Customer service now!!! The convergence of customer service and social media (and a moral)

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.

9 thoughts on “Customer service now!!! The convergence of customer service and social media (and a moral)

    • Jim Gilbert says:

      Andy, even on Jam Cruise, I never miss a good conversation about direct marketing and social media, as long as it’s not while the music is playing


  1. Robert Sandor says:

    Hey Jim,

    I love stories like this. It’s funny when you’re on the “inside” and can see above/through these kinds of things.

    It’s always good to be reminded how easy it is to screw up customer service.

    Bob Sandor

  2. Susie says:

    Great article. You’re so right, and it’s mostly the big brand companies at fault. I get particularly annoyed if I’m having to pay premium rates for my call, and then get left on hold eg Sky – OR – as recently when calling PayPal, get a menu of options to choose from which don’t fit my question/problem, and no way of getting through to a real person instead of a recorded voice. The latter one really got me when I reverted to posting a question on line to PayPal support, and got the same menu choices and no way of composing an open message. Grrrr!!

  3. Brian Callaghan says:

    Jim, I like your ideas. They are based on sound ground, i.e., treating people with respect. Unfortunately, I suspect that the people who should be reading your column and applying your well-founded ideas probably aren’t tuned in. Secondly, our society has a very serious deterioration in its civil fabric.

  4. Tom McGoldrick says:

    Great post. As someone who has made a career out of studying customer service it never ceases to amaze me how often companies get this wrong. Sometimes the problem is company policy and occasionally it is a bad employee. Surprisingly if asked, almost all employees can describe what great service should look like. However, in my experience the gap between knowing the right thing to do and always doing it is where most service failures occur. It’s just human nature. We all know what a healthy diet is but how many of us always eat our vegetables?

    Apple, Nordstrom and other great service cultures know they must hire correctly and then constantly nurture a service culture.

    By Tom McGoldrick Vice President, at MORPACE International

  5. Tracey Holzapfel says:

    Thanks, Jim, for this great post.
    As direct maketing/catalogers, we spend a lot of time and expense on getting everything on the web looking perfect, the catalog printed perfectly… but I never think enough time or money is spent on training customer service on everything they need to know.
    I’ve had similar issues (we all have), and it just keeps me from ever buying from that company again.

  6. Jimenez Bailey says:

    Excellent post Jim, I enjoy your perspective on both good and bad customer service experiences.
    Even more so now, companies number one priority should be their customer service.Looking forward to your next post.

  7. Nathalie says:

    Great article. You are right customer service is a key ingredient those that don’t take care of it are for sure losing customer. Unfortunately some only see the short term and would rather miss a sale than spending the time with a customer they are judging too fast. Customer service should always remember that once someone is satisfied they will put on the good words around them.
    Thanks for sharing

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