Monday, October 28, 2013

Three Steps to Avoid a Tricky Tweet

Lessons learned from poor customer service

By Kirsten Snyder - Director, Integrated Insight

We all have stories about terrible customer service.  Some industries, such as the airline industry, have a notoriously bad customer service reputation.  My experience was with a company in another dreaded industry...home warranties.  Generally, when something goes wrong with either my flight or my refrigerator, I have the same feeling of dread, expecting a terribly painful ordeal.  I recently had an awful experience with our home warranty company, but it didn’t have to be that way.  If the company had focused on only three things, it could have made the experience better.

Treat me like a valued customer.  Our home warranty company simply passed me off to a contractor who was supposed to solve my problem.  This is the typical process but unfortunately, they don’t follow up to make sure everything is going smoothly.  I am the home warranty company’s customer, but they don’t treat me that way.  They act like a broker rather than an advocate, which doesn’t make me feel like they value my business, and leads to my next point.

Proactively communicate with me.  After the initial meeting with the contractor, I went to the home warranty company to help expedite the process.  However, their solution was to continue to deal directly with the contractor, who kept telling me the part would be arriving in the “next shipment.”  After four weeks of no results from the contractor, my husband sent out a frustrated tweet.  The negative press caught the attention of the home warranty company, who promptly called.  This was the first communication I received from the home warranty company since my initial claim.  Had the home warranty company actually been involved in my claim, communicating with me and the contractor, we wouldn’t have resorted to taking our frustrations to Twitter.  The communication doesn’t have to immediately solve the problem, but even an email or phone call that says they are monitoring the claim, would have been a huge improvement, making me feel like a valued customer.

Give employees the tools to solve problems and encourage them to do so.  When the tweet prompted a phone call from the home warranty company after a month of radio silence, I was optimistic that they were finally going to advocate for my situation.  Unfortunately, the phone call began with, “Hi.  You recently posted something very negative on Twitter and I am calling to explain the situation.”  The representative proceeded to tell me what I already knew – the contractor had still not received the part.   She offered no solution to my problem, wasn’t prepared to offer a solution, and did it seem like she had any authority to do so.  Her job was to call and defend the home warranty company and prevent another “negative” tweet to my husband’s 130,000 followers.

If you have the staff to monitor and engage in social media, then use the opportunity to make the situation better.  Yes, people want to understand what’s happening, but most of the time what they really want is a solution.  In my case, I was well aware of the situation.  We took our problem to Twitter because neither the contractor nor our home warranty company was solving our problem.  We figured my husband’s large Twitter following would encourage the home warranty company to do something.   I wanted to hear, “We understand you have had a difficult and frustrating experience.  We have found a new contractor who has the part in stock and will be out tomorrow to install it.  I am so sorry for any inconvenience.” 

Communicating can go a long way in making customers feel valued in addition to turning a bad situation into a positive experience.

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