How Comcast Built A Winning Social Media Customer Service Team

Jared Schultheis, Executive Director of Digital Care at Comcast, joins the Social Pros Podcast to discuss how a Fortune 500 global telecommunications heavyweight utilizes social care to respond to hundreds of customers in real-time.

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Full Episode Details

From Phones to Computers

Taking care of your customers over social started out as a small favor to the base but has become a huge component of customer service for businesses of all sizes and specialties. Increasingly, customers are turning to social first over the more traditional modes of communication (phone and in-person).

As the volume of social touches skyrockets, companies are struggling with how to incorporate this into their business structure.

Comcast manages hundreds upon thousands of social inquiries that come in from across the globe. In spite of this daunting magnitude of engagement, Jared has figured out how to manage responding in real-time and staying connected through smart use of automation and employee training.

He shares that giving your employees a degree of freedom to respond naturally (instead of dictating scripts) creates a more human and engaging conversation that cultivates the corporate-customer relationship. Also key is understanding that these days, reaching out over social can be the first and last line of communication between you and a customer. It’s vital to keep this in mind when prioritizing corporate interests and including social customer care towards the top of the list.

In This Episode

  • How organization leads to the best management of high social care volume that comes into a cross-country team
  • Why successfully supporting customers means hopping online instead of picking up the phone
  • How letting your team respond in their own unique way leads to more authentic interactions with customers over social
  • Why staying on top of volume and reacting in real time means utilizing automation
  • How a career in customer service translates perfectly to a career in social media

 

Quotes From This Episode

“Entrance into a new platform takes some planning and coordination across the multiple teams who have a stake in the social space.” —@jar8d

“None of this would have been possible if we hadn’t scaled the way we did. It’s really allowed us to do some pretty cool stuff.” —@jar8d

“More and more customers are looking for alternative ways to contact brands about issues.” —@jar8d 

Increasingly we are seeing customers turn to social, messaging, or community for support.” —@jar8d 

“We’re able to provide real-time, raw feedback from our customers when things are happening in the environment.” —@jar8d

“One of their core objectives is to humanize the brand.” —@jar8d

“We don’t want to prescribe what our specialists are saying to customers.” —@jar8d 

“At the same time we’re seeing customers turning to social for answers, we’re also seeing an overall decrease in customers reaching out to brands because they are able to solve things more on their own.” —@jar8d

“Digital communications are definitely going to start to see a real meaningful shift to written support from customers.” —@jar8d

“There’s absolutely a place for automation and automatic routing of volume that comes in.” —@jar8d 

Not everyone digests information in the same way.” —@jar8d

“Being comfortable speaking to customers helps humanize the brand and is really important. You really have to have your own voice in this space to be successful.” —@jar8d

“Customer service is a transferable skill.” —@jar8d 

“We’re going to see a point where video, voice, and written channels start to merge and it’s going to become easily transferable from one to another.” —@jar8d

Resources

 

See you next week!

Audio Transcript

Jay: Welcome everybody to Social Pros, the podcast for real people doing real work in social media. I am, as always, Jay Baer from Convince and Convert. Joined as usual by my special Texas friend, he is the Executive Strategist for Sales Force Marketing Cloud. From Austin, Texas, put your hands together, unless you’re driving, for Mr. Adam Brown.
Adam: Thank you Jay. Yes, if you’re driving keep those hands at 10 and two. This message brought to you by your local auto insurance agent.
Jay: Allstate we do some work for those guys so let’s make it from Allstate.
Adam: From Allstate, you’re in better hands, correct?
Jay: Don’t succumb to mayhem.
Adam: That is one of my favorite TV commercial and pains right now.
Jay: It’s so great, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Adam: Yes, I mean you’ve got the lizard, you got Jake from the red shirt place, but the Allstate and the mayhem, one of my favorite campaigns going right now.
Jay: Was it two years ago where they did the Superbowl commercial where mayhem broke into the people’s house and was selling their stuff on eBay during the game. That was inspired advertising. I usually feel like Superbowl ads-
Adam: Do you know where your mayhem is?
Jay: I usually feel like Superbowl ads are a little overplayed, but that was truly, truly great. Speaking of mayhem, you know who has a job filled with mayhem?
Adam: It is our guest, and one of the things Jay I love about our guest today is truly this organization is one of the pioneers of this entire space that we’ve been talking about for many moons, many years here on Social Pros.
Jay: Yes no kidding, talk about an organization that put a flag in the ground and continues to lead from the front in the area of social media, customer service. Joining us today on the Social Pros podcast, the Executive Director of Digital Care for Comcast, it is Jared Schultheis. Jared thanks so much for being on the show.
Jared: Absolutely, thanks for having me.
Jay: You are in Phili there at the home office. Comcast, of course, has got tentacles all over this great land of ours and powers the television, the internet, the home phone, and the home security of many, many, many millions of Americans and beyond. Tell us what your role is within that ecosystem.
Jared: Sure, so as you mentioned I lead the digital care team. We’re a group of around 150 customer facing employees now who’s job is fairly straightforward. We look to support customers having service issues via social media.
Jay: As Adam mentioned, Comcast and the original @comcastcares Twitter account was one of the very first major corporate forays into social media customer service led by Frank Eliason who was the then kind of social media customer service person at Comcast. Wrote a book about it and is now part of the Brain+Trust Partners consultancy. You guys have come a long way since those early days.
Jared: We have, we are coming up on 10 years now since @comcastcares launched, which is a lifetime I think in the social space.
Adam: It’s basically the entire history of Twitter really.
Jared: The entire history of social space. Frank and just a few people with him, back when this team started, were really visionaries, and what started as a handful of people talking to a couple of thousand customers a year via social has now grown into this bicoastal, bilingual, 24/7, 365 shop that we lead now where we’re going to talk to nearly a million customers this year via social.
Jay: A million customers.
Jared: The growth has been exceptional.
Jay: A million customers interacted with in social in 2017 ladies and gentlemen, that is extraordinary. What channels do you support in the digital care team on the social side?
Jared: We are kind of bread and butter has always been Twitter and Facebook and it kind of continues to be. We’re also heavily involved in our own help and support forums which if we have a chance to talk about I’d love to do so. This year we’re expanding into a few other platforms as well. Reddit, we’re actually already in Reddit a bit but we’re formalizing our presence there, and we’re expanding into Instagram and YouTube this year as well, and a couple other ones are on the radar that we’re thinking about.
Jay: Fascinating, Instagram in particular is really one that you don’t see very often brands spending proactive time in from a care perspective. Do you have or do you anticipate a dedicated ComcastCares Instagram account or is it that if somebody posts a customer service issue on the regular Comcast marketing Instagram account that you sort of swoop in and save the day?
Jared: Plans aren’t entirely finalized for Instagram. We have both of the models you just described exist here at Comcast, so on Facebook we support our marketing and our communications pages. On Twitter we have our own presence as well as supporting the marketing and the communications handles. Both models have worked and continue to work successfully here and I’m not 100% certain how we’re going to roll out Instagram, but it’s going to be one of the two and I’m pretty excited about it. I imagine that Instagram will function for us kind of functionally operationaly largely, at least on the care side largely like Facebook does. As we’ve learned over the years, entrance into a new platform, especially at an organization as large as Comcast, which you talked about earlier, takes some planning and coordination across the multiple teams who have kind of a stake in the social space. That’s what we’re working through and finalizing now.
Jay: How many individualists do you have on the digital care team? I know you’re expanding very rapidly, but what does that team look like?
Jared: We are around 150 people now, but we’re in the middle of hiring a good chunk of folks. We’ll be around 230 come mid-summer this year on the team. Our group is split up into three groups. We’re here in Philadelphia, we have a team in Denver, and a team in Tucson. We have 20, 25-
Jay: Go Wildcats, [air down 00:06:24], Arizona grad right here.
Jared: That’s great, yes we have a very loyal, a few fans out there in Arizona and Arizona fans on our team in Tucson. Tucson’s also the home of our bilingual team. We’re spread out across the country. As the team’s grown one of the things I think I’m most proud of that this team has done is we’ve figured out how to support this team that is spread out across the country, we have a large portion of the team who works out of their house, works from home, and we’re able to do so in a way that keeps the team tight, keeps communications open. While we’re spread out physically and around the clock, it never feels like we’re far away from each other, so it’s one of the things I think we’ve been able to do really well over the last couple of years as we’ve grown so quickly.
Jay: More than 200 full-time folks working in social media customer service, social pres listeners. That is really something.
Adam: That’s amazing.
Jay: Yes isn’t it? Jared do you divide the responsibilities of the digital care team by channel? So somebody is a Facebook rep, or a Twitter rep, or Reddit rep, or do they work horizontally across contact mechanisms?
Jared: That’s a great question and we have used both approaches. Right now and for the last couple years we’ve had folks working horizontally for the most part, especially for our large platforms Twitter and Facebook, so there really is no differentiation at the specialist level. Specialists are what we call the folks on the team are customer facing. We’ve come up with some interesting things from an organizational perspective, how to best manage volume that comes into the team. We have a group of folks who simply triage volume that comes in and they help us sort it and figure out what needs to go where and how we work it, and if there’s something that’s going to be interesting to a group outside of customer service we get eyes on it pretty quickly and get it over to that team through queuing and the tool we use.

We have a whole group a folks who really just triage that volume as it comes in and they’re dealing with upwards of 10,000 inbound posts and tweets a day coming through the triage function. Then the engagement function, that’s the bulk of the team who work with customers. They are, as we talked about just now, horizontal so they really support almost all platforms and 95% of the volume or so. The model we’ve set up allows us to really quickly sort through the volume as it comes in, make sure we’re getting the purely care issues and the issues … I’m sorry questions that customers have around products and services and other things that Comcast offers, making sure that we’re queuing those up to respond to as quickly as we can, and then getting the other volume that could be interesting to other folks in the organization to them as quickly as we can.

Then lastly after the escalation group we have a team of specialists that handle just the really high complexity stuff that we send to if one of our engagement folks will find themselves working for hours on the same issue. We’re able to get it off to the special group of folks, also within digital care who handle the most complex issues. This model has really evolved over the years. I’ve been with the team for four years now and when I joined I was the 13th employee on the digital care team, so you can see the growth in just four years and this model really would have been impossible at that size. Really fortunate [crosstalk 00:09:47].

Jay: I’m sure at that point everybody was doing triage, and everybody was doing response, and everybody was doing escalation essentially.
Jared: Yes and everyone was doing reporting, and scheduling, and staffing, and group quality, and group management updates, and everything else. Really none of this would have been possible if we hadn’t penned the scale the way we do. We’re really fortunate that the organization has invested so much time and energy into the growth of the digital care team. It’s really allowed us to do some pretty spectacular stuff.
Jay: Why is that support there at Comcast? Is it purely a function of a demand curve that more and more Comcast customers prefer to use social channels when contacting the company either because it’s just their channel preference as a media habits perspective or they feel like they’re going to get a better outcome, or is there a cost advantage to doing it this way or a customer satisfaction or reduction in customer turn ultimately from doing social care? What’s the kind of business case for this kind of expansion?
Jared: I would say that there’s two main factors of it although everything you mentioned is part of the story. Initially it’s simply demand. As you said, more and more customers are looking for alternative ways to contact brands regarding issues. While the phone environment isn’t going to go any time soon, the chat environment isn’t going to go away anytime soon, increasingly we’re seeing customers turn to social or turn to messaging or turn to community for support. Really it is just a demand and supply issue or question on one side. I also think we’re able to provide some … What differentiates us in social is that we’re able to provide realtime, raw feedback from our customers when things are happening in the environment. Whether it has to do with customers are commenting around a broadcast that is on one of our stations in some location, or customers are commenting on a new product launch, we’re constantly launching new products at Comcast which is great.

It gives us the ability to track kind of realtime and provide feedback to our partners in engineering, our partners in technology, our partners in product, our partners communication and marketing. The access to that information and access to what customers are saying in a realtime environment, making it available, providing not just data but actionable information to these folks is one of the things that sets us apart and I believe has helped secure some of that support from our leadership teams.

Jay: You mentioned that you interact with the marketing team, especially on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, places where you may not have dedicated accounts. Are you all using the same software then, is the social media marketing team and the digital care team using the same tools to manage and engage with customers in those social channels, or do you have your software package and the marketing folks have a different software package?
Jared: Right now we are using separate platforms. There are a lot of tools in this space and there’s a lot of tools that have different functionality. I kind of break it up into three big categories. You have your listening platforms, you have your engagement platforms, and you have your publishing platforms. There are absolutely some tools out there that do all three, I think we’ve each found our niche and our comfort zone with different products. We have deployed three across the organization. That said, we work really closely together across all the functions engaged in social, and while we are in different tools at times there is integration in a number of points, especially operationally where we keep in close contact regarding what’s going on so we’re able to avoid collisions. At this point we are utilizing [crosstalk 00:13:37].
Jay: That’s great, that integration is so important. We see that to be a real challenge for a lot of organizations when they’re working in separate tools is just making sure those handoffs are smooth and that the tracking works too. That when you hand it off you can actually say did this get handled, did this get closed out, those kind of things.
Jared: Yes.
Jay: I’m sure, given the work that you do and the kind of company that Comcast is, that you get a lot of similar questions. There’s probably a lot of repeats and certainly if you have an outage or something like that that affects a lot of customers you get a number of people asking the same questions, etc. Do you script out common responses for the digital care team or do you sort of have the go to, all right guys, this call is for answer C, everybody use answer C. How much leeway do you give digital care reps to put their own spin on their interactions with customers on Twitter, Facebook, and beyond?
Jared: That’s a great question and the answer to that kind of predates me, it goes all the way back to Frank and part of the team back then who started the group. One of their core objectives when they launched the handle and something we’ve continued until now, the digital care team, is to humanize the brand. As part of that we’ve never scripted, never used scripts across the team with what our specialists would say to customers. They have pretty broad leeway in how they communicate with customers. We have, over the years, developed and created a fairly strong program that helps us put the guardrails up and help folks stay in bounds and provide them with the necessary tools to get the right answers for customers. When they’re interacting with customers, even if they’re getting the same question day in and day out and you’re right we do get a lot of that, they really have broad leeway in how they communicate it with customers. It’s just like a conversation like the one we’re having now. They develop and they progress on their own, they each take on a life of their own and we certainly don’t want to prescribe what our specialists are saying to customers. As long as we’re providing accurate information and we’re doing so in a professional manner.
Adam: I think that’s a great point Jared. Authenticity and genuineness of the message is so critical. It’s great to have you on the show Jared Schultheis, Executive Director of Digital Care at Comcast. It’s a treat for Jay and myself because we don’t typically have somebody who has 150, 200 social care people on their team. There are a couple questions I would love to hear your thoughts on as it relates to scale. I know at Sales Force Marketing Cloud, when I’m out talking to customers about our product Social Studio, one of the things we initially thought was that we’d see some sort of shift to social, that we would see a reduction in the number of call center phone calls, emails, and other mediums as people shifted to social. One of the things we’ve actually found, and one of the things I would love to hear your confirmation or non-confirmation on, is that that hasn’t really happened. We’ve seen volumes stay the same but the different types of questions that people answer and ask on phone are very different than the ones on social. I’m curious with the almost a million interactions that you say you’re going to have this year, have you begun to see a reduction in phone and email or is it all kind of staying the same in terms of overall volumes?
Jared: That’s a great question and it’s a tricky one to answer, and I imagine it’s tricky for most people. Along with the shifting of volume in the increasing number of customers that are going to social to talk to brands. Companies have also deployed recently many solutions for customers to solve problems on their own, and so you’re seeing everyone has multiple apps, every brand has multiple apps in which you can go and you can research an issue on your own and try to solve it. At the same time we’re seeing customers turning to social for answers, we’re seeing customers moving from phone to chat or channel shifting, we’re also seeing an overall decrease in customers reaching out to brands because they’re able to solve things more on their own, or even better, devices are able to solve issues on their own before the customer even has a problem or we can proactively reach out to customers before they have a problem.

I think we’re seeing net, and just speaking for myself, but we’re seeing net volumes of customer service inquiries coming down as just products have matured and gotten stronger and self-service opportunities and capabilities have gotten stronger. That said I think we have seen a shift, although the volumes aren’t quite comparable at least here at Comcast to say it’s meaningful from one channel to another, from phone and chat to social, although I think we’re going to see more significant increase in volumes coming through digital channels in the coming years and we’re going to start to be able to talk about measurable impacts and measurable channel shift. I think we see a world or I envision a world where digital channels … We didn’t really get a chance to talk about it but where we see more customers reaching out privately and there’s going to be some merge down the road of customers using application like Facebook Messenger and something like chat on your brand website and it’s interchangeable to the customer, they don’t really see them differently.

I think we’re going to see things like that start to happen in the coming years, although it’s hard to predict. I think digital communications we’re definitely going to start to see real meaningful shift from phone to written support from customers because it puts it on their time.

Adam: Exactly, and the benefit to your organization is that you can also have technicians that are able, or specialists in your parlance to be able to handle kind of multiple conversations at the same time so the efficiency there gets so much higher. You mentioned something that I think excites me, I know it excites Jay and that is really seeing platforms like Facebook Messenger truly even become a platform upon which you have embedded apps, whether it’s you want to get support from Comcast, you want to order an Uber, or you want to check on the status of your pizza. Being able to do all that inside of the Facebook application, so I think that’s a really interesting kind of thing I think that’s short or medium term down the pike.
Jared: I’m starting to think about ways in which I provide service or customer service support via Alexa, I think that’s coming soon too.
Adam: Amazon truly has a powerhouse there.
Jay: Although I am a Comcast, Xfinity customer and the voice activated remote inside the Xfinity is really, really good. It’s remarkably good, it’s sort of Alexa inside the Comcast environment, although obviously it only does Comcast things. I can’t order pants from my Comcast remote yet, but in theory right it’s just an audio input device, that bridge could happen someday which would be amazing.
Jared: Absolutely yes.
Adam: I mean Jay you mentioned that it’s funny, I thought the exact same thing. I was home for the holidays and my folks have Comcast. They live in Tennessee, I live in Austin, Texas where we have somebody else sadly. I remarked at my mom’s new Comcast remote control, the UI of Xfinity and all that and I said, “Okay, this is pretty impressive.” I can imagine a day where that becomes actually another support fixture if it hasn’t already. Jared you mentioned one of the things, as you kind of broke down the structure of your team, there being a sort team and when you’re dealing with a million interactions and I can only imagine how many 10s of millions of actual posts and tweets there are embedded in about a million interactions, you need a sort team. My question is how much automation takes place there? How are you using the automation of looking for keywords or trying to identify customers versus non-customers versus the actual hand curation of those posts as they come in and get delegated to a specialist or somebody else in your organization?
Jared: Yes that’s a great question, one we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about over the years and one I’ve explained to a lot of people when we created and deployed this triage, this sorting team. We deploy kind of a mixture of automation and eyes on glass when it comes to our inbound volume, so I think there’s absolutely a place for automation and kind of automatic routing of volume that comes in and whether it’s keyword or hashtag or what handle the customer used or if we know who the person is coming in, there’s absolutely things we can do with routing. What we’ve found, however, is that while we can get most of the way there with automatic routing, we can’t get entirely there with automatic routing and specifically when there’s some event going on. The creation and deployment of a team that helps us sort and tag things as they come in allows us to A) identify potentially what the customer would like some assistance with upfront at all, so helps us identify trends much quicker than if we’re relying strictly on keyword searches.

Because obviously keyword routing you need to know what you’re looking for and this tool doesn’t know what it doesn’t know and new issues pop up all the time. If we want to really be realtime and be able to identify and act as an early warning system for the organization we found that just putting real people in there and looking at it and using their best judgment when they see things come in and helping us identify trends has been extremely valuable to the organization. It’s really a combination of the both and I think together it works really well. I don’t think either one could do it on it’s own.

Adam: Talk a little bit about that early warning system because that’s a term that’s near and dear to my heart and I think it’s sometimes an under-represented benefit to, not just social customer care but just actionable social listening. How do you Jared, kind of as you sit there as Executive Director of Digital Care, share all the insights from these millions or 10s of millions of things people are saying about your product, about competing products, how are you sharing that information with, whether it’s product R&D for the new Xfinity remote, to programming, to the folks on the technology side, even down to the people who manage the agents and the technicians that come to your house?
Jared: Yes, that is a fabulous question and that’s one that I am always thinking about and I’m always kind of changing my approach. There’s a balance between push and pull information and there are some folks in the organization are really eager to hear about what customers are saying about their products and there are others who are not clamoring for that information. It’s a fine balance between identifying actionable information and then offering up our abilities and saying, “Listen, we’d love to help you out, what do you want to know about” to various folks. Through a combination of realtime dashboards which our technology and engineering teams are very interested in, realtime dashboards which our national resource optimization team, the folks who kind of look at the phones and where are phone volume is going are very interested in and we work really closely with those groups so that’s kind of the realtime stuff.

Then deeper dives into specific topics which can come from any source in the organization. I’ve done deep dives for the legal team, for various product teams, for various technology teams, I’ve worked with the HR function, and a number of different other functions in the organization. There’s deep analytics which you spend a decent amount of time on and it’s looking backwards, there’s realtime analysis and it’s like planning for the unplannable when you’re just always eyes on glass and you’re creating dashboards and communicating with people in realtime, and then there’s event planning, future planning like we’re getting ready for the Superbowl this weekend. Identifying all the people who will be interested in what will be happening in the social space around the Superbowl and how it will impact Comcast and our customers and those who are working to make sure services are available to customers. Different asks from different people have different solutions and I think we just really have to be flexible.

One of the things with providing information for folks is not everyone digests information the same way, so I think we really have to be cognizant of what people are asking for and what they’re interested in, and really make sure that we are adapting our style when it comes to reporting out on what’s going on in the social space in a way that’s digestible by our audience, whoever that audience happens to be. I think that’s one of the ways we stay really relevant.

Adam: Jared I think that’s an extremely important point. I know kind of in the early days when we were doing social customer care at Dell we began to truly give everybody the thud factor, huge deck that had here’s all the things that we’ve learned from our customers in social listening, but then we began to realize we need to be a heck of a lot more prescriptive. We need to give the R&D teams specifically just the conversations that related to a new product design and to the finance team what people were saying about Dell credit, etc., etc. It sounds like that is one of the ways I think you begin to start showing that demonstrable ROI is by making the data that you share more prescriptive and more precise.

I want to ask one more ROI question before I hand it off to Jay, and that is obviously what you’re doing is there’s a cost avoidance play to it and typically in social customer care cost avoidance is a very key metric. All the things that you do with ComcastCares certainly does some transformational things in terms of brand lift, all the insights that we were just talking about you bringing in, that has tremendous value to a company. It’s equivalent to some of the primary or secondary research that companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on each and every year with focus groups or bringing in research groups. How do you begin to quantify all the ROIs that your organization brings Comcast?

Jared: That is a great question and one I think about often, especially as we continue to grow as a team as you can imagine. One that’s on my mind and so as you said up front, first of all there’s just a straight transactional analysis you can do for the team and looking at costs for us compared to costs for other channels, which is fairly traditional way to look at it. I think you mentioned secondarily though there’s a lot of other ways we add value to the organization and there’s a lot of other ways in which we can measure our success.

Some of it is absolutely financial, some of it is features that were implemented because of insights we’ve given to other teams, some of it is kind of were we able to more quickly respond to an issue happening somewhere in our environment because we were able to alert an engineering or technology team quickly? I think there’s a whole different ways we can manage to measure and define our contribution to the organization, some are financial, some are not. The ones that are not financial are obviously harder to quantify, but for those of us in the space I think you can put together a really good story that’s based on whether it’s hard financials or it’s numbers, just metrics saying here are the number of people we’re able to reach. A great example is community, so I can talk a lot about community and the number of customers who can come in and find answers and never really need to pick up the phone and call us because they’re able to go to the community and find what they’re looking for. There’s are real value to both our customers providing a service they really need and to the organization when they do that.

There’s a number of different ways you can cut it and it’s one of the things I like about this channel. We talk about digital care and social care, it’s just another service channel but there’s so much more to it and there’s so many other ways to measure our contributions to the organization.

Jay: Jared I want to ask you a question about your triage program. Often times when Adam and I work with corporate clients, he at Sales Force and us at Convince and Convert on expanding social media customer service, you get this well we don’t have enough people, we don’t have the resources, we can’t answer everybody so we’re going to have to pick and choose which customers we interact with. Then you get into the conversation about well if we’re going to pick and choose which customers to interact with, which may or may not be a good decision to begin with, but then how do you do that? Is it by acuteness of their problem? Some people will say that they’re going to triage based on number of social followers or a “clout score” or something along those lines. What do you believe is the appropriate way to pick and choose if in fact you have to pick and choose?
Jared: Absolutely I think everyone has to pick and choose. I could likely put another 500 people to work tomorrow across various social platforms if I was able to to support customers, so there is a certain … And what I’m talking about is adding additional platforms that we don’t support right now. I certainly don’t think that there is a choice to be made where you prioritize the apparent severity of one customer’s question versus another or the influence of one customer over another. I think a customer is a customer and a customer has an issue and you work to solve it as quickly as you can.

One of the ways in which we have traditionally ring fenced our team is we support customers that reach out to us using our handle or on our Facebook page directly or using a hashtag with Comcast Xfinity in it. That’s one way in which customers can directly get to us and-

Adam: Sort of a direct mention versus an indirect mention?
Jared: Absolutely direct versus indirect.
Adam: Interesting.
Jared: One of the goals we set for this year is to expand further into the indirect side. Beyond that though I think prioritizing by issue or segmenting or sorting by for purposes of what you respond to and what you don’t respond to by severity of issue or by who the customer is I think is absolutely the wrong approach on this channel. I mean could you imagine doing that in a traditional contact center? You really couldn’t prioritize so it’s based on the severity of the call, who they call, when they’re calling in.

One thing I’d like to mention about the triage folks, and maybe an alternate way to think about it for those out there who come from traditional operations environments like I do, is social doesn’t have an IVR up front, there’s nothing in there that says are you calling about a billing issue, or a repair issue, or are you calling to make a payment. We don’t [crosstalk 00:32:39].

Adam: You get the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, you get them all.
Jared: That’s right and there’s no way to know exactly who they are or what they’re writing about when they come in. What the triage function allows us to do is do that first pass and first sorting of it, and it’s done not in an effort to figure out what we respond to and what we don’t respond to, but it’s done in an effort to organize inbound volume in a way that allows us to more quickly get back to customers via these channels and to really operationally meet their expectations. I think of our triage team as our IVR.
Jay: Yes, it’s like a human IVR, that’s a really interesting way of thinking about it. You’ve run one of the worlds largest social media customer service teams, there’s no question about that. You have probably hired or overseen the hiring of as many social media customer care representatives as perhaps anybody working in the space today. What makes a great digital care rep? What personal characteristics or qualities or beliefs or skills makes somebody really good at this? I think it’s an important conversation because you may not need to hire 100 people this year but you’re probably going to have to hire somebody. Everybody listening is going to have to continue to staff for digital care whether they want to or not because customers will simply eventually demand that they be interacted with there, and as you know I wrote a whole book about that concept and I talked about it everyday. We’re faced with all these people trying to staff these roles, but I’m not sure they’re really clear on what they’re looking for. I think you are uniquely qualified to answer that question.
Jared: That’s something we talk about a lot like what is the profile of the person we want on the team and the person on the team who speaks with customers. One thing we found in common across the organization and all of our specialists who speak with customers everyday is that there’s an eagerness to help, there’s a confidence with the folks that there’s an understanding that they won’t know everything and they’re going to need to ask for help at times and reach out to their peers, or in telecustomer I don’t know at this moment, give me a second and I’m going to research this for you. Having that confidence to both confidently say what you do know and confidently admit when you need help is important. I think people have to have fun on this team.

I think you need a little but of hustle in the group, and I think having experience speaking with customers in some capacity whether you waited tables or you did a retail job at some point I think is a big plus. I think being comfortable speaking to customers in a way, as I mentioned earlier, helps humanize the brand is really important. You really have to have your own voice in this space to be successful.

Jay: Yes that experience working with customers, that sense of empathy is incredibly important I find. It’s got to be really exciting to be doing what you’re doing right now. You are in the middle of the maelstrom Jared.
Jared: It is, we’re having a blast.
Jay: You really are. You know who else is in the middle of the maelstrom? Our friends at Yext, one of the sponsors of the Social Pros podcast. Yext is a leader in mobile marketing solutions, and look, as we all know, you’re rolling around, you’re in a different city, maybe you’re traveling, or maybe you’re just downtown looking for something to do. You’re going to pull out your phone and figure out what’s going on, where you can go, and search and location are so intertwined now because as we use our mobile devices to find what to do, where to go, when things are open, what the specials are, search and location become the same thing. Yext has a brand new white paper all about that. All about how search and location are becoming one. If you’ve got a business that has retail locations, so you have a door that customers walk through, I want you to download this white paper as soon as we’re done here with this great episode of Social Pros. Go to offers.yext.com/locationworld. That’s offers.yext.com/locationworld and learn more about this key topic from our friends at Yext.

The show this week is also brought to you by our friends at Sales Force Marketing Cloud who employ Mr. Adam Brown. They have-

Adam: Thank you.
Jay: Yes well done. They have a really great ebook as well that I want you to download. Here’s where you go to get it. Go to bitly/salesforceads, bitly/salesforceads. It’s called the future of ads and it’s an amazing research project that talks about global ad span, the click through rates, target response rates for Facebook ads, for Google ads, for Twitter ads and more. A lot of times what should my Facebook ad CTR be? Well this report tells you what those ranges are, fantastic. They also tell you how to increase your social media ad spend returns using CRM data, how to do some really nifty lookalike and re-engagement campaigns, great use cases and stories in there. If you’re doing paid social got to get this. It’s totally free, it’s super slick, you’re going to learn a lot, I did, bitly/salesforceads. The show this week is brought to you, as always, by Convince and Convert Media. The media division of my company. Producers not only of Social Pros but also the Content Pros podcast, the Influence Pros podcast, The Business of Story, The Convince and Convert podcast, and returning for 2017, The Jay Today Show which is my twice weekly short forum video show. Three to four minutes twice a week, you can subscribe to that at jaytoday.tv. Adam, back to you.
Adam: Thank you Jay, and Jared it is so great to have you on the show. I mean as an Executive Director of Digital Care at Comcast, as we’ve said, you manage and lead one of the largest, if not the largest, social customer care organization in the country, if not the world. What an impressive achievement and the work that you’re doing there is nothing short of spectacular. What I wanted to find out though and you eluded to this in one of your answers, you said that you kind of had an operations background. I’m curious personally, but I know our listeners are also curious how you got to this role because if you’re anything like Jay and I and you’re anywhere over the age of seven this whole career path and this job title didn’t even exist a couple of years ago.
Jared: No it didn’t. As we talked about earlier I am lucky that there were some pretty insightful and visionary folks leading the way here at Comcast in the social space. I come from an operations environment. I worked in the financial industry prior to joining Comcast about four years ago. My last company I spent eight years at Barclays. My last role there was leading the customer care team, so mainly inbound phones. My transition from banking into cable was less traumatic than I imagined which was good. I think customer service is really a transferable skill which is great. Transition into social was a little bit more rough, but one of the things that the organization needed when I came in was they were starting to think about ways in which we could really scale this function. I think the writing was on the wall, I think the demand was there for social support, and I was able to bring some background and operations and how to kind of deploy the support infrastructure to really support the team that scales.

There was a lot of really, really good talent already here on the social team, so combined with their expertise and my background in operations we were really able to build out a really strong social care organization. The success it’s really been tremendous because everyone on the team has really been passionate about what we’ve been doing since the team started. We still have a few folks on the team who’ve been here since the very beginning and they’re as passionate now as they were when the team started all those years ago.

Adam: From where you sit and you have a very interesting vantage point, as it relates to the social media from a marketing and communications standpoint, we’re talking about Facebook Live, we’re talking about streaming video, video and that type of content seems to be really interesting. I’m curious Jared to hear from your standpoint, from a social customer care standpoint what you see on the other side of the mountain. Are we going to see the same thing begin to happen in customer care where someone will take their smartphone and they’ll fire up a Facebook Live or they’ll Facetime you or something like that so they can crawl back behind the TV to the cable box and say, “Okay I’ve got this coax plugged in here and this plugged into my TV, what is wrong?” Are we going to see that, have we already seen that and what do you have your R&D team and the digital care team at Comcast thinking about or working on?
Jared: Yes, I think we are already seeing that in a number of places you see customers doing that. We have some capabilities along those lines now and we’re looking at more. It’s interesting, I talked a little bit about how you see digital channels are going to emerge in the coming years. I think we’re going to see different channels. Digital meaning written channels. I think we’re going to see a point where video, voice, and written channels start to merge and it’s going to become easily transferrable from one to another. We talk about channel shift now, customers who used to call now tweet us. We’re going to see customers tweeting and calling us at the same time, customers hitting us literally at the same time written, video, and voice. I think it’s coming sooner rather than later. I don’t have any specific solutions I’d like to share now but you’re absolutely right that it’s coming, we’re seeing it in a number of places both here at Comcast, some stuff that’s in the works and outside the organization. You’re absolutely right I think this is a trend that is going to continue and it’s going to pick up pace a bit.
Adam: That integration between online and offline customer service is going to have to really be working at that point because if people are going to be calling and emailing and tweeting and SnapChatting all at the same time holy cow, that creates four records in the database, that’s going to be a hot mess. Luckily smart software companies are already working on that, but we’re going to have to come a long way on the integration front pretty quickly.
Jared: Yes and customers, and rightfully so, they call an organization and they expect you to know that you emailed yesterday or you tweeted three days ago.
Adam: It’s not an unreasonable expectation, it really isn’t. It’s just what they don’t understand is that the software doesn’t really talk to each other in many cases yet, but we’re working on it, we’re working on it.
Jared: Yes and we are working aggressively on it and have some great solutions are already in place to provide that integration and that kind of full 360 view of the customer experience with us, both from an inbound perspective and stuff that we’ve done proactively with that. Having that 360 view of the customer relationship is going to ease our transition into that environment you were talking about a moment ago where we start to see customers with their phone, crawling behind their TV, pointing it at the back of the box, and talking to us at the same time asking us how do I fix this? Having all that integrated at the same time is going to happen and it’s coming quickly.
Jay: Jared we’re going to ask you the two questions that we ask every guest here at the Social Pros podcast, now in season six of this show. First one is what one tip would you give somebody looking to expand their digital care team?
Jared: One tip, one tip’s hard, I’ll try though. Experiment, this is a channel that is in a lot of ways very similar to other service channels but I think there’s a lot you could do in this space that’s unique to inbound support channels. I would absolutely spend time experimenting and thinking about how you can add value that is unique to your function.
Jay: I love it, I love that idea of adding value and not just routinely answering customer questions, but doing that and a lot more. Last question for Mr. Jared Schultheis who is the Executive Director of Digital Care at Comcast, thank you so much for your time. If you could do a Skype call with any living person who would it be and why?
Jared: I have a dear friend from elementary school who amazingly does not use social media, has dropped off the grid completely and I have been unable to find him and I will not mention him here, I imagine he’s concerned with privacy so I can’t find him. I would love to track down this friend of mine from when I was a child and have a nice chat, I think it’d be great.
Jay: Love that answer, that’s spectacular. He probably just listens to Social Pros, I mean that’s all he does and he doesn’t do Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, he just listens to Social Pros and that’s it and that’s enough.
Jared: That’s probably what it is.
Adam: Or he has his friend transfer it to cassette tape.
Jay: Real to reel is what it is, nobody even understand the reference other than a couple of us. Jared thanks so much for being on this show, we really appreciate it. Congratulations on the great work that you are doing at Comcast. We’ll check in with you again next year and see when you’re up to 15,000 reps how things are going.
Jared: You got it and thanks again for having me. Really had fun, appreciate it.
Jay: It was our pleasure. On behalf of Adam Brown I am Jay Baer from Convince and Convert. This my friend has been Social Pros and we will catch you next week.

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