Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

I recently ordered something pretty important to me. It was an eBay purchase, a painting to be precise. The post office left a notice on the 16th because apparently I was out when they delivered. What’s more, aside from the fact that if I’m going to pick the package up at the post office, I’ll need to make a 2-hour trip out of it, as my post office is an approximately 45 minutes drive (one guy I talked to there last year on the phone said it’s only 30 minutes with all the slow speed limits and stops, but they’ve never made the drive, which is always over 40 minutes–one way–for me every time).

In times past, under similar circumstances, I’d had artwork shipped from Japan. AT that time, they told me they held such items for 2 weeks. So I’m thinking, “I still have plenty of time.” Keep this in mind…

Fine, so I’ll just call them to re-deliver, right? Wrong. I can’t, because the phone number on the form…isn’t the right number. Either that or no one answers. eventually, after an entire week of the phone ringing every day I call them, I realize that they’re not answering the freaking phone, ever. I check the number on Google maps. Nope, it’s correct. I call the post office 1-800 number today, amidst the 1,000 things I need to get done today before 5pm, and guess what? The rep kindly tells me that my $100 package has been returned to the shipper…in China!

Great, so now I’m on the phone with the rep at the 1-800 number and she not only isn’t listening to what I say, but she has to read a scripted reply to each of my responses that is quite frankly the most annoying thing I’ve ever been asked to listen to, not to mention that it is like saying “okay, just hold your horses while I frame each of my responses in about 1,000 syllables”. I try not to vent at her for being the person answering the phone. But I just about can’t help it, after all, it’s USPS, their employee and their script, not to mention their foul-up to begin with. Still…I keep it cool as possible.

Eventually….and I mean eventually…she gives me the NEW (aha!) phone number to my post office, you know, the one that is over 45 minutes away (we’re not even counting the drive back or the 1-hr waiting line, are we? nah…). And she’s still apparently talking to me, reading a scripted, framed lead-up to asking me something apparently crucial, just as press the hang up button out of broiling impatience at this point…

I call the new number. Only this number doesn’t ring incessantly without anyone picking it up, it simply gives a 24-7 busy signal. Change? Yes. The right kind of change? No.

So now I can’t even vent about my problem to a USPS rep, let alone get my $100 shipment back. Crestfallen, disheveled, angry, bitter, I turn to you and shake my tiny fists toward heaven.

*PRE-POST UPDATE*

JUST as I was about to publish this bad boy, the new number for my post office actually answers the phone. And now guess what? They STILL HAVE MY PACKAGE! A few time in my life I’ve felt both exhausted, elated, and somehow bitterly confused…and this is one of those times. And if I had assumed, based on my lengthy disappointing attempts to connect with the last phone number, and the several failed attempts already experienced today to reach them via the new phone number, that my package had indeed been returned to China? Let me tell you something. I’d have been one unhappy camper (with a blog about marketing and all things branding and customers service)!

So in the end, my package didn’t go back to China. That’s a win. The hot line did give me the correct number. I guess you can call that a win for USPS. The fact that my post office is leaving notices for Richmond, TX addresses with an expired phone number (that there is no effective way to discover, due to the wrong info online, as well)? Well, that part is not a win for USPS. And it doesn’t help much that the USPS hot-line gets me worked up by telling me definitively that my package has been already returned (again, to CHINA).

Now, I guess you could call this a case study #Fail for USPS, true. But I hope the company is listening. Why? Because this is also an opportunity to not only correct the 2008-circa notice they leave on people’s doors, but to change the protocol and procedures to ensure that this type of thing (which you can bet is going on a lot–same notice for all, remember?) doesn’t happen to a recipient of a delivery every again. If I was the CRM contact for USPS (a functional company, BTW, no longer a government service), I’d want to know about this incident and I’d want to get it fixed so that it won’t “almost” happen to anyone else, or worse yet, “actually” happen to anyone else.

And one PS: Dear USPS, the closest post office to me and my fellow Houston-hugging Richmonders is NOT the one you think it is. Frankly, we’re a bit exasperated that you think that’s a location for us, when we can drive just 5 miles away to get a convenient location on the main strip. Please consider allowing us to select which post office handles our mail. I know not every wish is doable, but this little switch toward one-on-one customer relations might really pay off huge dividends. As to the details of fitting this kind of (no doubt) significant request into your to-do list, I’ll quote Boss Hog from The Dukes of Hazard: “Handle-it handle-it?”

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Swing your megaphone carefully.

[tweetmeme source=”MarkBrimm”] Twitter can be used for brand-monitoring, marketing, campaigns and PR functions within the social media sphere. Many businesses and other types of organizations already use Twitter as an easy first step into the social media community pool. Many are not, however, because of either a conflicting business model or simply due to an uncertainty about how to proceed. Often there is a fear of “getting it wrong”. For the more adventurous, the big temptation with Twitter is to jump headlong into campaign and promotional projects and “work out the kinks later”. This is a huge mistake for any company or organization with a reputation to care for. It’s best to slow down and experiment a while in a safe environment first before incorporating a “Tweeting” initiative within your organization’s communications.

Organizations should carefully select a Twitter rep from communications qualified individuals within communications and keep PR firmly in mind no matter what the exact purposing of the profile being used. Twitter is an extension of an overall communications strategy. Individual CEOs may have a Twitter account, and this speaks to the organization’s comprehension of Twitter’s social nature, but non-C-level employees should probably not be officially representing your organization. Don’t focus on ramping up followers and list subscribers like a superhero out of the gate.  Quality follows are everything, and software can’t teach you how to use it wisely.  Slow down for the good of yourself, company or cause. It’s worth it. You can always automate once you’ve learned who to follow and who not to, what to tweet, and what not to, and why.

In the end, there are no hard and fast rules. Being careful is the name of the game. Here are some basic guidelines for organizational Twitter communications:

1)      Choose your Twitter rep and profile info carefully from communications considerations—always keep PR firmly in mind, even if using Twitter for marketing. Only smaller outfits and can get away with being “extra-cheeky”, not IPOs, government agencies or NGOs.

2)      Experiment with every Twitter app you can for the good of your organization in a safe environment (like a test profile, connecting to test profiles on other sites and applications–all test profiles). If in doubt, always use a test profile, not the one you will use for your organization. In fact, avoid using the company name or other identifier. What if you flub up big time? You don’t want that reflecting back on the entire organization.

3)      Don’t spam fellow “tweeps” and followers with repeat tweets and sales-pitchy DMs. If you need to push something, be creatively unique in how you go about it. Don’t pitch your widget, converse about it. One way some pitch is to bracket the pitch with a joke or a winningly clever cautionary preface. Spamming via social media is an instant problem. Just don’t do it.

4)      Follow those who stand to support your brand or cause. Don’t follow political causes or religious institutions, for instance, with your corporate or government agency profile, and so on. Think with your PR cap on when you Tweet and follow / unfollow.

5)      Tweet in viral manner when possible by networking with partners and friends, but show restraint and discretion. 100 characters allows for multiple ReTweets (RTs). Remember, conversations about your brand or cause are kind of what it’s all about. Don’t be stiff. Respond to others who talk to you as a rule. Unless it’s Weird Frank…nobody talks back to Weird Frank…

6)      Be business-casual: nothing too raunchy, personal or political (unless you are a political cause), etc.

7)      Be discreet. Have your Twitter rep clear any tweets that are legally “iffy” before they go out. Train them to ask first. Give them guidelines on what to avoid tweeting about or who to avoid tweeting to. Also, remember to promptly go back and delete any iffy stuff that leaks through. Spelling is not always a deletion-worthy offense, but problematic messages are. Twitter’s own website allows deletion of your own tweets from your Twitter profile’s feed. The many sites and apps that republish those tweets after they have already gone viral…won’t.

8)      Use multiple profiles when representing multiple business units or departments. This keeps things focused. It also spread out the safety net in case somebody flubs on one of those profiles and you need to take action of some kind to correct the situation.

9)      For CRM via Twitter: Monitor your keywords thoroughly via Twitter apps AND via available social media and  blog search tools (like backtype and HootSuite, etc.). Always respond privately. When a resolution is complete, if your customer is impressed and tweets how you fixed the problem out loud, people will look on you more favorably than if you try to maneuver your customer into a corner (this can be fatal online—imagine the big company bullying the customer, okay that’s not going to play, obviously).

10) Don’t change your Twitter name around. Nail it down to what it should be well before you start courting followers. Why? Several reasons. One is consistency. You don’t want people unfollowing you because they don’t know your new name. You also risk trust in other ways. A changing profile name is often the tell-tale sign of a “sleeper”–a spammer who wanted to fool people into following him or her and then goes on a spamming spree out of the blue. And yet another reason has to do with SEO. Because your PageRank for your Twitter profile is an extension of your organization and your website(s) in many ways, tweets and profiles CAN impact your PageRank for your official website, way over there, as well as your Twitter profile, way over here, via the complex ways that inbound links are aggregated and in how they support the PageRank and rankings of any and all sites that you and your followers link to or re-tweet. And since PageRank (whether your profile on Twitter or your site receiving beneficial Twitter-originated links) doesn’t heal for many moons, it matters a good deal. If in doubt, starting a new Twitter profile can often be the better move, unless you already have lots of followers. You can change your Twitter name if you must, but it will probably zap your PageRank for many months (unless Google changes something in that department soon), so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

11) Use list-creation in a way that supports your organization. Many don’t create lists for the first 6 months of using their Twitter profile because they’re not sure what to create a list about. Some local businesses use lists to support local cultural stuff or to promote their partnering companies, support local emergency authorities, etc.. Some national organizations use them for listing need-to-know organizational contacts or store locations. Whatever the reason you use lists, just make sure you’re respecting the privacy of any individuals who may want to remain anonymous. Private consultants can use lists to show personal breadth of interests, but corporations, government agencies and other orgs should probably just keep it official and PR-friendly.

That’s it. Have questions? Just ask. If you’ve already tried some of these tips out, let me know how these worked for you (or didn’t).

[tweetmeme source=”MarkBrimm”]

–About the Author:

Mark Brimm is Digital Marketing Director for Interface Communications Group and SocialLabsMedia.com, as well as Founder of Marcana and co-author of AdWords University: The Complete Guide to AdWords. He is currently writing a forthcoming book on social media strategy.