In my last column, I cautioned readers about social media and the negative effect it can have on online reputation management. Here’s a quick recap: The key to a positive reputation is to look at every possible customer and prospect touchpoint and make sure it’s buttoned up tight. Every interaction, every touchpoint needs to be quality-driven, otherwise your brand is going to take a social media beating.
There’s just too much prime opportunity online — e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc. — for brands to get dinged when they screw up. In the few weeks I’ve been back from vacation, I’ve been thinking about this as I go about my day-to-day dealings with companies.
Twice in the last few weeks I’ve gotten dinged: once by a salesman and once by a so-called customer service rep (CSR). But helping to restore my faith in our industry, I also recently had a fantastic customer service experience as well.
But first the negative:
- I have a TV that for the last year has had sound problems. The sound intermittently stops working. With the TV under warranty, I called CompUSA’s warranty company to remedy the problem. It sent someone out who couldn’t find the problem. After another unsuccessful attempt to fix the problem, I again called the warranty company to get a new TV. The CSR told me there was nothing she could do except send out a third company to look at my TV. I calmly explained to her the facts of the case. She calmly explained that there’s nothing she can do. So I asked for her supervisor. The supervisor gave me the same speech — same language, same dull, disinterested, flat demeanor. Like robots, only less interesting. By then I realized that the company is just going to run out the clock on the warranty instead of giving me a new TV. The moral of this story: Some companies teach their frontline people to hold the line, not help customers.
- I recently paid a visit to my local Honda dealership to trade in my son’s car. This will be my third lease with this dealership. The salesman I normally use is busy, so he puts me in the capable hands of “Bill.” I tell Bill that I want the special that was advertised on the dealership’s website because it’s the lowest-priced car it sells. Let the games begin. I know how it works, but I never let car salespeople play. Bill makes three attempts to get me into a more expensive car by asking if I want this or want that on the car. I remind him for the third time that I only want the least expensive car the dealership sells of that model. You know, the one listed on its website. Bill responds to me with the following: “You want the lowest price in that model, OK, but don’t you want a car with air conditioning?” (F.Y.I., I live in Florida.) He says this with actual contempt. One minute later, he’s back waiting for another customer to annoy. The moral of this story: I’d have fired this salesman on the spot if it was my dealership. You cannot risk offending any customers, much less repeat customers.
And the positive:
- One word: Apple! I had to call its customer service department multiple times in the last few weeks with questions before installing its latest operating system. Each time I was greeted by a helpful human who worked with me patiently in a relaxed manner to get my issue resolved. Apple even offered to send me (for free, no less) operating system disks. (Mine were lost, hence the call.) I swear, it was like talking to the Apple guy from the TV commercials. Great job, Apple! You “get” customer service.
I don’t know about you, but every time I have to call a company’s customer service department I get a bit nervous in advance. Most of the time I know I’m going to be treated poorly by poorly trained, poorly managed people who are totally indifferent to me and my plight.
This message is for all of the C-suite people who read my column: Go to your call center now! Listen to your CSRs’ interactions; then do something about them. People are talking about you whether you like it or not. Positive or negative — it’s your choice.