Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Communication Forum - Embarq session

Social Media Implementation within a Large Enterprise

New Communications Forum 27 April 2009

They ended up with one of the most successful YouTube campaigns seen for their goals - What can you do in 48 seconds? For Embarq, 48 seconds is the time difference between loading the average web page via dial-up and their 1.5M internet service. Embarq is a provider of a variety of communications services for consumers and small/medium business with a focus on rural areas.

Their problem - a culture fearful of social media and a reputation for poor customer service from their past which was affecting their brand.

The "complaint" AKA Customer Service department and the brand folks got together to spearhead their social media plan. [Customer Service is a different than the group that does phone / email support]

The team took a very step by step approach and did not rush. Their learnings:

  • Don't rush "if we had acted before our 6 months of listening we would have done something different and it would have been wrong"
  • Involve many teams. They worked with customer support pulling in a few members to help them plan. R&D helped create how-to videos which were the long term star of the show.
  • Communicate the good and the bad up the management chain and out to other departments. They utilized newsletters, internal communications and everything they could find to get what the Customer Service department, who owned customer communication, was doing out to everyone in the company. That created pride internally, because they were having success turning customers attitudes to positive.
  • Listen first - they started with Google/Yahoo alerts, Twitter feeds, Yahoo Pipe!, DSLreports forums (this is where their users are online) etc. Then graduated to Radian6. But never gave up the previous tools. Kevin said, "…there is nothing like a set of human eyeballs looking at the [raw] data.
  • Get everyone to agree on the goals - they developed a mission statement including all the departments.
  • Seek out people in the company who are passionate and cultivate them. No matter what department they were included on period conference calls.
  • Educate - take every opportunity to train on social media, conference calls, lunch and learns etc. The team is still doing this after 15 months. Executives were educated about the business value of YouTube before the campaign proposal.
  • Make it personal - allow Twitter users to show they are human. @Embarq_Joey is a sports fan and some Tweets are about sports. They key is balance of business and personal.

Timeline and plan:

  • Dec 07 - plan approved
  • Feb 08 - start answering questions on and Twitter
  • Nov 08 - 48 Seconds YouTube brand activity
  • Currently - responsiveness on Twitter is key, their SLA is 97.5% <> 24-48 hrs [these are for issues not individual tweets]
  • Results: Customer likely to make a referal - 4Q07 no, 1Q08 likely, 3Q08 definitely
  • Current activity - we are not being contacted proactively by people who know the social media team from the Customer Service department. [there was a slide with a letter from a prospect asking Embarq_Joey questions on which service to select]. Also the moderators of DSLreports now allow Embarq to put informational material, like answers to FAQs.

Session Q and A:

  • How does the Customer Service department make their discussions known to customer support? A: They use the same CRM system and enter data the same way as if it came over the phone.
  • Who does the follow-up when a customer problem comes in via social media? A: The Customer Service team. This is the same process if a complaint comes over the phone.
  • How did you get buy-in to talk to the customers? A: The Customer Service department was already talking to customers, just not using social media. It was a small tweak to say they will talk via social media as well. And this group owns the conversation with complaining customers.
  • Weren't customers who were unhappy with results of phone support just moving to social media? A:The people we encounter were not calling support, they were just complaining online.
  • What about negative comments? A: We put up the good and the bad. If you don't put up the bad people will not believe you are being authentic. We all pass the good and bad up and out internally.
  • Have you done anything with a community? A: Yes, our high speed product team has a gated community that is invite only. They use it to show customers possible new products for feedback.
  • How did you get the word out about your YouTube channel and contest? A: Blogger outreach program and Twitter.
  • Did you get negative comments on YouTube, as that is very common? And did your fans come to your aid? A: Yes we got negative comments and yes our fans came to our aid. One best practice is have a clear comment policy on what is acceptable and what is not and stick to it. We think that solved many issues.
  • Does any of this apply to B2B? A: Yes, we did 18 videos on data security for our security products which are for businesses.
  • What marketing didn't you do because money was diverted to social media 48 seconds effort? A: This money was for our online activities. In 2007 we did a microsite, we probably would have done the same thing in 2008 if it were not this effort.
  • Who owns social media at Embarq? A: No one and everyone - that is all departments have their part, there is no central control. If there is a customer issue, it is handled by Customer Service; if there is a brand issue it is handled by the marketing team.

Tweet this!

Embarq (NYSE: EQ) is a Fortune 500 company.

Presenters, Twitter name

  • Linda O’Neill, Customer Service General Manager, @lindaoneill
  • Joey Harper, Customer Service Online Outreach Lead, @EMBARQ_Joey
  • Kevin Cobb, Interactive Brand Marketing Manager, @i_am_me
  • Zena Weist, Interactive Brand Strategy Manager, @zenaweist


  1. Thanks for sharing EQ's socmed story! Loved that you highlighted finding passionate people already using socmed within your organization. We definitely think that's a key factor to success.


  2. Congrats on successfully making a social media strategy come to life! The best thing about Embarq''s program is that it helps employees to touch the customers in a very engaging and personal manner.