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Posts Tagged ‘Customer Service’

 Better Business Bureau complaints up 7% from 2008

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

According to an annual report released today by Better Business Bureau, consumers filed 891,540 complaints against North American businesses in 2008, reflecting a seven percent increase over the previous year.The report also reveals that BBB Reliability Reports-which are available online for free and contain information on a businesses’ accreditation status, letter-grade rating and complaint history-are increasingly popular as a free tool for consumers to research the trustworthiness of businesses. The four million reliability reports maintained by BBB on businesses across North America were accessed more than 63 million times in 2008, a 15 percent increase over the previous year. The most popular industries researched through BBB are roofing contractors, general contractors, and movers.Read more of the article, from the WPDE News website, here.

 How You Can Stay in Control of Your Brand’s Reputation

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Even If You’ve Done Nothing Wrong, One Nasty Complaint Can Taint Your Name

by Keith Goldberg 


My initiation into reputation management took place during fourth grade in Mr. Timberlake’s class. For some reason, long since forgotten, I wound up in a scuffle with another boy and, though I don’t believe I instigated the dust-up, Mr. Timberlake wasted no time in grabbing me by the neck (I remember that clearly) and marching me down to the principal’s office.

As I sat in the seat of shame outside of Mr. Stern’s office (what a perfect name for a principal, don’t you think?) the teachers and students who paraded by me cast cold eyes that betrayed their thoughts. “Hmm … the Goldberg kid, thought he was all right but I guess he’s a troublemaker.” By the next day, news of my predicament had spread like wildfire throughout the school.

But I didn’t start it! It wasn’t my fault!

Too bad.

Fast-forward more years than I’d like to admit, and, as a CMO of a major brand, I was so proud of how we were optimizing our search results — especially given the money we were spending. Then, one morning, I logged onto my Mac and was stunned.

There on Google, sitting solidly in the fourth position — right below three killer, above-the-fold search listings for my brand — was a listing titled “customer complaints.” Customer complaints about my company.



Keith Goldberg is senior VP-client strategy at EWI Worldwide. He was previously leader of creative and innovation for George P. Johnson Experience Marketing and senior VP-CMO, GMAC Direct.

I quickly clicked. The list of complaints were unsubstantiated, even comical, and the company they were blasting didn’t sound at all like us. But there was our name, plain as day. Were these really unhappy customers? Was this a sabotage campaign from a competitor? I didn’t know. It didn’t matter.


The most frustrating partI kept thinking about the dollars we spent to optimize traffic to our website. I couldn’t believe we had worked so hard to attract thousands of eyeballs and now, when we should be connecting with and converting this treasure trove of customers, a rogue listing was going to raise a red flag to each and every one of them. The most frustrating part was, given human nature, I knew exactly where the vast number of viewers would click first. Argh!

I also knew that if there was a way to measure the amount of marketing dollars wasted, goodwill squandered and customers lost by this negative word-of-mouth, the numbers would be staggering. That was the day I became a believer in reputation management.

Today, when I deploy a reputation-management protocol for clients, it is usually a four-part program (as outlined by the chart below) that begins by analyzing a brand’s true reputation in the marketplace, identifying what reputation mode the brand is in (build, maintain, repair), deploying the appropriate tools to achieve the objective and evaluating success to optimize methods moving forward.

The other key ingredient is vigilance.

In this back-to-the-future, word-of-mouth world made possible by the internet, it only takes one incident to ruin a reputation.

Even if you didn’t do it. Even if it’s not your fault. Too bad.

I learned that the hard way back in the fourth grade.


 Is the age of great customer service dead? Not if MeasuredUp can help it…

Monday, February 9th, 2009

From Portland Business Journal: Unlock the mystery of great customer service“…to develop great service is no mystery. You just have to follow a few basic rules and then consistently adhere to them. The concepts are simple and have been around for centuries, with people being the main ingredient. Remember: Technology is there only to assist us in the process. Here are the six basic reasons customer service fails: * Employees don’t like what they do. * Not asking enough questions. * No specific training. * Poor listening skills. * Not using common sense. “Click here to read the full article, including detailed discussion on the six reasons customer service fails.MeasuredUp’s number one goal is to help bring back the age of truly great customer service; which is why we’ve created a platform for both consumers and companies where they can connect, share concerns, and solve customer service problems. We give companies the tools they need to ask more questions and be better listeners with Direct Connect. And we give consumers the tools they need in order to help them feel heard with the ability to write a review and/or create a support ticket as well as easy access to other useful consumer resources.We’ve already heard from countless consumers and companies alike that the MeasuredUp process works! You can help MeasuredUp bring back great customer service - companies: register today at MeasuredUp to claim your company profile – consumers: create an account and write your own review about a product or service experience. Good or bad, we want to hear about it!

 Keep in touch with your customers, to keep them – period

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

From Portland Business Journal an article extolling the virtues of keeping in touch with customers in order to keep them coming back, time and again.The author suggests that companies looking to cut costs without also looking for “ways to improve their business model and become more productive, with better sales and customer service practices” are doing their customers a great disservice and in turn are damaging customer loyalty, and ultimately, the bottom line. His solution: a simple phone call.MeasuredUp understands that it can be exceptionally time consuming for a small business to reach out by phone to each and every one of it’s customers – and that’s why we’ve created the MeasuredUp Direct Connect feature. Direct Connect is a free online service that gives your company the tools it needs to get in touch, and stay in touch, with customers. Direct Connect allows you and your company to communicate with your customers so that you can help solve their customer service problems and consumer complaints quickly and easily, without having to devote endless resources of time and money to the process. Create your company profile on MeasuredUp today and get started using Direct Connect – it’s free and easy!

 Controversy: The Future Agency Of Record Will Be Social

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

An article from the OnlineSPIN blog entitled The Future Agency Of Record Will Be Social:There is a quiet battle raging in the advertising industry over who will become the Agency of Record (AOR) for marketers’ social media efforts. With traditional media for delivering advertising declining in reach and effectiveness, and an even greater call for advertising efficiency in a down economy, becoming a marketer’s social media AOR can be a huge win and provide a map to a much-needed new business model and revenue stream for agencies.”Read the full-text here.

 Customer Service 2.0: Clients become brand managers

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

By Heather Havenstein

From article in

Full article at:



May 28, 2008 (Computerworld) Comcast Corp. scored a public relations coup in April when an executive responded within 20 minutes to complaints about a cable outage posted by a prominent blogger on a microblogging site.

Michael Arrington said that a top official from the Philadelphia-based cable company responded to his post and made sure that a technician was dispatched to fix the 36-hour outage.

Comcast is one of several large companies that have recently started using Web 2.0 tools to monitor blogs and social networks to discover user concerns. The companies are also using such tools to communicate with and learn from customers, according to analysts and executives.

Arrington said that he first notified Comcast of the outage by a more traditional means -- the telephone help desk -- but technicians there had no idea when the widespread outage could be corrected.

Granted, Arrington's stature in the blogosphere may have hastened the response to his complaint, but it did come in the midst of a months-long program, called Comcast Cares, started by the company to monitor Twitter and respond to customer concerns posted there.

In October, 2007, prior to Comcast’s launch of the Web 2.0 effort, magazine columnist and radio personality Bob Garfield created a blog called "Comcast Must Die.". Garfield's goal was to help Comcast customers publicly air complaints about the cable company. At about the same time, a 76-year-old woman made national news by taking a hammer to a keyboard in a Comcast office after becoming frustrated with Comcast’s customer-service response.

A cursory check of Comcast Cares on May 22 found multiple examples of employees responding -- often in less than 15 minutes -- to complaints that customers posted on Twitter, where users can create 140-character "miniblogs." Comcast employees mostly apologized for the problems and requested the information needed to solve them.

A Comcast spokeswoman said the company created the program to proactively address customer concerns. She said the company can now engage its customers wherever they are most comfortable.

Most early corporate Web 2.0 efforts included internal blogs, social networks and online communities that focused on improving communication among workers. The growing popularity of such tools among consumers has led to the launch of products that fit into what some companies are calling "Customer Service 2.0," which monitors what customers say in online forums.

In late April, New York Life Insurance Co. began a move to Customer Service 2.0 by providing a platform for customer feedback on articles and other content in its Web site. The company also added links to various social networking sites so users can bookmark and share information across the Web.

Ken Hittel, vice president of corporate Internet development at the insurance company, said the initial version of the site is designed to first give customers a way to "talk" to New York Life. The feedback program is a first step in a plan to make better use the company's Web site to gain insight into customer needs, he added.

The next step will be to allow employees to actively respond to the customer comments on the site.

The New York-based insurer, like many other companies, took the first step toward Customer Service 2.0 with some trepidation, Hittel said.

He noted that some executives worried about what customers would say about the company once the "barn doors" were opened. "In fact, if there is some particularly bad thing that people want to say about us, it's better that we find out about it," Hittel maintained.

"People are talking about us on the Internet just like they are talking about everyone else. This gives people a chance to talk about us directly to us as opposed to behind our back," he added.

Therein lies the key reason why IDC analyst Rachel Happe criticized companies that are reluctant to embrace the new form of customer service because they fear negative feedback. She called such concerns a "red herring."

Customers have always been in control of the brands they use, she noted. Now, however, they can arm themselves with virtual megaphones and shout their concerns throughout the blogosphere. It's only common sense to at least listen to what these users say, Happe said.

In many cases, just acknowledging a problem can help ease criticism on the Web, she noted.

For example, Dell Inc.'s public admission that some critics of its support programs were correct has led to a slow shifting of the company's image. Since its admission, the tone of some initially critical bloggers has become neutral or even positive, she said.

Meanwhile, SAP AG's online social community for developers and business process managers now includes more than 1 million users, she added. Many small and midsize companies are using SAP-sponsored online communities to gain access to a network of peers to discuss questions and concerns about SAP products.

The SAP program is improving the lot of users, who can get quick answers from fellow customers. It's also cutting SAP's support costs as fewer questions make it to help desk personnel.

"Customers are actually starting to feel like they can ask questions, which is good because they are engaging and they are getting more satisfaction -- at a lower cost to the company," she added.

In addition, company executives can use the customer input as they make strategic business decisions.

For example, The Artful Home, which sells art and other home decorating items, significantly changed the content on its Web site based on user suggestions.

The Artful Home site is run by The Guild Inc., a Madison, Wisc.-based art dealer that links artists with potential buyers of their goods.

By monitoring the number of customers participating in specific discussion topics and analyzing the content they posted, the company found that they are mostly interested in how to use the products they buy in design and decorating projects.

"That was a pretty resounding answer to a very big question for us," said Toni Sikes, the founder and artistic adviser at The Guild.

The user needs surprised the company because some executives thought that bolstering information about individual artists and their artistic motivation would most benefit customers, Sikes said. Others had maintained that it was most important to tell customers how products were made.

Read full article at:

 My Life as a Customer Service Rep

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008


By Maureen Rogers

One of the worst jobs I ever had – and, given some of the jobs I’ve had, that’s really saying something – was as a customer service rep at Sears.

In those days, of course, we didn’t have a fancy name for the job like “customer service rep”, let alone a fancy acronym like CSR. I have no idea what the official title was, but we called ourselves “customer complaint takers.”

This job – which I worked for a while when I was in college, well over 30 years ago – was at the Sears regional headquarters in Boston. As I recall, our service area covered New England, upstate New York, Quebec Province, and the Maritimes.

I worked there with a couple of friends, and we were given absolutely no training whatsoever – just thrown on the phones, where we took complaints down on paper forms (those multiple layer ones like you get with a Fed-Ex label). After we took the complaint, we distributed the copies to multiple areas where – presumably – someone would eventually act on them. The pink copy went into a vast, rotary “tub file”. You hit some sort of button, the tub churned to the right letter of the alphabet, and you tucked the file into the appropriate place.

Some of the complaints I remember as vividly as if I had handled the call yesterday.

A man named Peter Rabbitt called one day and, with a pronounced brogue, informed me that Sears had not picked up his old fridge, which they’d promised to do when they delivered his new one.

“I’ve a good mind,” Mr. Rabbitt told me, “To just put the old ice box out on my front lawn.”

Well, that would sure show Sears now, wouldn’t it? (I hope he took the door off of it, which I’m sure that he did, as he sounded like a thoroughly conscientious and decent person.)

One woman called to track her order – Christmas presents for her kids. Unfortunately, she’d sent cash – $17 – rather than a check or money order, so her order was long gone and there wasn’t much we could do to trace it. When I commiserated with her, she told me I was very nice and asked me if I were the owner.

No, I explained, it was kind of a big place and I just worked there.

Another time, I was blasted by someone from Dorchester (a blue collar area of Boston), who demanded that I “get my ass down to Dorchester with the paint” she’d ordered so that her husband could paint their house during his rapidly dwindling week off.

This was in the days before vulgarity was quite so common, but I did tell her that I, personally, was just taking down the information and would not be getting my ass anywhere.

The woman backed down and was actually quite sweet and reasonable. And, of course, she had a point about the missed delivery date for the paint.

I told her I’d see what I could do, which wasn’t much other than put the pink copy of the complaint in the rotary file. I can’t recall where the multitude of other colored copies went. I seem to recall tossing them in the wastebasket but, despite the fact that we received no training, this doesn’t strike me as quite right.

When we weren’t taking incoming calls and/or when we reached the magic hour of 5 p.m., when inbound customer service was turned off, we followed up on orders that were not clear. (In those unimaginably by-gone days, when we were not in such a great rush to get work boots, Lincoln Logs, cross-cut saws, house dresses, and hand-held mixers absolutely, positively, overnight, people actually placed catalog orders via the mail. How very quaint!)

If there was something unclear on the order form, it was our job to call and ask for clarification.

I remembered an attempt to call some old Down East geezer in Maine, who had written in that he needed a “puny” for his “furcane.” I was canny enough to realize that he was probably looking for some thingamajig for his “furnace,” not his “furcane”, but I wasn’t able to interpret “puny”. Nor was I ever able to reach him. I wonder if he ever got his “puny”.

One of my favorite calls was to a French speaking family up in Quebec.

Since my French was limited to the “ou est la bibliotheque?” variety I’d learned in high school, I was not able to get across to Mme. Gary Doyon that we needed to know what name to put on the personalized ballerina pillowcase she’d ordered.

When I explained to my boss that I wasn’t able to get an answer, he grabbed the form and wrote “Gary” where the name went.

I told him I was pretty certain that the recipient of the ballerina pillowcase did not have the first name of “Gary”, but I was overruled.

Somewhere up in Canada, a disappointed little girl found a pillowcase with “Gary” on it under the Christmas tree. What a Joyeux Noel that must have been, eh, ma petite?

Customer complaint taker! What a miserable job!

When I wasn’t laughing myself silly, I hated every moment there – mostly because I didn’t feel that I ever helped one single Sears customer derive any customer satisfaction whatsoever from any encounter with Sears that involved me.

Every time I feel like raging at a CSR, or slamming the phone down on them, I think back to my time, gamely manning the phones for Sears, calling Quebec on a cold, December night, trying to ask Madame Gary Doyon what name she wanted on the ballerina pillowcase.

 Survey: Web Generates Consumer Feedback

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Read te entire article at

April 24, 2008

-By Eric Newman, Brandweek

NEW YORK Forget focus groups. Consumers are giving it straight to brands, and each other, via online social media in big numbers, according to a recent study by the Society for New Communications Research, Palo Alto, Calif.

“Exploring the Link Between Customer Care and Brand Reputation in the Age of Social Media” surveyed more than 300 active Internet users during February and March.

The study found that 74 percent of respondents choose companies or brands based on customer service experiences shared by other Web users on the Internet. Eighty-one percent of those polled said they believe blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums give consumers “a greater voice” in customer service. However, only 33 percent of respondents felt that companies take customers’ opinions seriously.

“This study indicates that there is a growing group of highly desirable consumers using social media to research companies,” said Ganim Nora Barnes, a senior fellow at SNCR, in a statement. This demo includes adults 25-55 with a college education, making over $100,000 a year. “These most savvy and sought-after consumers will not support companies with poor customer care reputations, and they will talk about all of this openly with others via multiple online vehicles. This research should serve as a wake-up call to companies: listen, respond, and improve.”

The study also found what marketers might find somewhat counterintuitive. While search engines were deemed the most valuable online tools for researching customer experience with a given brand, 39 percent of respondents rated blogging services like Twitter and Pownce as being of “no value” to such research. Similarly, 27 percent found YouTube useless, and 22 percent said the same of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Of those industries judged to be doing the best job in using social media to respond to customer service issues, technology, retail and travel companies took top honors. Dell and Amazon were noted most often as those companies doing the best job handling customer care problems via social media.

Utilities, healthcare and insurance firms fared the worst.

 Ten Ways to be a Better at Leveraging Customer Relationships

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Written by Martin Haworth from his website:

  1. Be Open
    Start hearing what your customers are saying. Truly listen and realise you can benefit if you hear properly.
  2. Create Conversations
    Get out there with your customers. Ask questions, value their input and build great relationships for the future.
  3. Get Past Criticism
    It’s not about you, or your people. The negatives you get are fixable – and sometimes need a deeper consideration of what they mean. So be honest about causes (hint – it will be something to do with you!)
  4. Savour Feedback
    It is a gift for you – relish it! You may wish to let off a little whoop of delight every time you get feedback. It truly is a cause for celebration.
  5. Get Your Team Onboard
    And share your enthusiasm too. Get your people realising that they are not in the wrong – yet they can be a lot more in the right. Be happy about this!
  6. Keep in Touch
    When you have these open and honest conversations with your customers, remember to take contact details and get back to them with outcomes – they will love it! And become an ongoing advocate for you.
  7. See Opportunity
    In days where prices are squeezed,; product distribution is widespread; and services are being shipped overseas, this level of positive, constructive customer relationships is about all you’ve got – it can become your USP.
  8. Share Widely
    Let all of your people know the successes you are having. This creates an upward spiral of involvement – everyone will want their ‘customers’ to be the useful ones!
  9. Keep Smiling
    Hey – have fun with this – respect your customers and be prepared to get involved with them – share a different sort of relationship from the usual adversarial. Smile together:-).
  10. Give Back
    Treat your customers kindly. Encourage feedback and reward them with gifts – be different! They and what’s more you will love it!

 Hello, Houston… We Have A Customer Service Problem

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Mar. 31, 2008 (Investor’s Business Daily delivered by Newstex) –

A Verizon (NYSE:VZ) customer thought he was making a routine call this month by dialing toll-free to ask for a rebate. But he got an unexpected jolt when a recording directed him to another number that turned out to be a phone sex line.

Verizon Communications VZ quickly corrected the wrong number. But the damage was done. The customer blogged about the incident, which caused the wireless carrier to issue a public apology for the flub.

Such bizarre glitches are unusual. Yet the rise of blogs, camera phones and video Web sites means buyers today have a much larger megaphone to amplify their gripes.

In turn, companies that focus on consumers — including phone carriers, retail stores and banks — need clear policies to make customer service a top priority, says Bruce Temkin, an analyst at Forrester Research. (NASDAQ:FORR)

“Customer service comes at that point 14 time when customers are highly engaged in the problems they have,” Temkin said. “So it’s always a difficult and important moment of truth for the company.”

A new study from Accenture (NYSE:ACN) ACN found that 59% of people had actually stopped doing business with companies in the past year due to poor service. That’s based on a survey of 3,500 consumers on five continents. Just under half of those polled said their service expectations were met only sometimes, rarely or never.

Often the problem stems from cutting costs at the expense of customers, says Robert Wollan, global managing partner for Accenture’s service transformation business.

He says companies are misguided when they keep people on hold longer or slash store hours just to save money.

“There are still many gross examples of companies (encouraging) the wrong behaviors,” Wollan said. “You have to align the company’s goals through the eyes of the customer.”

Spotty Service

Everyone knows that customer service is vital, but lots of firms still address the task haphazardly. For instance, only 10% of retailers measure customer satisfaction on a weekly basis. Just 8% do so annually.

Even more surprising, 6% of retailers don’t have any set schedule at all in tracking customer satisfaction. That’s according to an annual survey of 137 retail firms by the National Retail Federation and IBM (NYSE:IBM) IBM.

One clear step to improving satisfaction involves appointing a high-level executive with real authority to enforce service levels. At some companies, this role is known as the chief customer officer.

Another tactic is to create programs which stress “the voice of the customer,” as Temkin puts it. For instance, this can involve assuring that all complaints get resolved on a single call, rather than being handed off to multiple reps.

“Companies have to look at every interaction from a customer point 15f view,” Temkin said. “This gets the whole company thinking about things from the outside in.”

He says all interactions should be judged by how well they help customers reach their end goals. Managers, moreover, need to focus on three key questions to get service levels right. They are: Who are your users? What are their goals? And how can you help them achieve those goals?

Companies should take responsibility for any problems, and communicate their message clearly. In addition to showing empathy for consumers, managers must find concrete ways to resolve problems. They also need a clear method to measure success, Temkin adds.

“The fact is that customer service is really, really hard,” he said.

ForeSee Results is a firm that measures online customer loyalty for retail Web sites. In 2007, its aggregate customer satisfaction rating fell by 1.3% to 74%. The rating declined for nearly half of 40 online retailers last year due to higher consumer expectations, ForeSee Results’ CEO, Larry Freed, said on a recent conference call.

Retailers whose scores improved last year included Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) BKS, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) WMT and Best Buy BBY, according to Mark Mahaney, a Citi (NYSE:C) Investment Research analyst who hosted the conference call.

Mahaney says there are essential elements that contribute to improved customer scores like this.

“Focusing on brand consistency, increasing product selection and enhancing the user experience are some of the best ways to gain ground in customer satisfaction,” he wrote in a note to investors.

Lower-priced stores can deliver strong customer service too, so long as consumer expectations are clearly defined and met. Ensuring that people know what they’ll get — not necessarily “wowing” the customer — is the key, says Temkin.

“What is the customer’s expectation for the brand, and how often do you meet that expectation? You need to line up to that mark every time you touch a customer,” he said.

Beware Of Churn

Intense competition in telecoms means even satisfied customers will drop their phone plans to get a still-better experience. Such turnover is known as customer churn.

Sprint Nextel S is battling a major churn problem due to weak service. Sprint (NYSE:FON) was ranked 106 of 112 companies for quality of service in a Forrester study last year. Sprint also finished dead last among the eight mobile service providers.

Sprint CEO Daniel Hesse blames his company’s sinking stock price on weak service. Many irate customers have dumped Sprint, pulling down its sales and shares. On a recent earnings call with analysts, Hesse said improving the customer experience has become “job one” for Sprint.

“Because of the customer experience we provided last year, churn is accelerating,” he said. “In conclusion, our business is not performing well right now, because we have not provided the right customer experience.”

Sprint isn’t alone. In a recent survey of 2,000 mobile phone users in the U.S., 96% said they wouldn’t hesitate to switch carriers to get a better experience. In fact, 72% had already made a switch due to a negative experience.

The Harris Interactive (NASDAQ:HPOL) survey was commissioned by Chordiant Software (NASDAQ:CHRD) CHRD, a maker of business software for customer service.

Another call center technology firm, Amdocs (NYSE:DOX) DOX, found similar results in its survey of more than 2,000 consumers in the U.S. and Britain. About four in five consumers were satisfied with their service levels. Yet one in three said they would switch to another carrier to get better services for mobile games, entertainment and ads.

Another customer service software firm, RightNow Technologies (NASDAQ:RNOW) RNOW, has developed new features to monitor consumer topics and emotions on service calls. In this way, call center agents can use the software to get more context about a caller’s specific concerns and service history.

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