemed to be affected.

A day into the “area outage” I realized I needed to call customer service at Comcast – the ole 800-COMCAST number.  I tried speaking with the random person that came on after navigating the phone menu.  She tried resetting the switch and said it should be working.  Then when I mentioned the service outage she agreed that must be it and told me I could get reimbursed for the time down.  I had a funny feeling that was not the right answer, so the next day I tried calling one of the retail locations near me, found using Comcast’s store locator.  That was quite the dead end, as I was told that unless I needed something installed they wouldn’t be any help.  Keep in mind that my problem was actually not with Comcast, so in a way they were right.  It was faulty equipment, but I was still under the impression that there was something affecting my area, so I wasn’t pulling out wires and figuring it out.

Finally I dared a buddy of mine to dare me to try a post on twitter (or tweet) to the attention of comcastcares, whom I would later affectionately refer to as Frank.  For anyone who might need to know, to tweet to someone’s attention on twitter you post the @ symbol in front of their user name, and the @ plus user name has to be the first word in your update.  Otherwise they probably won’t see it.  This is referred to as “replying” to that person or “atting” that person – yes they call it replying even if it’s not in response to a prior tweet from them.

I tweeted:
@comcastcares alright here goes – I’ve been without the internet since the MA/RI storm & tornado – zip is 02769, called Comcast, no luck “
Within a few minutes I got a reply back:
@saranicole If you DM the phone number on the account I can take a look
For any non-twitter users out there, “DM” means “direct message”, which is Twitter’s private messaging system, accessed using the direct message tab in the sidebar on the home page. Frank proceeded to reset the modem and told me it was online so I should be good to go. However, if I had any further questions I could DM him from home from my mobile phone.

Fast forward to that evening – still not online, so I dm’d him my woe-is-me-still-not-online and within about two minutes the phone was ringing.  It was Frank, and he actually talked me through troubleshooting the equipment.  He cleared up the question I had had about the area-wide service outage – it was actually a cable television outage, which had nothing to do with internet service.  In other words I would have been waiting with no hope in sight under a mistaken impression had I not taken action.  Meanwhile, he concluded the modem was faulty after about ten minutes on the line (this was a mistake, but it was because I didn’t plug in a cable correctly – otherwise he would have undoubtedly figured out it was the router, no problem). I went ahead and bought a new modem on his recommendation and feverishly installed it and called Comcast (the 1-800 number) to activate it.  Still no.  By process of elimination the router was it.  I rushed back to Best Buy (which doesn’t need a customer service twitter patch by the way – I could call their phone number and get a local, knowledgeable person, as opposed to Circuit City which I called first and got nobody, so service really does matter) and bought a fifty dollar router five minutes before they closed.  I hooked up the router and presto – back online, both my desktop and my laptop.

On one hand, companies shouldn’t need a “twitter patch” for their customer service.  When I call I should get a live, local person with the power to help me.  Since I mention Best Buy, their Geek Squad probably could have helped me figure out the problem too.  However for getting in touch with a real live rep from Comcast who could help me, Frank was the man.   I’m going to get a little personal here and challenge Amtrak and Dell to apply the twitter patch to their customer service nightmare.  It may not work for everybody, but it will work for some, and I’m glad not to be a statistic, still waiting for my “area-wide service outage” to clear up.

Additional links:

New York Times article this Friday on Frank and Comcastcares:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/25/technology/25comcast.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=comcast%20cares&st=cse&oref=slogin

Adele’s blog post on ABC and Twitter users from this Tuesday:
http://www.adelemcalear.com/2008/07/22/abc-sets-up-new-twitter-users-to-be-disappointed/

My conversation with Frank via Twitter:
http://search.twitter.com/search?q=comcastcares+saranicole

Link to my Phreadz post talking about Comcastcares and my customer service experience
http://phreadz.com/p/1R5B4AP7U16/

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