The old adage is that a satisfied customer will tell three people and an unsatisfied customer will tell 10. However, with the advent of blogs, Twitter and YouTube, disgruntled customers can now share their rant about a company for the whole world to hear. Consumers are taking their complaints online. The Better Business Bureau advises that responding to complaints is necessary if a company wants to maintain a reputation for great customer service.
“The Internet empowers customers to air their grievances like a megaphone to the world which can be a scary prospect for a business owner,” said Kathy Barrett, BBB president. “Instead of being scared, companies should view the Internet as a great tool to work directly with disgruntled customers, fix the issue and hopefully turn them into a repeat customer.”
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/
Angela Cortright, founder ofSpa Gregories, which recently opened a branch in Del Mar, uses social media to find new potential customers.
“We’re trying to reach out to the local community through Facebook and Twitter,” she said, “It helps us by word of mouth. This is just a new mouth — it’s a digital mouth, instead of calling my friends.”
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.
Article about Zappos and great customer service. By Elizabeth Blackwell.
At the thestreet.com
SEATTLE (TheStreet) — It’s Business 101: Happy customers become regular customers. And maintaining a core of regulars can be less time-consuming and expensive than constantly marketing to attract new business.
But can a company thrive by making customer service the centerpiece of its mission? Yes, in the case of online shoe retailer Zappos.com, which was recently acquired by Amazon(AMZN Quote). Selling shoes isn’t exactly a game-changing or particularly high-margin business. What sets Zappos apart, and attracted Amazon, is its customer-focused culture and buyer loyalty.
Could above-and-beyond customer service make your business stand out, too?
“ 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.’
An article at Forbes.com confirms that while the economy is still experiencing a downturn, with The National Retail Federation estimating a 2.5% drop in sales for the first half of the new year, the shopping public is exhibiting signs of being more content with the service it receives from certain retailers.
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!
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