by Charles Miller on April 19, 2008

A week or two ago, TechCrunch's Michael Arrington had a problem with his Comcast Internet access, and tore into the company over Twitter, causing the usual minor blog-storm.

Comcast's reaction to this was interesting. They opened a Twitter account to watch for and respond to as many mentions of their company as they could.

At the face of it, this isn't a bad idea. I've got a couple of similar keyword watches on Twitter myself, and have been known score some cheap goodwill points for my employer by following up on the occasional alert. I just can't help thinking that there's something in the big company DNA that is unable to adapt to this kind of public-but-personal service.

Here are some direct quotes from the "comcastcares" Twitter account, all from the last twenty-four hours.

  • "I do hope we will be able to change any negative perception" #
  • "I hope we can change your perception." #
  • "I hope I can change your perception of Comcast!" #
  • "How can we change your perception?" #

When a phrasing like this is (a) so unlike normal speech, and (b) repeated so often, it's pretty clear that it's being used as a matter of policy. Some meeting was had to whiteboard the perfect response that sounds concerned and proactive, but admits absolutely no fault on the part of the carrier.

Which is a problem. When someone complains, they want someone to ask them "What's wrong?" and be in a position to fix it. They don't want to hear that really everything is fine, and it's their perception that's at fault. It's no wonder people sometimes get pissed off by the response.

Joining in the online conversation is a great way to connect to your customers. But only if you're prepared to be human and honest.

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