Originally published 08/23/2012
Unless feedback relates to an isolated issue for just one customer, the problem will only get worse the longer you ignore it.
I've been thinking that this whole social media thing is like physical fitness; you have to get into the right "good" habits, learn to do things that might be uncomfortable and even hurt a bit at the beginning so you can develop your network, sharpen your social media reflexes, and, perhaps, even become addicted to one or more activities.
This became even more apparent to me last week while I was sitting out on my terrace working away amid the traffic and construction sounds of midday Manhattan. I was deep in my own world of thought when I noticed my cell phone flashing an incoming call from an unrecognized number. Now, it may sound strange but I don’t actually receive a lot of calls on my cell as my business is largely conducted online, in person or via email. To be honest, I don’t even know if there was a last time someone I didn’t know called me in the middle of the day on my cell, so I was definitely suspicious, but too curious not to answer.
The call was from my cell phone company, Sprint. Well, what I mean is, it was from a Sprint representative—more precisely, their Vice President of Customer Finance Services who was calling me regarding an article I had written about my recent customer experience that centered around their automatic bill pay feature.
I'll admit I was kind of abrupt when I answered. This was partly because it's really hard to hear on my terrace when there's traffic and construction, which seems like all the time these days, and partly because I expected it would be someone asking me for money, which, if you work from home like me, is pretty much the gist of every call you do receive from 9 to 6 that isn't from someone you know. However, after I realized who was on the phone and why they were calling, I moved inside so we could conduct a proper conversation.
Like an Olympian, the VP got right down to business. Firstly, she apologized for the inconvenience and dissatisfaction I experienced both with the communications supporting Sprint's automatic payment system as well as for the customer service I had received; this went a long way toward changing my tone. So, we were off to a good start. Then, she mentioned Sprint’s awards for customer satisfaction and how they were a top ranking company for customer experience with small and medium-sized businesses and, to me, that was a definite misstep. Frankly, if someone has experienced the opposite of excellence in either or both of these categories, I’m going to suggest that, yes, there’s a time and place to mention these plaudits to them; pick the wrong time and place and you only succeed in rubbing salt in an already irritated wound. I’ll give you a hint—it’s not right out of the gate, you have to earn back a good bit of trust and goodwill first.
Okay, so things were looking a little iffy, but then something really interesting happened: The VP explained to me that around the time I had originally set up my automatic bill pay Sprint was experiencing an issue that delayed automatic payments. It was this very problem that had prompted me to make manual payments, which then overrode my auto pay setup; a maddening situation that happened twice. Next, she admitted that the company had not properly communicated to customers how their automatic payments would be affected to reset expectations. And finally, she assured me that this kind of oversight would not happen again. For lack of a better metaphor, that was a home run.
Basically, Sprint took the negative feedback it received and turned it into a positive by identifying a significant flaw in their system that could be damaging to their customer experience and bottom line in the future. Now Sprint knows that understanding and addressing the impact on all aspects of their customers' experience is a high priority when issues arise. And this is really important not just to Sprint but to any business that receives customer feedback from whatever forum it may come. Unless the feedback relates to an isolated issue for just one customer, the problem will only get worse the longer you ignore it. Far better to flip that negative around and credit your customers for helping you improve your service, product, experience, etc.
Before we got off the phone the VP scored another couple of easy points—she gave me her direct contact information, a credit on my account and offered to send me her information via email, which I accepted and received in short order.
While my original experience with Sprint’s customer service left quite a lot to be desired, I must give credit where credit is due—in the social media realm Sprint seems to have its act together. Their response was rapid and effective, which is exactly what a social media response strategy should be.
After the VP and I hung up I went back out on my terrace and checked TweetDeck; it seems my article had been retweeted several times earlier in the day, which explained how and why I'd received that personal call. The whole experience gave me a new appreciation for the muscle of social media and the first tangible evidence that, like a good exercise regime, if you stick with it, you will begin to reap its rewards.
If you can't figure out how to reap the rewards you seek from your social media efforts or don't even know where to direct your energies, let's connect. You can reach me on Twitter @GrowBeyondNY or by email.
Get Growing is a syndicated business. blog. Many posts are also published on business2community.com.