Tag Archives: Customer service

Tweet your way to customer satisfaction

airline lineThere is an art to complaining, and I’ve always tried to emphasize that to consumers who call me for help. If you don’t approach the situation properly, you may be your own worst enemy and end up with no resolution. How the times have changed. I started out in the business teaching people how to complain properly in writing, and then with online disputes, and now it’s turned to social media disputes. If used effectively, Twitter and Facebook are great tools to get customer satisfaction.

Facebook and Twitter have evolved into sounding boards and real time reflections of a company’s customer satisfaction. Companies are beginning to realize they need to manage their social media pages. Some businesses are better than others in dealing with this new frontier in customer service.

Recently, I put social media complaints to the test. We were flying back to Kansas City, and of course it was snowing in Cleveland. Many airline sites now allow you to track the history of your plane, so you can see if it’s on time or delayed in another part of the country. I noticed that our plane was delayed in Canada and still had to go to New York and New Hampshire before making its way to Cleveland. Based on the available data, I knew our plane was going to be four to five hours late.

I called the airline and tried to use the old fashioned version of customer service. After waiting on the phone for a half hour, I got a representative who offered me no help. She just repeated what the computer said. The plane was on a short delay, even though digging deeper on that same computer system showed at least a four hour delay based on all the cities that plane had to visit before Cleveland.

There was another plane leaving for Kansas City just two hours after our scheduled flight. I asked for seats on that plane. I was told that wasn’t possible.

Out of complete desperation, I got on Twitter and shared my travel story making sure I mentioned the airline. Within minutes, I got a direct message from the airline asking me for my reservation #. I sent it back to the airline, and they asked if I wanted to get on the 8 PM flight. Within 30-40 minutes, I had two seats on the 8 o’clock flight.

Once it was resolved, I tweeted my satisfaction showing the airline I appreciated what they did.

When we arrived at the airport to depart Cleveland, we saw long lines of frustrated passengers trying to rearrange their flights with customer service. People were waiting in line and on the phone. I wanted to get on the loud speaker and tell all those people to hang up and get out of line and get online. Sharing your travel nightmare on Twitter or Facebook is quick, easy, and the best way to get customer satisfaction.

Airline social media pages are full of customers who are asking for help, and full of responses from the airlines. While many airlines monitor their social media page, some companies don’t respond to these types of complaints. Some consumers say their complaints are even erased from some Facebook pages.

I think companies need to improve their social media response efforts, so the expectation of a response is more uniform. That being said, customers also need to improve their attitudes toward companies.

I’ve always found that you’re more likely to achieve a resolution if you put aside your deepest hatred for the company. Keep a level head, and share your story in a concise and friendly manner. Don’t be accusatory or sarcastic. Just use straight-forward language and sell yourself as an appealing and appeasble customer.

Next time you have a problem, try social media. You might be surprised at the response.

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The joys of the season

money overhead big billsI am a big online shopper, trying my best to avoid the stores during the busy holiday shopping season. However, my husband insisted we spend some time window shopping at the mall while enjoying the sounds and sights of the season. I reluctantly went. We pulled into a parking space farthest away from the mall. I couldn’t believe the shortage of spaces. The chaos outside made me want to drive away, afraid of what we would experience inside. What we found surprised me.

The mall was filled with people. Some stores were wall to wall shoppers with little room to move. The noise of all the holiday chatter echoed off the walls. When I looked around, I saw shoppers carrying multiple bags. Despite the crowds, it wasn’t chaotic. It was orderly.

One place where I expected chaos was the Santa line. The line was wrapped around the display probably 50-100 deep. Surely, the patience was wearing thin for somebody. I looked around and didn’t see one child running around, screaming, or crying.

I was shocked. I’ve visited gaming and play centers on a weekend, and it’s filled with children running around, screaming, or crying. However, the magic and power of Santa had all these children on their best behavior.

holiday shoppingShoppers were not only on their best behavior, store clerks were too. They were helpful and pleasant. Granted they’re told to be on their best behavior as sales during the holiday season are crucial to the future of some of these businesses. While corporate may send that message, reality doesn’t always allow a smile and courteous attitude. The retail business is tough and involves long, tiring hours. That can easily get the best of any human so I expected “someone” would be in a bad mood. I didn’t find anyone during my visit.

It’s amazing how much one person’s attitude impacts the next. With many people in good moods, the spirit of the season was felt by many. The good mood became contagious. One woman even commented to the manager about the good cheer.

We were eating at a restaurant in the mall parking lot, and the woman in the booth next to us asked for the manager. That’s never a good sign, and you could see the server was concerned by the expression on his face. He even went over to the woman after she asked for the manager, and had a brief interaction. Clearly, the server was concerned about the customer’s request.

The manager came over, and the customer asked her to sit down. Another bad sign, or was it? I couldn’t hear everything that was said, but the next thing that I heard was the manager thanking the woman over and over for sharing such positive comments. The manager told the customer typically she hears the bad feedback rather than any positive feedback about servers. She thanked the customer for sharing.

The manager and customer talked for almost ten minutes as if they were good friends. The manager made it known this was a rare experience.

Minutes later the waiter stopped by the booth to thank the customer. He really was a great server, and we left him a 30% tip to thank him for his good service.

I must say the shopping experience was unexpected for the holiday season. It was nice to see good customer service still exists and good behavior from customers still exists. We hear all about the bad store policies, why not focus on the positive? We all need a bright spot in this still sluggish and unpredictable economy. I hope you’ve also enjoyed the joy of the holiday season. Share your stories of positive customer service by clicking comment below. 

Google Trusted Stores: online retailers reviewed and service guaranteed

I love to shop online, and I’m willing to buy from a site outside my comfort zone. I did this a lot while shopping for wedding supplies, hoping to find the item for the cheapest price possible. Thanks to reviews and gut instincts about the site, I never had any trouble. However, you just don’t know how reputable a company is based on their website. Anyone can make a website look good. It doesn’t answer the basic questions — will the company deliver quality products and on time? It’s hard to know. Google is trying to make this guessing game a little easier with their Trusted partner sites.

While buying rose petals for the wedding aisle, which ended up just blowing away (it was a good thought), I noticed the website promoting its a Google Trusted partner. I didn’t really know what it was, and I was already going to buy from this site. I will admit having the backing of Google did affirm my decision to purchase from this company even if I didn’t fully understand the program.

Google allows companies who meet certain shipping and customer service guidelines to participate in the Google Trusted Store program for free. The products must ship within the specified timeframe, and it must be quick. Issues must be resolved, and a low number of customers may receive help. Look for the logo on websites. Hover over that badge to see key stats on the merchant’s shipping and customer service. You’ll also see how many transactions that data is based on.

In the case of the rose petals, the store got an A based on 50,000 transactions. That’s good data for the consumer available at your fingertips. You don’t have to read reviews or search online for other customer feedback. It’s right on the front page of the website.

Of course, soon there will be imposters. Google has a “Verify” link that allows you to make sure that’s a legitimate badge and reliability data.

You not only have confidence making that order, if there is a problem Google will back you up under certain conditions.  Google offers purchase protection for these trusted stores. You must opt in to this free protection. It protects you if there is a problem with your order and you can’t resolve it with the company. You may be eligible for a refund in the amount you paid during purchase minus any refunds you receive. There is a lifetime maximum of $1,000. Only purchases shipping with the United States are eligible for this protection.

When you opt into this protection, understand the merchant will share your order information and email address with Google. Then, you’ll get an email from Google with your order details, contact information for the merchant, and a link to Google if there is a problem you can’t resolve.  Certain items are restricted. Click here to read about these (prescriptions, miracle cures, online gaming, etc.).

 

Customer service is just a phone call – I mean a flight around the world — away

Time is money, and I’ve wasted a lot of time sitting on hold today. At least March Madness is on to help pass the time. Too bad, the overseas operator thought I was speaking another language when I joked with her about March Madness. She had no idea what I was saying or what that meant. The language barrier also made it difficult for her to fix my complicated issue, but these issues may be fixed by next March Madness. Or, maybe a few March’s from now.

Tonight, I called two American companies about account problems. For the airline business, I sat on hold for a minimum of 20 minutes and then spent twenty minutes on the phone trying to get answers. Then, I turned around and called another number for the same company. I was told the wait time was 3 minutes, and it actually took more than 30 minutes. Maybe that was lost in translation too. Still waiting to see if this solves my problem.

The call to the department store was answered quickly, but that overseas operator was impossible to understand through his thick accent. He had trouble understanding me through my thick English accent, too.

I’m so tired of the overseas robot operators. In general, they repeat what you say and spell everything — A as in Alpha — because of the language barrier. They repeat the same pleasant phrases that flash before them on the computer screen to assure the customer of their foreign concern and understanding.

Despite the repeated concern, I rarely get my problem solved on the first call. It takes multiple calls, including tonight.

My multiple experiences in one day made me think back to a recent ABC News “Made in America” segment. It mentioned that companies are moving these overseas call center jobs back to America because it’s cheaper. These big businesses are finally realizing we can’t get our problems answered. The report said it’s because we used to call an operator for help resetting a password, but now we can that online ourselves so now our calls are for more complex issues. That means a longer phone conversation, and more calls to get an adequate answer.

After tonight, I’ve decided the American movement is not happening soon enough. I’ve been on hold so long I had enough time to write a blog post BEFORE my call was answered. At least I got something out of this hour wait.

There are apps that call you back when the customer service representative gets on the phone. FastApp is a great service. I previously tested it and it really throws the customer service rep for a loop when they’re told to wait on hold while the app calls you. Most of the companies I tried it on had American call centers, and tonight I had to call more specific numbers, so it wasn’t of use. However, it’s something to keep in mind. Use it when you can.

To every big business, my message is clear. Please bring these overseas call center jobs back to America. Save me some time and money and save yourself some green too by bringing that job back to the red, white, and blue.

 

Most loyal companies – did your favorite business make the list?

How loyal a customer are you? Costco recently raised membership prices, with the basic fee rising by just $5. It’s not a lot of money, but I heard the shoppers behind me comment about it as they walked past customer service on their way out the store. The fee got some press, but it probably won’t change loyalty because customers know Costco saves them money and offers a good warranty and return policy.

Not surprising that Costco ranked high in Temkin Group’s most loyal company ratings. Temkin is a customer experience research and consulting group that bases the rating on feedback collected by consumers.

Here’s a look at the top 10 loyal companies:

1. Amazon

2. Kohl’s

3. Costco

4. Lowe’s

5. Sam’s Club

6. USAA

7. BJ’s Wholesale Club

8. Target

9. JCPenney

10. Walgreens

Most of these are retail establishments, with the exception of USAA. The top rated airline is Southwest ranking 19th overall. Vanguard is the top rated investment company ranking 20th. TriCare is the top rated health care company ranking 21st overall. At 22nd, is the top rated hotel Hyatt.

Click here to see the entire list of 143 companies

Temkin also has forgiveness ratings, trust, customer service, experience, and web experience ratings. Not surprising, many of the top loyal companies also did well with customer service.

Third party companies to sell electronics on Best Buy’s website

Just in time for the holiday shopping frenzy that will arrive before you know it, Best Buy is teaming up with third-party sellers to offer you a third more products online.

Best Buy will launch Marketplace. It will feature items from partners like Buy.com, Cameta Camera, ANT Online, MamBate, Beach Audio, Wayfair, SF Planet, and Electronic Express.

“Increased assortment of products, brands and price points is exactly what people have told us they want,” said John Thompson, senior vice president of Best Buy and general manager of online operations. “We listened, and developed Marketplace to meet these unmet needs.”

Best Buy says it will continue to add businesses based on their tenure in business, overall customer satisfaction, order cancellation history, and back order history. You will earn Best Buy Rewards Points when you buy from the Best Buy Marketplace, but the seller will handle shipment and returns.

Plus, Best Buy will offer a guarantee in case there is a problem with your order that you can’t resolve with the seller. It’s a service guarantee rather than a product guarantee. Best Buy will help mediate the situation if you don’t receive your order, the product was not what you ordered, it was damaged during shipping or not working, or if you didn’t receive satisfactory customer service.

App ends customer service hold times

There’s an app you need to try if you are tired of sitting on hold waiting for a customer service representative to talk to you. This app makes them wait on you. It’s called FastCustomer, and it advertises that it’s  “taking the ‘suck’ out of customer service.”

It sounds like a good idea, so I put it to the test. First, I called Sprint.  You simply type in Sprint, and the app finds the number for you. You tell the app to call the number, and a few minutes later your phone rings.

I answered, “This is Jenn,” and didn’t hear much of a response. I figured the customer service rep was confused. I said, “Is this Sprint?” Confused, she said, “Yes.” That’s when I filled the customer service rep in on the app. She laughed and said, “I wasn’t sure what happened. It told me the customer was holding and to press 1.” It worked and broke the ice with my customer service representative.

“This is x claims service. My name is Jeffrey,”the next company said.  This was my auto insurance company. I automatically got claims even though I needed policy services. Claims transferred me to policy services when I asked, and then came the dreaded automated message with prompts to hit 1 or 2. None of the options really fit what I needed, so I attempted as many ways as I could to just get an operator.  Finally, I got what I needed.

Then, I tried Time Warner Cable. The app told me they weren’t open for business. It was about 9 at night. That seemed odd, so I called the number I had for Time Warner NE Ohio and they were open.

Finally, I called the other insurance company I do business with, and the woman said, “Thank you for calling xx company,” when I answered the phone. She wasn’t phased by pressing one to talk to me. It’s about time! We have to wait on them. Now, customer service has to wait on us. Great app! Hopefully it will expand and include local and national businesses soon.

While the app focuses on national numbers, you need to know as a consumer that sometimes there are better local numbers as in the case of Time Warner. If it’s a utility or company a lot of people in your region call, the app makers say let them know and they’ll add the number to their list.

Although the app transferred me to the wrong department for one insurance company, it was easier than looking up the number to call myself.  The company adds new businesses all the time and currently  has 1600 companies listed.  It’s currently in beta form for the Android Phone, and also available for the iPhone.

I was very impressed with the app and will definitely use it the next time I need to call customer service.

Top online retailers for customer service, shipping, returns, and more

I know when I call a company, I’m usually trying to get the bottom of an issue. If I don’t get a person on the line quickly, I get pretty frustrated. It’s a game whether you are calling your credit card company, a retailer, or your doctor’s office. Today, I had to call my doctor three times to get to the voicemail box that would allow me to leave a message that could take care of my basic needs. Who knows if I’ll ever get a call back.

STELLAService conducted a test to see which top retailer has the best customer service.  STELLAService made 1200 calls, emails, and mystery shopping interactions with 100 top retailers. Six phone calls and emails were placed to each retailer during different parts of the day and on different days of the week. The company looked at online tools, shipping, delivery, returns, and customer service to find the best online retailer.

Sierra Trading Post had the shortest hold time at just six seconds. YOOX, Disney Store, and Urban Outfitters also did exceptionally well with wait times below 20 seconds. The average wait time for the top 100 retailers was one minute and 41 seconds. According to STELLAService, Barnes and Noble fared the worst with an average wait time over eight minutes.

When it comes to emails, two companies responded within an hour including Office Depot and Musicians Friend. The average wait time was 17 hours, but it took Crate and Barrel nearly four days to respond in the email test.

Most customers won’t need to call for help, or at least shouldn’t need to call for help when they buy a product, but customer service is an important component to consider when purchasing a product. This is especially important when the purchase is through a lesser known company. Check reviews to see if customers got what they ordered, and if they had any problems with customer service.

Call hold times and email reply times are just two of the 350 measurements used to determine a company’s rating. Elite, excellent, approved, and not approved ratings can be found next to a list of companies. 1-800-FLOWERS and 1-800 Contacts, American Eagle and others earned Elite awards. When you select a company, you can read about the company, its policies, and its response.

Click here to see how how your favorite retailer was rated

Rules of the road for saving money on deal sites

Are you making more impulse buys now that deals arrive at your fingertips every morning?  As more and more Groupon like sites pop up, it’s easy to be enticed to buy something you normally would not buy whether it’s on Groupon or one of the copy-cat sites.  Here’s some things you need to know before you buy:

1. The deals sell out
With Groupon, an unadvertised number of people need to buy the deal for the deal to be offered.  You probably know that by now, but did you know only a limited number of deals are sold? This has nothing to do with the ticking clock. I’ve seen two recent deals end by two in the afternoon.  I missed out because I didn’t act fast enough. The quantities vary. One sold out at about 500 offers and the other at more than 2000. Both sold out by about 2 PM so make sure you act fast if there’s an offer you really want.

2. Don’t get too excited
While the deals sell out, don’t get overzealous and buy a deal before doing your homework.

I love finding a good deal, and thought I landed on a good one recently. I’d been wanting to go to this sporting event, and thought it would be great to get a group of friends together. The tickets were a good price, and they were offering $1 beers that night. What a deal.

I organized the event with friends in just a few hours, and purchased the tickets. I was so focused on reading the fine print that I missed the true date of the event.

I saw Friday and Saturday and noticed the dates were consecutive and then saw Tuesday. I figured it was the following Tuesday. It ended up being several weeks later, and I didn’t realize it until after I bought the tickets. It was a Tuesday that really didn’t fit our schedule, but we were forced to make it work.  Just read all the print. Don’t let the excitement of the deal make you miss important details.

3. Read reviews before you buy
The offers can make any site look amazing, but spend five minutes and check out the deal for yourself. It’s so easy to find reviews. Reviews give you good insight into the business so you know what to expect before you arrive.  Just don’t count out a restaurant if you see a few negative comments. Remember, everyone likes their food cooked differently and it’s hard to please everyone.

I recently learned the importance of reviews the hard way.  I bought a certificate for $1, and thought that was so cheap I didn’t need to check out the elegantly-described steakhouse.  Based on the address, I thought I knew the area it was in but I was wrong. It’s not in the upscale shopping area I expected, but inside a hotel.

When I read reviews after I paid $1 for the certificate, I realized the description of this restaurant were far better than the reviews.  People gave it very poor remarks. Knowing I’d spend good money going there, I probably will take my dollar as a loss than losing even more money going there and eating food I don’t like and that’s definitely not worth the money.

4. Look for other promotions
Google the company name and discount or something similar to see if there are other ways to save without paying money upfront. It may be a better idea to use the promotion you find online than buy the featured deal.

Also, if you are buying on Restuarant.com, don’t pay full price. Look for discounts. They are often 80-90% off especially at the end of the month. I often buy $25 gift certificates for $1. The only catch – the good restaurants usually get gobbled up early in the month so if there’s a place you really want you may not get as steep a discount.

5. Make sure it’s really a good deal
Before you buy, make sure you browse the website for the company and know the going rates for food or the service you are buying. That will tell you just how much it will cost you out-of-pocket on top of the deal you have to buy.

Customers who bought a Groupon for FTD on Valentines Day were not happy with their offer and the price they had to pay for flowers.  They were directed to a special website, and the deals were more than on the regular page. FTD said they did not inflate the prices and offered refunds.

6. Read the fine print
Now, how to decide a deal is right for you so you’re not wasting your money.  First, read the fine print. There are limitations on some of the deals.  With Restaurant.com you usually can’t use them on weekend nights (Friday or Saturday), and there is often a minimum food purchase. Alcohol is often not included toward your minimum purchase. With Groupon, you often can use the coupon toward alcohol. It just depends on the terms of the deal which are often explained in fine and regular print.

Also, look for expiration dates. Some don’t give you very much time to redeem the deal which can be a problem if a lot are sold especially if it’s a service-type deal like a massage.

There are a few deals I’ve passed on because I worried about redeeming the offer due to all the rules and limitations. Sometimes, you can tell by the terms and conditions that there will be lots of hoops to jump through to get the offer.  It’s not worth the aggravation, so I pass on those.

7. Be prepared to call customer service
I check a lot of the deal sites because it’s a great way to try new restaurants in Cleveland. There are tons of great places to eat, and I’m determined to try as many as possible.  However, some businesses are growing tired of all the deals and it’s creating a customer service issue.

I recently bought a certificate on Restaurant.com for a local pizza place. We went one night and realized as we walked up that the certificate was void on that night of the week. It was our mistake, and we walked in anyway and joked with the restaurant owner about it as we waited for our pizza. He was very nice, interested in our story, and really made us feel welcome in our new neighborhood.  He told us to come back to use the certificate another time.

A few months later we returned on the right night to use the certificate, and sat down at our table. We presented the certificate before we ordered and the waitress told us they were no longer accepting the coupons and had not been for months. I told the waitress I saw Restaurant.com selling certificates for the restaurant earlier in the day. She blamed the website, and offered us no help.

Instead of coming over and offering us a few dollars off our bill or a free salad or something, the owner never approached us nor did he offer an apology. Instead, I noticed he popped his head out of the kitchen along with a few other works and looked our way. It was obvious we were the unhappy couple with the coupon and that they were talking about it in the kitchen.

In the end, Restaurant.com was very nice about the situation and offered us another coupon to another restaurant plus a free one. So, we got a good deal in the end because I think I paid $2 for the $25 certificate in the first place and we ended up with $50 worth of certificates for $2.

As more deals are offered, you really have to be careful and expect the unexpected. There have been reports of other restaurants suddenly stopping the acceptance of the deals which is why you need to present it as soon as you sit down.

Plus, restaurants need to think before they sell hundreds or even thousands of certificates to realize it may cost them money even though good restaurants will tell you they make money off all those certificates because consumers spend more money than they normally would.

8. Look for deals out of state
If you are going out of town on vacation, subscribe to that city’s daily deals so you can save money on vacation. Look for admission to museums, exhibits, and restaurants.  Set-up an account several months in advance to take advantage of the most money-saving deals in your vacation destination. Just make sure they don’t expire.

Do you have a good tip? Share it with other readers by clicking “comment.”

Top companies for customer service

Shopper

Image via Wikipedia

We typically remember the bad experiences with a company, but the National Retail Foundation and American Express wanted to know about your positive experiences.  The Customers’ Choice survey rated Zappos.com tops among 9,200 shoppers for customer service.

Consumers were asked, “Thinking of all the different retail formats (store, catalog, internet, or home shopping), which retailer delivers the best customer service?”

Newegg (eretailer) jumped five spots to make the top 10 for 2011.

Here’s a look at the top 10:

1. Zappos.com

2. Amazon.com

3. LL Bean

4. Overstock.com

5. Lands’ End

6. JC Penney

7. Kohls

8. QVC

9. Nordstrom

10. Newegg.com