Comcast’s Twitter exponent uses a careful mix of social media and traditional customer service.

Customer service done publicly on the Web is not different than the way customer service professionals work offline – from coaching reps to handling calls, chat or e-mail.

Before logging on, the first step is to hire the right people. Next you must define your goals. One of Comcast’s key goals has been to meet our customers where they already are — whether it’s in person, on the phone or online. From there, our other goals were easy: to listen and learn from our customers and offer assistance when possible.

We know some of the best customer service calls are those where a personal connection develops between the representative and the customer. It’s all about relationships and connections. The same holds true in social media.

At Comcast, we strive in many ways to put a human face on each interaction. On Twitter, each of our team has his or her own account. Each also uses an avatar (a photo, picture or design that represents a person). Some on my team use a symbol; others use a picture of themselves. It’s a matter of courtesy: when someone calls, you always provide your name. Do the same online.

Keep it real and transparent. In the social media space it’s important to be as open and honest as possible. If you don’t know the answer, say so. Avoid spin and accept all feedback.

Only sell when it’s appropriate. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than when someone in customer care tries to sell something to the customer yet fails to resolve the reason for the call. Selling for the sake of selling never goes well.

Social media engagement can be very rewarding for companies, but it’s important to plan and do it right. People who represent your company need to have access to different parts of the organization to resolve concerns in a timely manner and share feedback.

Historically, customer care started with in-person service. Through the years we added mail, phone calls, email and chat to the mix. And now, the next evolution is the social media frontier.

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