As Inquirer reporter Claudia Vargas live-tweeted from the third mayoral debate Monday, she included a quote from Democratic candidate Jim Kenney about Comcast's "Internet Essentials" program.
In the tweet, Kenney was quoted as saying the media giant's effort to bring low-cost broadband to low-income residents is "very slow and frustrating."
Vargas' tweet triggered something in the bowels of Comcast's customer service division, because two hours later, the reporter got a response from a Twitter account called @ComcastCares.
Local political observers delighted in the idea that Vargas was trolled by a Comcast twitter bot — with what was presumably a hilarious misfire.
It turned out that the tweet was simply human error. The company blamed an overzealous customer service staffer, one of many tweeting apologies on behalf of Comcast.
A company spokesman confirmed to Philly.com that @ComcastCares, which has tweeted 304,000 times since 2008, is manned by some of the 60 customer service staffers who are part of an expanded "customer service strategy" that began in March.
The company has at times taken heat for its handling of customer service, and the idea was to get in front of customers that take to social media to blow off steam about their Internet and cable issues, troubleshooting when possible.
The Comcast spokesman, Jeff Alexander, declined to comment on @ComcastCares but pointed to a blog post earlier in the year that describes social media as the place customers "go to give feedback, ask questions, and look for help."
That realization has led to Comcast customer service staffers scouring Twitter for discontent, and personally apologizing to thousands of people for slow Internet speeds and other frustrations. As a test, a Philly.com staffer (not an actual Comcast subscriber) who tweeted about "slow" and "frustrating" service got an apology from the team within 32 minutes.
While Comcast has employed a Twitter team since 2007, analytics show that "Comcast Cares" seriously ramped up its efforts in May, going from a handful of tweets a month to thousands. Vargas was one of six people to receive an identical apology message Monday from @ComcastCares, and one of 121 people that received the same message over the past month, which tweets, on average, around 7,000 times a month.