I love The New York Times. I really like the writing of David Segal. I didn’t like Segal’s “Soapbox” column last week where he added the muscle of his newspaper to one person’s battle with T-Mobile. (Full disclosure: we represent another mobile firm).
Anyway, long story short, his subject complains about a never opened T-Mobile account for which she is being charged.
Segal gets in touch with T-Mobile on her behalf, and the PR team at the phone company “sprang into action.” Segal wonders in the piece why (presumably all) ”companies seem to rouse themselves only after they get a tap on the shoulder from someone in the news media.” He does a bit of a tap himself around the facts: The customer complained. The company asked for some information. She didn’t provide the information, and the collection firm pushed on.
I have often pushed back on bloggers, Tweeters and Facebook status updaters who perform elaborate public whines or rants over customer service issues that they should have solved themselves. Caveat emptor has never been more appropriate than in the brave new world of the internet, yet many seem to think that it’s possible to fly through life unscathed by the unscrupulous or even dented a little by a bad customer experience.
I am impressed with consumer companies that are facilitating good customer experiences by using social media. Dell was featured in a guest post on Mary Ellen Slayter’s Smart Blog on Social Media recently. Matt Jurmann from Chromatics lists a number of good ones, also, in the form of case studies. Maybe Price and Jaffe have it right in The Best Customer Service is No Service.
Maintaining customer satisfaction has never been more important, as Alison says in her Better Business Bureau video/blog post. As our client notes, “you can’t make all customers satisfied all the time.” The crying of “wolf” over things that can be resolved with a little conversation, though, is troubling. Social networks have the potential to facilitate the resolution of issues; not just amplifying the whining or the shouting.
A more recent look at the multiplier effect of “badvocates” is Laurie Burkitt’s post on Forbes just this week. She repeats a Weber Shandwick stat, saying that power writers like @dmscott represent 20% of the world’s adult population online and each one reaches an estimated 14 people with his or her critiques. Powerful, most often principled, these critics, though, may be encouraging less sophisticated copycats
What do you think? Are we too quick to resort to the online rant or a call to Mother NYT? Is the age of social media encouraging whining? What is the appropriate role of customer service in the era of such transparency when the first complaint can carry such weight?