“If I don’t provide a solution for the issue I have with the [insert thingy here] that you sold me, I am going to let it be known across the web in my own personal campaign to destroy you!” How often have you either threatened doing this yourself or have heard or seen someone doing it? There are certainly so many ways in which to try to get what you want from customer service than there were before the internet – and social media, specifically – came into play. One could say that you get a bunch more with sweetness than with anger, but what if a company’s policies are against you from the start? But, sometimes, clout can give you a leg up if a company ill-advisedly lets it get that far.
A story that made the rounds in the second half of last year was about Joe Fernandez and his issues with Delta Airlines. He had gotten bumped from an overbooked flight on Delta and was given a voucher for future travel. When he tried to redeem the voucher, he got nowhere with the agents – with some stating they had no idea what it was – and, upon emailing them, was ultimately told that he was out of luck.
What Fernandez did next was Tweet that he would never fly Delta again because of it. The story could be over if it was not for the fact that Fernandez is the CEO of Klout, a resource for measuring influence online. Due to Delta’s using a partner’s services that Klout actually provides data for, they responded instantly with a tweet back that effectively said, “Really sorry about that. We didn’t realize you had so much Klout.” They then provided a number to contact and quickly fixed the issue.
While it was a great use of technology to help them monitor and manage social chatter, Delta failed in how they used the technology to provide customer service. Again, the world is different and, just because you might help someone at any of many points in a conflict, doesn’t mean that all is erased. In this case, Fernandez had already posted his negative sentiment out there and their solution only pointed to a bigger problem. The fact that they insinuate that they are only helping because of the influence of the offended makes many decide not to use their services moving forward. Instead of laying out standards for who they will and will not help, their customer service should help anyone who has had an issue with their product or service.
In this case, they very well may have changed their practices since this story came to light last year, but I’m still carrying a negative impression of their brand. They would have had to work extra hard to market that negative sentiment into a positive one.
Customer Service always has a component of risk management involved and everyone can probably not be treated equally – there probably just isn’t enough time, resources or money to do so. So, if you determine that your company cannot deliver a high level of customer service to everyone, you should go back to the drawing board again to see what can be done. If you still can’t come up with a solution and must rely on a hierarchy of services based on clout, the use of data can be used in a stronger way that neither puts off those who have clout and those you don’t.
Regardless of what you think about the Delta case (Fernandez should have never had a problem in the first place), set a strategy to be able to best handle the available data holistically. Unless you’re a Casino/Resort, you probably won’t have all of the data points in place to inform levels of action immediately. Data alone won’t hack it entirely because data is often presented in a vacuum. In the Delta case, they had the customer’s information and should look for a solution that matches that information with the data they have available through other departments so that it is clear who is calling, no matter what mode of communication is chosen. Whether it is in providing a score to the agents so that they can follow the correct “script” or, even better, provide leeway for customer service agents to provide the best solution at the time. I don’t think the best solution at any time is nothing. With better use of existing data, “nothing” needs never be used.
In the current environment, it is becoming harder to manage sentiment as social platforms are growing. Much the same way the adage of being nice and helpful is usually the best way, the return to good customer service practices is imperative and can save companies much more than money in the future.