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Archive for the tag “customer service”

A Brief GMail Jay Update

Poor old GMail Jay. Gets into all sorts of adventures, and can’t seem to get himself out. In our last update, received with much hilarity, we heard the tale of my multiple GMail doppelgangers. From real estate in Dubai to satellite dishes in Connecticut, to interstate movie rentals, he (and she) gets around.

Since we last spoke, GMail Jay has been busy indeed. He went shopping at Nordstrom’s in Honolulu and conveniently had the receipt emailed to himself so he wouldn’t lose it. He has also, frustratingly, restarted his real estate career in Dubai.

gmail-logoFascinatingly, GMail Jay also appears to be on the negotiating team for several CUPE Locals in Toronto, who it seems are gearing up for several important contract negotiations with the City Of Toronto. The team thoughtfully sent me a pile of confidential briefing notes, and didn’t respond to my explanatory notes explaining they had the wrong Jay. I jokingly sent them a note saying I would forward the briefing materials to The Toronto Star if they didn’t stop. They did. (I had long deleted the obviously confidential documents without reading them.)

Most recently, GMail Jay seems to have become involved in the music industry. He has been asked to provide thoughts on an album cover for an emerging artist. “Behoward” sent the cover along with a note that he didn’t like the font. It was a good observation. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

I know two other people who have GMail problems similar to mine. However, where they each have one person mistakenly using their address, for some reason I am blessed with 20 or more. Long ago, when an old friend tracked me down on Facebook, she said, “do you know there are 173 Jay Lawrences listed”? I hadn’t known my name was so common. Now I do know indeed.

Which brings me to my point:  If your business uses email marketing, or even if it uses email to communicate with existing customers, have you looked at your systems to make sure people can get out just as easily as they got in?

If not, you are creating the potential for a negative impression every time someone mistakenly gets signed up.

What Can We Learn: Part 2 – The Adventures of Gmail Jay

I have a Gmail account. I don’t use it that much, just usually to sign into some Google services. I’ve had it since the Gmail beta ages ago, when you needed an invite from a user to get in. It’s a simple address, “jaylawrence”.

gmail-logoUnfortunately, there are several people around the globe who, on a regular basis, enter my email address as their own. My email address has had some fascinating and entertaining adventures. Gmail Jay has been a real estate agent in Dubai, been a member of a multi-level cosmetics marketing scheme in England, been offered a job interview in London (can you be here this afternoon at 3?), once stayed at a YMCA residence in Sydney, Australia, and regularly orders pizza in Queensland, Australia.

Those, however, are just the international adventures! Back in North America, Gmail Jay once rented a movie from a Redbox at a Walgreens in Wisconsin, and then inexplicably returned it in Illinois. She apparently owns a Toyota, and regularly has service done at the Toyota dealership in Hanover, PA. She loves to shop at a particular Williams-Sonoma in Florida, and received preferred customer emails from the store manager. She uses Progressive for her insurance needs. He once had Dish Network installed in Connecticut. Poor Gmail Jay also once applied for a job at Taco Bell, and was turned down.

Email-buttonYou may have noticed alternating “he” and “she” pronouns above. That’s accurate, as the users of my address usually provide their own names when filling out forms. Gmail Jay has been male and female.

Gmail Jay has also joined countless social networks, and regularly gets password reset requests from Gmail, when the brilliant folks who keep using my address realize they do not have the password for it. One managed to successfully do a password reset on me once, requiring some quick action to save the account.

An entertaining story, but here’s the dark side: almost none of the mistakes above were fixable on email. Very few of the emails that arrived had valid reply-to addresses. Almost none had valid unsubscribe links. Emails to the customer service departments of the above organizations were routinely ignored. I still regularly get real estate listings from Dubai from “other” real estate agents, possibly even real agents and not mistaken ones like myself.

The Dubai Government was the worst offender. All emails asking to be removed from the national registry of realtors were completely ignored. A close second was Hanover Toyota, which I had to repeatedly telephone to be removed from the service database, since all emails to that dealership and to Toyota head office were ignored. Williams-Sonoma, the YMCA, and the pizza places all ignored my responses.

The Progressive Insurance account was the most disturbing. I had all the policyholder’s personal information from name and address to bank account and social security number. If I had notions of malice, I could have sold the info, or used it myself. As it happened, Progressive opened a fraud investigation to discover how such a large privacy breach could have taken place. Again, there was no unsubscribe or reply function. Fixing this required two telephone calls to Progressive HQ.

One last anecdote before our lessons. When Dish Network emailed to confirm my installation appointment, they did not respond to my notes that they had the wrong person. I checked the information and discovered the proper contact information. I called the guy in Connecticut, and let him know that the crew would be there Saturday morning. An easy fix!

What could we possibly learn from these foibles? A few things:

  • When people sign up for an account on your site, require confirmation
  • Make it easy for those confirmations to be denied in case of mistakes
  • Never send personal information to an unconfirmed email address
  • If you send email as part of your permission-based marketing, make it easy to alter the subscription
  • Have a valid reply-to address
  • Understand that permission-based marketing requires permission – if someone wants to revoke it, let them
  • Trying to keep subscribers to your email marketing by making it hard for them to unsubscribe is a negative experience

Not understanding the basics of permission marketing does irreparable damage to your brand. For instance, should I ever move to Hanover, PA, I would likely not deal with Hanover Toyota. Most of Gmail Jay’s adventures were a result of people not paying attention as they typed. It was not the fault of the marketers. However, the fact that it was so hard to fix the issues was entirely their fault.

If you make it easy to end a permission-based marketing relationship, you are far more likely to get that person back than if you tried to obfuscate and complicate the unsubscribe process.

Twitter’s Customer Service Revolution

Let’s start today’s entry with a little story, shall we?

Last week I received a new debit card in the mail. A perfectly routine and normal thing that everyone experiences once in a while. Mine, however, had a small error in the printing. Not a big deal, but it was my name, and when shopping online, I would have to enter my name wrong in order for the data to match that which had been erroneously printed on my card. A minor inconvenience, and I somewhat naively assumed the solution would be just as minor.

First thing I did was call the toll-free customer service number on my card. I explained the issue to the agent. He, naturally, assumed that an error of this sort was not possible. I managed to persuade him that it was indeed a problem, and that it needed to be fixed. He told me that he couldn’t help me, and that I would have to go into a branch.

To the branch I went, and explained the situation again. Again, disbelief was expressed that this particular error could occur in the first place. The staff finally got it, and patiently explained that there was nothing they could do about it, and that I would have to call the toll-free customer service number. “But wait”, said I. “I’ve just done that, and they sent me here”. “Sorry”, said the teller, “all I can do is call that number myself”. She kindly offered me the use of a phone in the branch to contact the customer service line once again. I sat in the branch and waited 15 minutes on hold before giving up and going about my day. I resolved to call the next morning when wait times would be shorter.

The next morning, I had the much better idea to tweet my troubles.

@(bank) new debit card arrived, my name is wrong. 1-800 says branch can help, but branch says it’s 1-800. Help?

A response was almost immediate, inviting me to DM some details. A brief conversation in DM followed, while I explained the situation. The Twitter CSR told me that yes indeed, the branch was the solution. I explained, while rolling my eyes, that I had been to the branch and they couldn’t help me. “Which branch and who did you speak with?” was the encouraging reply.

Then a remarkable thing happened. My cell phone rang. It was the manager from the branch I had been to the night before. I had not provided any account info to the Twitter CSR, but they had tracked me down. Off I went to the branch, where I was greeted personally by the Branch Manager. With a few quick keystrokes, my name was restored to what it really is, and a new debit card was dispatched from head office.

Sitting quietly in the corner was the teller from the previous night, looking very sheepish indeed.

The whole episode struck me as particularly remarkable. It would appear that my bank has the most empowered and and engaged customer service agents monitoring social media. Why?

It’s public.

That’s the silver bullet of customer service via social media. Everything you say about a business is on the public record for all to see. Companies and brands want to make sure their online reputation is the best it can possibly be. Smart businesses engage quickly, resolve issues promptly, and make sure they are seen doing just that.

Now some tips for business, and some for consumers as well:

For business:

  • Be available via social media, and monitor your channels. People are talking about your brand whether you are there or not
  • Realize that you cannot control what people say about your brand
  • Monitor related search terms so you can proactively respond to issues involving you that haven’t been brought to your attention
  • Respond promptly to complaints
  • Once contact is established, take the conversation private, via DM, email, or telephone
  • Solve the issue as quickly as you can
  • When there is a resolution, follow up with the complainant.
  • For huge bonus social media street-cred, follow up again a few days later, publicly. “Hi @123, just checking in to see if everything is still OK!”

I read a blog post this morning where a major hotel chain (Novotel) appears to be actively discouraging customers to complain on social media. It was a pretty shocking read, almost to the point of scolding the author who had complained to the front desk, to no avail, and then tweeted about the problem. The chain did not respond for days, and then admonished the author for not letting the front desk know. This kind of customer service is incredibly damaging to a brand. See tip #1 above. The conversation is taking place with or without you. Best to be a part of it.

Social Media Tips For Consumers:

  • Find the correct Twitter account to complain to – Some brands have several
  • State your problem clearly, without editorializing
  • Ranting, raving, insulting, swearing, or generally being abusive will work against you. You won’t get what you want this way. You are likely to be ignored
  • If a brand invites you to discuss in DM, do it
  • If there is no resolution, don’t be afraid to restate the trouble publicly
  • Communicate from an established account. (More on this later)
  • It’s always nice to thank the CSR publicly upon a successful resolution

One more thing for consumers: If you start a tweet with @brand, only the people who follow you and @brand will see that tweet. If you start a tweet with “Hey @brand” or even a dot, “.@brand”, everyone who follows you will see your tweet. The more people who see your tweet, the more impact it has.

Twitter certainly appears to have quickly supplanted mail, e-mail, phone, postcards and telegrams as the most effective customer service channel. The public nature of twitter encourages business to much quicker action than a private phone call ever would.

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