I don’t think many people would disagree that customer service is not what it used to be and not what it should be. Many people blame it on a particular generation, and others see it as just another example of the decline of civilization. I have another explanation. Actually, I have three explanations. Let’s start with health insurance.
Because of the high cost of health insurance, many companies have opted to hire a lot of part-time staff, which allows them to avoid having to offer benefits. This creates a problem: It is difficult enough to train full-time people. Having them there part-time and having a huge turnover makes it all the more difficult.
Meanwhile, in the retail world, pricing has gone mad. It used to be that stores would have four sales a year to get rid of stale or seasonal merchandise and to promote business. These days, stores have “crazy once in a lifetime sales” every two weeks. When you have manic pricing, up one day, down the next, it wreaks havoc on customer service. When the sale is on, you don’t have enough staff. When the sale is off, the staff stands around and complains about the slow business.
Read the entire article: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/04/why-customer-service-is-so-bad/
Article from PC world about how companies should handle customer service issues and how suing could backfire and make the company look worse.
From Tech inciter. By David Coursey
Horizon Group Management has probably by now figured out that suing a tenant over an uncomplimentary tweet was probably not the best course. If the company had been worried that a tweet about a supposedly moldy apartment would damage its reputation, it has certainly magnified that effect probably millions of times.
Forgive me if, should I move to Chicago, I choose not to rent from a company that describes itself as a “sue first and ask questions later kind of an organization” as though it is a virtue. Moldy apartment or not.
“ Here, in no particular order, are the five companies that have consistently failed to deliver quality customer service — along with examples of smaller businesses that do it right.
Bank of America
Sample opinion: “If a situation has arisen that you need their help to resolve, forget it — they do not help. They are all about making money, and they seem to forget that without the customers, there will be no money to make,” wrote “Unhappy” on MeasuredUp.com, a consumer feedback and review site.
The lesson: Making it difficult for customers to do business with you — and charging them money for the “pleasure” — is the opposite of great service. “Great service companies make it easy to do business with them,” Tschohl notes.At Umpqua Bank, in Roseburg, Ore., employees are trained to be “universal associates,” so they never have to pass the buck when attending to customer needs. Many branches have Internet cafés that serve the bank’s own brand of coffee, and tellers hand out chocolate with every receipt. Moreover, bowls of water are set outside for customers’ pets. At TD Bank, in Philadelphia, customer calls are answered by an attentive, knowledgeable staff person after one ring. “You call most banks and it’s push two, push four, push seven, go to hell,” Tschohl notes.
Greatest sins: Customers at bankofamericasucks.com and other sites rail against BoA’s myriad fees and a bureaucracy that makes even the simplest transactions difficult. Representative Maxine Waters of California, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, recently got put on hold for two hours while trying to resolve an issue with BoA for one of her constituents.
Sample opinion: “I have never received such horribly incompetent, could-care-less service as I have with Comcast,” wrote “Shabo L” on Yelp.com, an online review site.
The lesson: Don’t keep your customers waiting, ever. “Every employee should be empowered to make a decision on the spot in favor of the customer — not a day later, not an hour later, but in seconds,” Tschohl says.
Role model: Northeast Delta Dental, based in Concord, N.H., reimbursed customers more than $80,000 in self-imposed penalties in 2008 for not meeting its own service guarantee. It’s no coincidence the company has a whopping 60 percent market share in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont — and a 98 percent retention rate. “We turn ourselves in, and we tell our customers what we’re going to do, process-wise, so that failure doesn’t happen again,” says Northeast Delta Dental CEO Tom Raffio. “It costs us in the short run, but in the long run, it builds trust — and we get customers for life.”
Greatest sins: Sluggish service and lame response to customers’ needs earned Comcast a score of 54 in 2008 — one of the lowest among all companies — on the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a standard developed by the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan Business School. A famous online video shows a Comcast technician who fell asleep on a customer’s couch while waiting on hold — with Comcast. “They have unlimited marketing budgets to get new customers because they get rid of their old ones so fast,” Tschohl says.
What really irks customers of the online auction site are the fees it charges and the total inaccessibility of human staff. “They don’t allow you to talk to a human,” Tschohl points out. “There’s no way to communicate with them. eBay thinks they’re in the technology business, while companies like Amazon.com understand they’re in the service business.”“It took me three days to find a phone number [for eBay customer service],” wrote one customer on the company’s own forum. “Don’t expect results. It’s worse than trying to get an honest answer out of a politician.”Be there for your customers. Great service is about supporting your customers every step of the way.Les Schwab, a chain of tire stores in the western U.S., has a “Sudden Service” philosophy that states, “You come in, we come running.” Employees run out to customers’ cars as they pull in to the store, then spring into action to install new tires in half the time it takes the competition.
The lesson: Creating a culture of great service starts with treating employees well. “Take care of your workers, and your workers take care of your customers,” Yellin explains.
Role models: Northeast Delta Dental and Umpqua Bank frequently appear on lists of best workplaces thanks to their outstanding employee benefits, and Les Schwab shares half its profits with its employees. “It’s a matter of treating your employees better than anybody else does and offering world-class customer service,” explains a manager of a Les Schwab Store in Concord, Calif. “That is what keeps your business growing.”
Underpaid, disempowered Wal-Mart employees have a tough time staying chipper these days — and they pass along their misery to the company’s customers. “Wal-Mart built its business on customer service, but they’re in the sink now,” Tschohl contends. “The stores are ugly, and they attract the people with the least amount of money who are willing to put up with bad service.” Adds David VanAmburg, managing director of the American Customer Satisfaction Index: “They are at the top of our list when it comes to value, but near the bottom when it comes to service.”Sample opinion: “The employees are rude most of the time, and none of them help when you ask them something,” wrote “Amber” at ConsumerAffairs.com. “I spend $300 a week in that store. Now they have lost my business.”
US AirwaysGreatest sins: Long delays, surly service, and a lack of personality have helped send this airline to the bottom of the list of companies tracked by the American Customer Satisfaction Index — though the extra fees don’t help, either. “This industry has the lowest scores on our list, and US Airways is at the bottom,” VanAmburg says.
Sample opinion: “Figure out a way to communicate with customers that doesn’t involve hold times approaching geological epochs, and make your damn computers work correctly,” opined blogger Christopher S. Penn after he was told it would take 45 to 60 days for US Airways to respond to his email request for a refund.
The lesson: The best service companies are fast, reliable, friendly, and don’t skimp on the little details.
Role model: Insight Studios, a tattoo and piercing parlor in Chicago, averages five stars from reviewers on Yelp.com, who praise the store for being pleasant and clean, and for offering customers horchata and chocolate when they walk in the door (and a lollipop for their bravery after their treatment is done). You’d never know these folks were paying to get poked. As one happy customer gushed, “I can’t wait to come back in a few months for my next piercing!”
The Road to Customer Satisfaction
Because bad reviews on the Internet can be so damaging, companies are starting to get savvy. In response to its poor reputation, for example, Comcast has installed a team dedicated to scouring the Web for complaints and reaching out to the “influencers” in its customer ranks. And Bank of America now has a team of support employees who can be reached via Twitter. “The Internet is making everybody more accountable,” author Emily Yellin points out. “Companies can’t get away with what they used to.” Growing businesses are wise to stay abreast of their reputation on sites like Yelp, and they can also get customer feedback through such sites as MeasuredUp.com and GetSatisfaction.com. Those two sites not only host online forums for customers to make suggestions or register complaints, they also allow companies to respond to commonly asked questions and create a knowledge base for future customers.’
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!
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
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!
Consumers’ maximum liability for unauthorized credit card charges: $50
Number of days consumers have to report unauthorized credit card use: No limit1
Number of days consumers have to file a billing dispute: 602
Number of days the card issuer has to respond: 903 Maximum number of days a dispute drags on: 2701 = Consumers should notify issuer as soon as possible to avoid complications;
2 = Must be in writing; time starts when the bill with the improper charge is sent;
3 = Within two billing cycles or 90 days, whichever comes first
Sources: USA TODAY research, MasterCard, Visa, National Consumer Law Center
With the slumping economy consumers are paying closer attention to just what it is they’re paying for - from groceries and personal items to electronics and furniture – shoppers are weighing the value of their purchases before making a decision. But what about after that purchase has been made? Consumers are turning to their credit card and banking companies for assistance in resolving fraudulent charges, overcharges, and viable charges made against unreceived goods and services.
So what can consumers do when they find a charge on their credit card statement for something they didn’t buy, didn’t intend to buy, or did buy and didn’t receive? More on this from USA Today:
While it’s not always possible to avoid credit card disputes, here are some tips for dealing with them:
•Get promises in writing. Save receipts. For big-ticket items, also ask for written confirmation of when the item will be delivered and what services are provided as part of the purchase.
•Know the rules. The Fair Credit Billing Act gives consumers the right to dispute a credit card purchase or withhold payment for a card purchase — but only under certain conditions.
Disputes must generally be filed in writing within 60 days after the bill is sent. In certain disputes, the goods or services must cost more than $50, and the transaction must have occurred in the purchaser’s home state or within 100 miles of his or her mailing address. Although state laws vary, items bought online or by phone are generally considered purchases made where you are, Feddis says.
While disputing a charge, the card holder will not have to pay the contested amount and won’t incur interest on it. If the dispute is lost, the card company is allowed to charge interest back to the date you filed the dispute, after a standard grace period.
•File the dispute carefully. Banks classify card holders’ disputes into nearly two dozen categories, such as “merchandise not received” or “canceled recurring transaction.” But generally, if filed as an “unauthorized transaction” — as long as it is unauthorized — you’ll have more protection.
By law, liability for unauthorized credit card use is limited to $50, but most banks don’t hold the card holder responsible for even that amount. Unlike billing-error disputes, which generally must be filed in writing, unauthorized transactions can be reported over the phone. And, there’s no requirement to do so within 60 days
Read the full article, including individual cases of consumers who fought back against unfair, fraudulent, or exhorbitant charges on their credit cards, and find out how their situations have played out, here.
Each state’s Attorney General has been releasing their ‘Top 10 Worst’ lists – noting the industries most notorious for fraud, consumer rip-offs and complaints.
In Florida: telemarketing calls top the list of reasons consumers are filing complaints.
In Nebraska: the credit and financial services industry tops the chart with most of the complaints centered on inaccurate billing.
In New Jersey: it’s used car scams inspiring the majority of complaints.
In Oregon: the telecommunications industry holds the top spot with complaints about everything from cable and internet services to cellular, long distance, and local telephone services.
The lists from 2008 from each state share a common theme: angry consumers turning to the Attorney General for assistance in resolving complaints that have otherwise gone ignored by the companies they’re complaining about.
From the NAAG website (National Association of Attorneys General) it’s clear that not much has changed since last year; bad-business is a repeat performance for certain sectors. Their top-ten worst list of consumer complaints, nationwide, from 2007:
Internet Goods and Services
33 states reached a settlement with Texas-based computer manufacturing company, Dell after consumer complaints rose to a level that brought the attention of numerous State Attorneys General.
The complaints against Dell range from warranties and service guarantees not being honored to unpaid rebates as well as falsified financing offers.
The settlement carries with it a 3.3 million dollar price tag and the requirement that Dell be more responsive to customer service issues, repair requests, and issue rebates in a timely manner.
Dell is required to pay claims made until April 13th, 2009 by eligible consumers. Consumers who are interested in finding out if they qualify for inclusion in the settlement payout should contact their State Attorney General’s office. To find out more about getting in touch with your local Attorney General, visit MeasuredUp’s Consumer Resources page.
Now, in order to make the grade with the BBB companies must live up to a new ratings system that ranks their standing in the Bureau with letter grades.
This move, close on the heels of the growing trend toward online consumer reviews and customer complaints, appears to be the BBB’s effort at bringing their system up to date with the type of feedback consumers are interested in. The old system (based on a simple ’satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory’ rating) is slated to be replaced with letter ‘grades’ ranging from A+ to F. The formula used to determine a company’s overall grade is comprised of 16 weighted factors, including a business’s overall complaint history.
The new Better Business Bureau ratings system was tested in Los Angeles in 2008 and has already been implemented in some parts of the U.S.
Full article at: http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9090398
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: http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9090398