Dear Colleagues:

Every year, each of us has numerous memorable customer service experiences. As marketers we know that quality service is an essential ingredient to motivate purchases and attract repeat customers. This year I leveraged social networks LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to gather examples of customer service and examine how these sites lift and tarnish brands.

These customer experiences are organized by "Champs and Chumps" to express the perceptions that they evoke. This is also a reminder that all marketers need to conduct frequent web searches to monitor, anticipate and respond to chatter about our companies and how customers experience and communicate about our service.

Let's learn from one another's experiences here!
Ivy

 
 

W Hotel Where Every W is a Win for Customers

 
 

An Exclusive Whatever, Whenever Experience" lives up to its brand promise. Shortly after arriving in my room, I turned on the television to watch the news and found it was not working. A press of the button on the phone marked "Whatever, Whenever" and service staff appeared. Within 10 minutes the television was working and the "WW" desk called me to be sure that I was satisfied.

Taking their branding full circle, W presented me with a W2Go card during my registration to request my return flight information, which would enable their concierge to arrange for a printed boarding pass to be delivered to my room before checkout. Does customer service get better than that?

 
     
 

Life Saving Customer Service

 
 

Knowing the Products

When I was working at LL Bean and spent time in their call center, I listened in to a customer calling to thank the representative for "saving" her son's life. Apparently this woman had called LL Bean to order long underwear for her son as a Christmas present for his trip to climb El Capitan in Yosemite that winter. The customer representative took the initiative to tell the caller that the underwear she was ordering was not right for that use and recommended an alternative thermal variety.

It turns out that the son and his friend climbed El Capitan and had to strap themselves into the rock face when a freak snowstorm hit them. Only her son was wearing the thermal underwear, which provided protection as they were stranded through the night. Her son's friend perished from exposure. The customer credits the representative and the product with saving her son's life.

A LinkedIn colleague from the Group: P&G Alumni Network

Some Relationships Can Never be Repaired

I bought a Toshiba laptop that developed a problem: the 'screen light' would go out so you couldn't see anything, even with an external projector. After the second fix, the company acknowledged there was a product problem with that specific laptop model and they offered 'free repair.' I'd pointed out to them that a laptop that goes dark in the middle of a customer presentation (as it once did) is not a viable product. Yet they stonewalled even after I filed a complaint via the Better Business Bureau (who subsequently gave the company a grade of "F" for its customer service).

The payoff came two years later when in my professional role I was able to intervene on my company's planned purchase of Toshiba computers; when their sales rep tracked me down I simply handed over the two inch thick file of paperwork and observed that his company's former actions have consequences.

A LinkedIn colleague

 
     
 

Facebook Networks on Customer Service

 
 

I searched "Customer Service" on Facebook and found about 16,000 pages with those words in the title. Many of the group names expressed angst on the topic: Customer Service for Idiots, Customer Service Sucks, Whatever Happened to Customer Service? Most of these groups have just a few dozen members each.

Those companies with positive messages and social interactions were those that offer and provide service through a Facebook page encouraging "fans" to friend them, like T-Mobile, JetBlue, Intel, Disney, Pinkberry and so many others. A sampling of postings alerts us to the importance of creating a social media presence to ensure a positive perception, manage your reputation and message, as well as offset any viral activity that could be negative.

Quiznos: Customer Service Stars! This group only shows 8 members, but really demonstrates how employees and franchises can promote their customer benefits. This page is in the Business - Employment & Work category described:

An elite group of retired sandwich artist specialist, who where abnormally keen with first rate customer services and made one hell of a sandwich.

Dell has leveraged Facebook to provide extensive technical and customer supports. They created a Global page for several different products-- Dell Axiom PDA and Dell Driver Downloads -- and customers are engaged. This page includes the website url: http://support.dell.com, and notes locations of USA and Japan. Yassmine Chadib wrote "I LOVE My DELL. Thanks DELL." Wachy Galang (Philippines) wrote "Dell has played a big part in my life and my work experience!!!"

Facebook Group: Customer Service Nightmares
had these posts on their discussion board:

Sheryl Clark Best (Detroit, MI) wrote on December 27, 2008 at 8:35am"I sent an email to a toothbrush company because the last 2 "sonic" toothbrushes in a row quit working after only 4 weeks. Their Customer Service response was a mailout with 3 coupons for a manual toothbrush and a coupon for a discount on dog food. I don't have a dog!! Needless to say, I have switched toothbrush companies."

Sony Sucks at Customer Service, a Business - Consumer Groups has just 16 members. But, a small presence can take a mean swipe at a company. Complaints come from one fellow from Australia regarding the hard drive space required to use their game. Another from Manchester, England because they did not take his credit card on the phone, and a third in the U.S. because his customer service call was routed to the Philippines and did not provide him with an option to escalate his concern. Anyone can search Facebook and find these critiques.

 
     
 

The Twitter Option

 
 

Twitter is less developed for customer service, though if chatter develops about a new product or experience a service melt down, companies should be ready. On any day you may find companies or products among "Trending Topics" on Twitter. Recently, AT&T, iPhone 3G, iPhone MMS, Apple, Gourmet magazine have all appeared on the list surrounding major product announcements. If you respond to tweeted comments and questions you may influence the tone of the postings using the company name or with honest responses from followers and friends. If not, you take your chances.

 
     
 
 
©2009 Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications, Inc.