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When All Else Fails, Go Social 

When All Else Fails, Go Social

When All Else Fails, Go Social

7/15/2010
By Donna Fluss
Ditch The Frustration

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I have yet to meet an adult who does not have a customer service horror story. And because of what I do for a living, I hear about some wonderfully awful (and sometimes extremely funny) customer service experiences. They range from totally inappropriate salespeople to anecdotes about the worst call centers or customer service. Periodically, I hear a story about great service, but there are many more examples of bad service than good. This is because people are more likely to share their bad experiences. It could also be that the quality of service is poor in too many organizations, despite the billions of dollars being pumped into this industry.

I am frequently asked how to get customer problems resolved when all other approaches have failed. Many people are happy to play by the rules, as long as they receive help. They call, write or email within the appropriate time frames and cannot seem to get someone at the company to pay attention to their issue. Worse, someone may pay attention but they make it clear that they don’t really care. Worst of all is when the inquiry falls into the infamous “black hole,” never to see the light of day (or service) again.

Until two years ago, I would recommend that customers write to the office of the CEO, because in many regulated industries, such as banking, insurance or telecom, inquiries sent to the executive suite often fall under guidelines that require responses within certain time frames. So, yes, I am saying that if you send an inquiry to a customer service organization and do not get a response, it is a good idea to resend it to the office of the CEO, where a response is generally required on a relatively rapid basis. Keep in mind that the first thing the office of the CEO will do is ask the customer service group what they did (or didn’t) do already. So, if customer service has explicitly turned you down, there is a good chance that you’ll get the same response from the office of the CEO; but if you have not gotten any response from the customer service group, you will more likely get one from the CEO’s office.

Now, this does not mean that you should send every inquiry to the CEO. This should be considered the approach of last resort. It should also be used when company responses are inappropriate or wrong and you cannot get anyone to pay attention to you.

Now there is a better way to get a response. I have not tried it yet (as I have not had the need), but I have heard from people in many enterprises that there is a specific communications channel that generates corporate responses more quickly than others – it shouldn’t be this way, but it is. When all else fails, send a “tweet” and share it with everyone that you can. A growing number of enterprises have staff assigned to look for and resolve customer service or complaints on Twitter, to avoid public embarrassment and bad PR. However, while this approach speeds up the response from an increasing number of organizations, it does not yet work for every company and it’s important not to overuse the channel.

I’m glad customers/consumers have an effective method for getting their issues addressed. (It also still works to send an inquiry to the CEO’s office, but this approach takes more time.) What troubles me is that while a problem has a good chance of being addressed when customers “go social” and are willing to publicly challenge a company, the underlying cause of the issue and/or bad customer service group may remain unresolved. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am pleased that enterprises are responding to customer complaints, but someone at the company needs to research and fix the real problem that forced a very frustrated customer to “go social” in the first place –, whether it involves bad policies in the service group or an operational issue.

Social networking is a great tool for customers and consumers. It is increasingly a great approach for getting attention. If used properly, it could also be wonderfully powerful for enterprises; but for this to happen, companies have to modify their service strategy and philosophy and build an integrated approach to service that addresses customer issues consistently, regardless of the channel on which an inquiry is received.

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