Comcast Outage Fuels Twitter Outrage

Today’s digital age is infused with social media that can either highlight a brand’s triumphs or amplify its pitfalls.  We saw that with the Chipotle E. coli outbreak and how the company struggled to respond in a timely manner when the incidents started occurring back in November 2015.

Comcast got a taste of this social media amplification when a storm of angry customers vented their frustration over the nationwide outage the company faced on Monday, Feb. 15.

The outage affected cable TV service in large areas across the U.S. including Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Washington and Boston, according to DownDetector, a website that detects service interruptions and outages via social media complaints. The site that coins itself the “weatherman for the digital world” tracked nearly 17,000 reported problems by 11 a.m. EST on Feb 15.

An article on FastCompany reported that most customers said that they could access local channels but nothing else. Many customers complained that none of the HD channels were working, along with reports of no access to Internet or Xfinity accounts.

This prompted countless angry tweets from customers, many of which said they couldn’t get through to Comcast’s help line.

People still couldn’t get through even after calling numerous times.

So how did the mass media company and cable mogul’s public relations team handle the situation and the Twitter firestorm?

Comcast released a statement around 1:20 p.m. EST on Feb. 15th that read:

“We have repaired the temporary network interruption that impacted some of our services this morning.  Our engineers continue to work on this issue and almost all services have already been restored.  We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused our customers.”

According to an article on CNN Money, a Comcast customer service representative said on Twitter that transmission issues were to blame and the company was “working on redirecting our feeds.”

Comcast uses the account @comcastcares to answer any technical-support questions customers may have about their Comcast or Xfinity accounts. Many people turned to this option and the hashtag #comcastoutage to complain about the outage as well as the “not very helpful” help line.

By exploring their account, the company receives a high influx of mentions and questions, but how fast are they at responses, especially during a massive outage?

It’s hard to know their response time on a normal basis, but three days later they are still responding to tweets sent to them during the outage on Feb. 15.

How do you think Comcast handled the backlash they received from users on social media? Should social media be the main form of first-response communication compared to traditional help lines during a crisis? If so, what best practices should companies use to respond to social media messages and complaints?

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