Comcast is deep into a blogwar (I’ve commented frequently here about the clear and present danger of blogwars to corporate and organizational reputations so review past posts here for my views on that topic–or read my book Now Is Too Late2).
This article from Bulldog Reporter about the blogwar suggests something even more frightening to me–not that I have any great love and affection for Comcast broadband as an only moderately satisfied customer myself. (the blog is called somewhat predictably: comcastmustdie.com and the first words are I really don’t want Comcast to die(!)) What frightens me from a crisis management standpoint is a potential pattern I see developing. The blogger starting this is not some unemployed 28 year old sitting in his bedroom, cranky after a night of partying. This one was started by Bob Garfield, a highly respected writer and expert in advertising and marketing. I’ve read his stuff for years.
Note the reference in the article to Jeff Jarvis, the now extremely famous blogger who launched the Dell Hell blogwar and was at first ignored, then triumphed with significant improvements in Dell’s customer service. So, bright, entreprenuerial writers like Garfield who know the weakspots of corporate leadership, can accomplish two things at once. They can build an tremendous audience and their own celebrity by becoming the next Jeff Jarvis and get the self-actualization satisfaction that they can change the world for the good by getting Comcast to respond. Wow, that is powerful motivation. Hey, I want that attention. I want that readership. I want to go to the grave thinking I have done the world some good. I should start a blog: younamethecompanymustdie.com. I will be a hero. People will know my name. they will talk about me in the hushed tones they now reserve for Jeff Jarvis. Am I judging Garfield’s motives here? Yeh. Am I wrong? Who knows.
Do you see why this scares me? On the other hand, being a crisis management expert might be the best gig to get into these days.
I should have provided a link in the last blog. Here’s the link. Video.
In discussing this with others, the recent widely distributed phone call with AOL was another example. There are more and more examples of customer service nightmares being captured and widely distributed. There might even be a new section on your local TV newscast: “Hilarious Company Screwups.”
This guy named Finkelstein in Washington DC calls Comcast to get his cable fixed. The cable guy comes over and gets put on hold by his own service department for an hour, so he takes a nap. Finkelstein thinks this is funny so he videotapes the cable guy asleep and puts some music to it.
No big deal. Just like ten thousand other service problems going on right now. Amusing even. But then Finkelstein does what young interneters do these days. He shared his video. With a quarter of a million others. He posted it up on www.youtube.com and 227,000 others got the opportunity to share in his little joke.
It didn’t end there. The news media picked it up. I watched the video on KING5 last night on the 11 pm news. Not sure how many others picked it up or if the likes of CNN or other cable networks covered it as well. I did check and it was on Newsvine (www.newsvine.com).
The point here is not Comcast’s customer service problems (I’m a customer and they have problems). But it is the fact that any of your employees doing dumb things can easily be videotaped or simply show up in a blog, on a news site, or a vodcast. Talk about a glass house. Talk about transparency. When one partied-out cable guy decides to take a nap, suddenly it can become a major, major black eye for his employer and make national news.
The value of having a house with lots of windows is that you tend to want to clean up. Even those untidy closets and corners. So that is the first thing to think about. What needs to be cleaned up? What would be embarrassing and undo all the good work you do and effort spent on communicating and building reputation? But, dustballs will happen. Nothing can be perfectly clean and sooner or later one of your employees is going to take a nap in front of a camera or do something else to embarrass you. Then the question is, are you prepared to deal with it–at the speed of youtube?