Customer Loyalty in the Age of Social Media
Guest Post by Joanna Jones of Impact Learning Systems
Over the years exasperated customers have aired their frustrating interactions with contact center agents on social media. Some of these have gone viral creating public relation nightmares for the companies involved and giving other frustrated consumers a platform to pile on. Often when a company finds itself facing one of these viral campaigns it issues a public mea culpa and quickly makes an honest effort to revamp its policies so as to avoid such misfortune again. Your company doesn't need to be holding the short-end of a public shaming stick to revisit customer service policies and procedures to ensure that your protocols deliver a win-win for your company and the customer.
It is generally acknowledged that building customer loyalty and advocacy can help fend off some of these disastrous escalations. Since hindsight is usually 20/20, let's take a look at some scenarios where a company's policy has not had the customer's experience in mind and others where the opposite is true. First, the fails.
We'll start with a recent company fail and look at a case that occurred in Britain, but the internet being what it is, everyone can feel this customer's pain from Nova Scotia to Guam. The company being called out is Sky Tv when a customer was unable to cancel his subscription via live chat. Now, it's no secret that companies often make cancelling a subscription a bit of a hassle, but the interaction in question ended up taking 96 minutes and 3,800 words of back-and-forth communication and the agent still said she was unable to cancel the customer's service.
Of course the customer's gripe not only ended up on various social media sites, but was also picked up by a national newspaper that ended up publishing the entire transcript between the customer and live chat agent. I will tell you right now, it is painful to read through the transcript, not only because the reader immediately empathizes with the customer but because it reflects the company policies that the agent followed quite masterfully. The agent gets a bad rap through all the media reports, but she was following protocol and it is really the upper management who are to blame for such a painful customer experience. The sad reality of this story is that after the company initially said that the agent towed the company line when word of this story started to get major attention, the company retracted and tried to pin the error on the agent.
It's one thing to make it difficult for customers to cancel a subscription, but Verizon got mud on its face when it refused to allow the daughter of a deceased customer to cancel his phone service even when she presented a death certificate. She was told that without a PIN number it couldn't cancel the service and to add insult to injury continued to charge the account for an entire year. The daughter made numerous attempts to get the issue resolved to no avail. Finally, having exhausted her options in trying to reason with Verizon she went to the local newspaper. When word got out of her plight Verizon finally cancelled her deceased father's service and credited her for the year of charges since his death. The company made a statement that it had reprimanded the agent who the daughter last dealt with and was providing additional coaching.
Now let's look at some successful customer service experiences that have gone viral, in a good way.
It's no secret that loyal customers contribute much more to a company's bottom line than wooing new customers. For most customers, simply providing decent, yet consistent, service is what keeps them loyal to a brand or product. This was the case for one such customer who had stayed at the Gaylord Opryland convention center for three years in a row while attending a conference. During her stays over the years she came to love the clock alarm, particularly the type of music she was able to set the alarm to. She searched high and low for the same clock alarm but was unable to find it. She tweeted about not being able to locate such a product for herself and the company responded that although the brand of the clock was available to the public, the type of music that she so loved was exclusive to the resort. She tweeted back that she was bummed because she so loved waking up to the sound of this clock. Upon returning to her room later that day she found two of the clocks she so coveted with her name on them and a letter thanking her for following the resort on twitter and to enjoy the two clock alarms as a gift from the resort. Of course, the customer immediately took to twitter to announce her delight. The twitter thread was re-tweeted enough times to go viral.
Heather Armstrong is known mainly as a "mommy blogger" but she has also published a number of books, been profiled in the New York Times, and serves as a spokesperson for mental health awareness. She was one of the early "mommy bloggers" and over the years has built up a following of millions causing Forbes to name her among 30 honorees on its 2009 list of "The Most Influential Women In Media." Basically, when Ms. Armstrong writes about something she has a built in audience who listen and can spread the word. Her blog topics cover a number of subjects, but she recently devoted a post to customer service done right. One of the customer service encounters she called out happened when she phoned into her cable company to inquire about some of her favorite channels that she couldn't access. Instead of being pressured into upgrading her service or given some banal platitudes, she had an agent who went "off-script" and was funny, engaging and personalized the interaction.
The above examples highlight the importance of creating policies and procedures that keep the customer in focus at all times. There is no escaping the quick spread of opinions by customers across multiple media channels. When companies are invested in creating customer experiences that are personalized, authentic, timely and relevant they are more likely to enjoy customer loyalty and advocacy. In today's connected world, it's a good time to use both the good and bad examples of customer service policies and procedures that have gone viral and compare them to your own. It's better to be proactive and be on the right side of a social media campaign!
Joanna Jones is a professional copywriter and marketing strategist who has partnered with Impact Learning Systems for five years. As a marketing professional, Joanna works closely with customer service teams and helps companies improve their B2B and B2C communications and strategy. firstname.lastname@example.org