customer service

Just Respond

by Vicki on February 22, 2013

My last blog post examined social media trends over the past year through an infographic.

As I was compiling the post, one stat in particular jumped out at me: 70% of brands ignore complaints on Twitter

Consumers who have taken time and effort to communicate regarding brands in a public and exponentially powerful forum hearing NOTHING! How can this be?!

Some online reading shed light on the dynamics that could help explain this phenomenon:

  • New technologies have made it easier than ever for consumers to have a voice and communicate and connect
  • There is evidence that consumers perceive Twitter as a “social telephone” and are using Twitter to voice concerns instead of picking up traditional telephones
  • Twitter allows consumers to share concerns broadly, instantaneously and publicly
  • There is a clear expectation that concerns WILL be addressed and will be done so in a timely fashion
  • Organizations often have lots of processes in place – processes that get in the way of getting things done quickly and efficiently (doesn’t get much more quick or efficient than 140 characters!)
  • Adopting new ways of doing business is scary and challenging. Especially when customers publicly saying less than flattering things about your organization precipitate the change.
  • There is often a tendency within organizations to spend a bunch of up front time to identify the exact “right” way to adopt new methods (i.e., creating considerable time lags) but often there are compelling reasons to just start (perfection will come with time)
  • New methods often require resources – people resources (e.g., people to monitor and respond) and monetary resources

If consumers are taking the time to voice their concerns publicly through a medium such as Twitter, they are looking to be heard and acknowledged. And often just knowing that you have been heard and that someone cares about your concerns can make a considerable difference in how you feel about a less than stellar product or interaction.

Research suggests that simply answering complaints posted through social media mediums (Facebook and Twitter) can change attitudes towards organizations/brands.

21% of the complaints DID get a response, and more than half the customers had positive reactions to the same company or brand they had been blasting not long before. When customers received a response to their complaint, 46% were pleased. And, even more surprising, 22% actually posted a positive comment about the company or brand. (Why Ignoring Social Media Complaints Is a Huge Mistake)

So what’s my advice? Everything about ignoring complaints feels wrong to me. People want to be heard and acknowledged – especially when they feel unhappy about a given service/product/interaction. Don’t ignore Twitter complaints. Don’t worry about responding perfectly – just respond.

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The Bigger Picture

by Vicki on September 21, 2012

I get cell phone provider contracts – I really do.

They provide a guarantee to the providers that they will be reimbursed the cost of expensive phones sold to consumers at discounted rates.

But based on my experience, they are used as more than a way to recoup money lost on providing clients with the latest and greatest technology.

Here’s my story –

Just over three years ago, I signed up on a 3-year contract with one of the big Canadian cell phone providers. Shortly after signing up, I made a small change to my plan. I had asked at the time if the adjustment would affect my contract and the answer was no. Contrary to this answer, the contract was extended. I complained and long story short, they shortened the contract back to the original dates.

I remember expressing at the time that the contract felt like a bind to the company to keep me there a tiny bit longer. It felt like they were not seeing the big picture and trying their best to keep customers (unhappy or not!) by doing the old way harder (sign and extend those contracts). I explained that from my point of view, I should WANT to be their customer, not be FORCED to stay because of misinformation and a sneaky extension.

Yesterday, I called the cell phone provider my husband’s company uses to cancel two of their lines that we simply don’t use. I had been told in 3 separate stores that the contracts were expired. Curiously, the stores could not cancel the lines (even though they are staffed and owned by the company). I had to call in to the customer “care” center (but not on Sundays as the cancellation department is closed).

Long story short, the “care” center maintained that both phone lines had been renewed last year for another 3 years and cancelling the lines would result in a $800 penalty for early contract termination. The “care” specialist could not tell me who has extended the contract, only that it was extended. I explained that 3 separate stores had indicated that our contract was up, and he suggested I DRIVE to a store that said our contract was up and have them call the “care” center from the store so that he could try to sort it out. He maintained there was no way the contract was up so my trip to the store would be for him to explain to them why the contract was still valid. GRRRRR.

These incidents leave me scratching my head and cringing at the retention strategies these companies employ. Would I want my clients tied to me because they HAVE to be because of a paper they signed? Do I want to trick or deceive people into extending a relationship with me? Do I want to make people stick with me because the pain of change is so great they can’t be bothered?

Or do I want customers who truly WANT to be with my company? Who enjoy interactions with the organization and the people in it? Who sing our praises? Who are proud to purchase services/products?

What is your big picture: happy fulfilled customers or retention?

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Wait – Why am I Here Again?

by Trudy on September 14, 2012

I have seen a trend for some time, and too many times in the past week to ignore it.

First let’s set the stage…..

The owner/manager works hard, takes the risk, lays out a business proposition, and invests in building a transaction structure to facilitate an economic exchange that they hope customers will find attractive.

The marketing people put together the advertising, promotions, communications to create awareness and interest.

The potential customer approaches the business to engage, and transact.

Huge investments and efforts precede this moment; one would think that closing the deal should be very uneventful.

But in fact, this is precisely the point that my recent observations indicate where things seem to be falling apart. My examples…(and this is only a few of them….)

Going into a store asking for the item in the window and being told the item in the window cannot be sold, until the display is changed out (every 14 days) and they are not allowed to touch the displays. Really, you are not “allowed” to make a sale?

Walking up to a coffee counter, 4 people “working” the shift, 3 of them chatting, and only one person taking and fulfilling orders, while the line grows behind me.

Being in a drug store, looking for a particular item, searching for, then finally finding a person that works there, asking for help and being met with blank stares and a response, “Oh I don’t think we have that.” It was Vitamin E oil (nothing obscure) and no offer of how to solve it.

Being in a cosmetic store, and the 4 people working the counter having a conversation about how the hours of the store would be changing soon, which progressed into a crank session about their employer. As I exited, someone scurried up to me and said, “Sorry we were deep in a conversation and did not notice you”…..uh, yah.

The deli person who has worked at my local grocer for years, and who without fail has a scowl on her face, argues with the customers, and sighs and rolls her eyes when she has to slice some meats. I actually will let people go ahead of me so she can serve them, and I will wait for the next deli person to help me!

I walk away from each of those encounters feeling frustrated as a marketer, angry as a business owner, and twisted as a manager, not to even mention impatient as a consumer.

How are things falling apart at the critical point where all of the pre-work gets paid off? It seems to me that the basic premise of business: that we are all working to facilitate the interaction is completely lacking as the primary activity for employees. And why is this? It would be easy to say it is a generation thing, it is poor front-end training, it is lack of attention by management, and in part I am sure that each of these contribute in some way. But I expect that what is really going on is that in our world of maximizing and multitasking, squeeze as much productivity out of our workers that we can, that we have completely baffled employees about what their primary purpose is.

Perhaps rather than just stacking activities on the employee list, we need to think about prioritizing their attention and underscoring that facilitating a transaction trumps everything.

Makes me wonder how many sales are being left on the table, a frightening amount I believe. Do you really know what is happening at your front end?

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Who Should Make the First Move?

January 13, 2012

I had an incident recently that really made me sit back and think about the customer – company relationship. I have had a six-year relationship with this organization, an important relationship with daily interaction. I pay substantially for this service, and it is a very important job that they do for my family. For some […]

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The only surprises you should give are good surprises.

October 21, 2011

Truer words have never been spoken. This is something that I learned very young, when I worked in radio. Turns out there is no room for the “surprise” of dead air (Program Directors REALLY hate that). I also learned it as a young account manager in an ad agency. Clients so do not like to […]

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