Customer service – so much more than ‘just’ social media

An advert for EE popped into my Facebook feed the other day.

It annoyed me, because EE and I are in dispute.

And it got me thinking about the importance of customer service and consistency of brand, tone of voice and attitude each and every time it interacts with customers.

After upgrading to EE from Orange a few months back, my husband and I had weeks and weeks of problems, ranging from the wrong phones being delivered, broken phones, phone numbers not transferring across, then transferring across to the wrong phones… a long, boring and infuriating experience. I made many, many calls to their customer services, each time there was much tutting at their end (once even swearing) and blaming of the last person, new promises made that this new approach would fix the problem “within five working days” – inevitably that not being the case and the whole cycle repeating again… for weeks and weeks.

Even now, if my husband and I are in a room together, and somebody calls me, his phone will ring too, and vice versa. In fact my old phone, which the kids now use, will also ring if it’s not on aeroplane mode (which is usually is). But I’ve decided just to live with it, because I can’t face dealing with the company again and I’ve got no faith that they would be able to fix it, anyway.

After each of the calls I made to EE, they sent me an auto-text asking me to tell them how satisfied I was, from 1-10. After my final call, I decided to take their text survey. A lot of ‘0’s were involved. The final text asked me if I had anything else I wanted to add. I did. But they never tried to contact me to resolve the problem, and they never apologised.

I also went to the trouble of emailing EE, outlining the problems I’d had and how angry & frustrated I was. I never got a response.

The last time I spoke to a person at EE, it was because they billed me twice in error, and even though they said they had cancelled one of the bills, they took both amounts out of my account.  The man on the phone basically just laughed when  tried to explain how upset I was and said I could contact my bank and refuse the payment. I did that but I was concerned that this would register as an non payment, so asked the man in customer services to call me back when he had amended the records to show that the amount was no due. He promised to, but he never called me back.

During all this, I also tweeted my frustration with EE. A couple of days later I got a tweet back, offering to help. But the help amounted to nothing more than referring me back to customer services. Thanks.

So when the ad for EE popped up in my Facebook newsfeed the other day, I clicked on comments and saw a lot of other people sharing their own bad experiences with EE – so I gave into temptation and added my own. (Ooh, that felt good.)

A day or two later, I got a reply. “Sorry to hear that Gemma, if you’d like to PM us we can look into it for you”.

Sadly, this willingness to help is too little, too late. The damage is done and they will never get my custom again.

I believe that social media is a vital part of customer service for any organisation or brand. But if the experiences you have in every other dealing with a company are so negative, you could have the best social media team in the world and they couldn’t turn that around.

And far from creating brand advocates, if you’re not careful you’re creating the exact opposite – people who will go out of their way to warn friends and family not to use your company and who will delight in retelling negative stories. This is the ‘Trip Advisor generation’, after all.

So, good luck to EE’s social team. But no matter what they try to do to engage with customers online won’t be worth a carrot if the rest of the company isn’t trying to do the same.

 

A cautionary tale

This really interesting article from The Guardian was doing the rounds on social media this weekend: ‘Overnight, everything I loved was gone’: the internet shaming of Lindsey Stone.

It demonstrates how easily your internet life can be hijacked, sometimes after a single tweet posted by you or others, and how that can have potentially disastrous repercussions for your offline life.

If I were a teacher or parent of teenagers, I’d urge them to read this article. In fact I’m sure we all could benefit from taking a moment to consider what lessons we can learn from this. The fact is that the throwaway comments or ‘in jokes’ you might safely share with people you know offline can take a whole new meaning when typed out and shared with the world online. We’re all human, we all make mistakes. But the internet can be a very unforgiving place.

It also reiterates the importance of brand building, not just for companies, but for people too. And once you’ve built that brand, you need to look after and protect it. As the article sadly demonstrates, sometimes your reputation can be rubbished online in a very short space of time, and through no fault of your own. But there are also plenty of silly mistakes you can learn to avoid.

I was fascinated to read about how Lindsey Stone was being helped to repair her online reputation with the aid of content creation, designed to fool search engines into pushing the results about her earlier misdemeanour further down the rankings. And it worked – but it requires an ongoing concerted effort with content being churned out to keep repressing those stories from two years ago.

None of us wants to be in the position that Lindsey finds herself in, and I hope that she is able to genuinely move on and stop living in fear of one past mistake constantly resurfacing. For her sake and for all those other women who share her name!

But certainly I would urge you to read this article, and bear in mind what lessons we – both as individuals and as guardians of brands online –  need to learn.