Resolving your customer service issues in the digital age

Posted by Faye on February 12, 2013 in The Social Networks |

A true story + 8 rules for using social media to air your complaints

I remember a time when we consumers had to put up with inferior customer service. If a service provider performed a job that wasn’t to our satisfaction, we would have to call the company, argue with a sales rep or a minimum-wage front-line employee, and settle for a resolution that wasn’t satisfactory (hey, we have to get on with our lives). And if you were sitting in phone-hold hell with a large company, it was rare indeed to finally connect with a caring customer service person.

Image from Despair.com

Image from Despair.com

You remember the saying, “When a customer has a great experience he tells five people. When he has a horrible experience he tells 25 people.” Or something like that. The Internet and the social networks have changed that forever. Today when a customer has a great experience she tells her 200 friends on Facebook. Maybe posts an online review. If that same customer has a bad experience, she will not only post it through her social networks, but blast it anywhere online. Maybe on Yelp or another review site. As you can see, the power is definitely now in the hands of the consumer.

My recent experience with a local business might have turned out differently had I not taken to the social networks to talk to them.

The problem

On the coldest night of the year (6 degrees F), our furnace quit. Actually it was the motor that quit. We called the HVAC company we’ve always used, since they’ve always provided good service. They came out the next day, installed a new motor & igniter, and $900 later we were warm again. Problem solved. Or so we thought.

When I got home that evening, I heard a humming noise coming through the vents. It wasn’t a loud noise, but loud enough to be noticeable. We called the service provider and told them about the noise. (I’m thinking, defective motor, but what do I know.) Of course hubs had to take more time from work to come home and let the guy back in so he could fix it.

Hubs calls me with the furnace motor report: “The guy came out, opened up the furnace, looked at (and listened to) the motor, and told me that was normal. Oh yeah, and by the way he charged us $59 for the service call.”

I’m pretty sure that somewhere in the paperwork we got that there was a warranty for this motor. So wasn’t this a warranty service call? No, because the tech said there was nothing wrong with the motor – obviously an opinion subject to debate.

So, to summarize: Our previous motor (the original motor) never made a sound. That was normal. Our new, $900 motor (+ igniter) makes a noise and that’s now the new normal. Plus we had to pay $59 for the tech to tell us that was (the new) normal.

Taking it to Facebook

Not being one to settle for the new normal, I found their Facebook page and posted this: Facebook post

24 hours later: No response.

I discovered a second Facebook page, copied & pasted the exact same post.

24 hours later: No response.

Wondering why they had two unmonitored Facebook pages to begin with, I finally sucked it up and made that dreaded phone call, preparing myself for an argument.

The resolution

The customer service guy (I’ll call him “Tom”) couldn’t have been nicer. After listening to my problem, we scheduled a service guy to come back out. (I might add I was nice to the guy, despite my frustrations.)

The resolution part 2 (2 hours later)

While I was still speculating about what the motor diagnosis would be on their second service call, I got a phone call from another customer service person (I’ll call him “Jim”). “This is Jim in customer service from XYZ Company. I understand you had a problem with the motor we installed?”

“Yes,” I said. “Did you just talk to Tom?”

“No,” he said. I asked him how he heard about my problem. “Well I got an email from (the guy who is supposed to be monitoring the Facebook pages) and said you were having a problem with your motor.” Oh that. Somebody from the company finally looked at their Facebook page(s).

Wow. This guy couldn’t have been nicer. He told me we should never have been charged for that service call. More importantly, he wanted to make this right. He offered to replace our motor with an OEM motor. I thanked him and told him to get with Jim since I had already scheduled the service call. He even gave me his direct number in case I had future problems.

The motor has been installed, we are warm, and things are now quiet at our house. So I went back to their Facebook page, removed my original post, and replaced it with this:

customer service thankyou

8 rules for customer service engagement in the social networks

Before you take your complaints to the social networks, here are eight rules:

1. If you have a complaint, start with the phone. It’s easier to communicate your problem by directly talking with a live person.

2. Give the company the opportunity to make it right.

3. If the company still hasn’t resolved the issue to your satisfaction, look for its social networks. If you find it has a Facebook page, check the “About” section. A company that has its social media act together will have information about how to get in touch with its customer service dept. Most of the larger companies have set up Twitter profiles specifically for customer service. I have received great service from @DellCares and @NortonSupport when I had computer issues.

4. If the company has provided no customer service information on its Facebook page, start with the wall. Post a brief explanation of your unresolved problem. Some companies allow you to send them a direct message through Facebook. If you’re using Twitter, you only have 140 characters to state your issue. Odds are, the person managing a company’s social networks is not the same person you would have talked to on the phone. So don’t get caught up in the details.

5. Allow the company 24 hours to respond. Give it an extra day if you’re posting on the weekend.

6. Be nice! There’s no reason to be nasty. You can submit your complaint without curse words.

7. If the company still hasn’t resolved the problem to your satisfaction, your last resort would be to contact the Better Business Bureau. They can assist in helping you resolve problems with a business. You can also write a negative online review. There are many online review sites; here’s a list to check out. It won’t solve your problem, but you’ll probably feel better. If the company monitors its online reputation, someone still may contact you.

8. If the company does resolve your problem to your satisfaction, return the love – post a thank-you on their Facebook page or message them on Twitter. Or write a positive review on an online review site. It might not hurt to remove your original complaint from their page.

Most companies want to do the right thing for their customers by correcting their mistakes. Remember the Golden Rule? It also applies to how you treat companies.

Have you used the social networks to resolve your disputes with a company? I’d love to hear your experiences (no company names please).




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