Bad Bad Buzz

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[Comcast’s]( image is anything but Comcastic. They have been lambasted on numerous fronts because of their poor customer service and seemingly unethical mode of operation. To further confound their situation, they have been radio silent about most of their issues and seem to have a “don’t wanna know” and “don’t wanna care” attitude about it. That’s the wrong attitude these days because consumers have a louder voice than ever and the old adage that bad news travels faster than good news can be frighteningly true. Companies need to realize that consumers have an ability to define a company’s image very quickly through the collective force of social media. This can work for or against a company and the key to maintaining some level of control is to stop, think, Tylenol listen, and respond.
Here’s part of the damage report:
Digg [search]( for Comcast sorted by most diggs

Google [search]( for Comcast Sucks

There are definitely a few issues here to say the least. I can’t help but wonder why Comcast seems out to lunch when it comes to garnishing any type of response to any of these issues. Here we have multiple channels streaming negativity around Comcast resulting in a rather “interesting” effect on the brand yet Comcast is doing very little to manage and control this bad bad buzz. Furthermore, most of these posts or articles were received by thousands if not millions of eyes because of their popularity.
So what should Comcast be doing here? It all comes down to a proactive attitude towards getting into the discussion. Comcast should first track down all of this buzz and get an idea what the negativity landscape looks like. From there, they can think about strategies that would be most effective to start repairing the damage. The first step in getting involved would be to acknowledge their issues and acknowledge the fact that they are listening. This can be done very easily by posting responses, comments, and other statements that tell people that Comcast does indeed have ears. The second step would be to start actually managing the reputation. Now that the dialogue is going, get people involved. Let the consumer know what steps are being taken to fix these problems. It would be even better if they could come up with some creative ways to really engage the consumers in the solution rather than the problem. Ask consumers for their top ten ideas for how to fix Comcast or make some humor out of it. Instead of turning away from the bad news, engage it and make it into something bigger that can be turned positive with the right tactics. The key is to become a part of the discussion. If you aren’t part of the conversation, you can’t steer it. When it comes to reputation management these days, you’ve got to have a voice of your own or somebody else will be speaking for you.
Steve Rubel wrote about the [JetBlue CEO meeting directly with Genevieve McCaw]( in response to her blog [JetBlue Hostage]( in order to manage the associated PR backlash.
Steve’s take on this was what he called the cold French fry:

This is a great model for anyone in PR or customer service. I call it the cold french fry syndrome. If you go into a fast food restaurant and you get cold french fries, you’re mad. So naturally, you start to complain. If the worker behind the counter takes the time to a) hear your complaint and b) try as best he or she can to solve it, there’s a good chance they can win you back. The same thing applies when you have a blogger throwing swords your way.

So far, the comments on this post seem to fall into one of two categories:
1. Comcast sucks and it wouldn’t matter if they joined the conversation
2. Every big company gets bad bad buzz so there’s nothing really surprising here and nothing to manage
I’d still have to take the stance that by joining the conversation or responding to negative press online a company can do wonders for cold French fries they might have served. Jet Blue certainly stepped up here, so where’s Comcast?

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  • Ilya Lichtenstein

    This is the monopoly effect. I’m not saying Comcast is good by any stretch of the imagination, but people love to hate a monopoly. Can you name any monopoly that takes your money that people don’t hate? Microsoft? Standard Oil? The IRS?
    It’s the twin forces of Comcast realizing it can get away with more without competition and of people resenting monopolies in general(the whole cheering for the underdog effect, not to mention millions of protesters hating corporations simply because they are big corporations).

  • Chris Hemphill

    I think this is pretty standard for most cable operators at this point. I have to use Charter Communications where I live and their customer support is by far the worst I have ever had to deal with.
    Does anyone know of a cable provider that has a good customer support reputation?

  • Zach Katkin

    Comcast should use Serph to monitor all this (bad) press. I don’t have much experience with Comcast’s internet service (up until very recently I’ve always used Time Warner), but now that our TV cable has switched I have already fallen victim to the sub-par customer service Comcast offers. I have been hanged up on too many times to count while waiting in a service queue…

  • Aneil Weber

    I agree with your points and that getting into the conversation isn’t going to make the company better however I do think it’s important for them to chime in address some of these issues. In my experience, merely acknowledging issues can diffuse a lot of heat from a bad customer situation. In essence, Comcast would be taking the first steps towards managing the psychology here rather than actually fixing anything. They might indeed suck today and forever, but given the rising competition they will have to start fixing these issues or face the consequences of declining market share wherever people have a choice of service providers (rare now). Getting into the conversation would be one tactic to start spearheading at the outset IF they plan on actually running a good business eventually.

  • Shawn

    As Ilya, the first commenter, pointed out, this is the monopoly effect. However, the important thing about this is not the notion that we love to hate a monopoly, but that monopolies are immune to our hate.

  • Neil Patel

    Rhea, I totally agree with you. It starts hurting companies when those results start appearing in the top ten for “Comcast” as you guys mentioned.

  • strange

    Just a great example of citizen journalism. Internet will make marketing bullshit obsolete, thank god!

  • Aneil

    I agree with you and what you are saying about how the Internet will change the marketing landscape. Marketing messages are already carried and generated by end-users, IMO this will continue for a long time and really change the way things are done. Of course, some standard marketing will always be part of the formula but things will definitely change.