In a world of communication-empowered customers, businesses are starting to figure out that treating customers well is … well, good business. They may also be treating customers well because they’re scared to death of the consequences of not doing so (see: Vincent Ferrari tries to cancel AOL). And that’s OK, too.
But many businesses have just put lipstick on the pig, hoping to fool their customers with the appearance of good customer care. Their business model is: up front, we cherish you and your money. In the back, not so much.
Here are some examples from my daily life of this “partial transparency”:
• I subscribed to a new magazine, and received the first issue yesterday (March 12). It was the February issue, which probably was on new stands around Christmas. Also in my mailbox: the March issue. So here’s my question to Rodale Press, which publishes the magazine: am I your customer, or just a convenient way to monetize your excess back inventory? I called Rodale, and they agreed to extend my subscription for one issue. No apology though, though I did get a “not a problem.” I might still cancel the magazine.
• I flew United Airlines to Chicago, and on the way home thought I should join the frequent flyer club. It’s easy to do so before you fly. After you’re safely home, however, it’s another matter. I endured a long-time tactic of an organization that wants to discourage a certain customer behavior: information buried deep in the website so no one can find it (hint: search for “retro credits”). When I finally found the right page, I was told I had to wait 72 hours after the last flight (translation: come back later, we’re confident you’ll forget).
• How many other organizations “talk the talk” of customer service, but absolutely fail to deliver it? Have you ever tried to call amazon.com? One customer who has had it even created a website full of codes that bypass the computerized voicemail hell that so many companies erect to keep customers out.
That’s why it’s so refreshing to see when companies get it right. When they’re on Twitter, answering questions and acting like human beings. When there’s a live chat option, so you can interact with a customer service agent. And when someone, anyone, says “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Or, “I’m sorry; how can I make that right?”
Social media is about media, for sure, but it’s first and foremost social. We now have the tools to be social in a computer-mediated environment. And the spoils go to those who welcome their customers and treat them like the royalty they are.