Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

The customer is always right

Posted by thecastlegroup on May 28, 2009

The Castle Group’s co-founder, Sandy Lish, weighs in today with a post on customer service and social media.

The customer is always right. An old adage, but one social media is making a harsh reality for many companies. Some, like Comcast, JetBlue and Zappos, have embraced social media as an outlet to resolve complaints, share information and interact with customers.

And while some consumer-facing companies are encouraging social media participation, others are ignoring its utility. But when it comes to customer service, social media is merely another avenue. The real interaction should happen at the point-of-sale, e.g. in your stores and showrooms. Below are two anecdotes that illustrate this movement.

customer service

Thanks Hyundai

“These days when you buy a Hyundai, you tell everyone – by email, text or tweet. You call it social networking, we call it good PR.”

Yes! This was how a Hyundai commercial I saw last night started. But I could not have said it better. It caught my ear because of the reference to “good PR” – not something you hear often in ads. In some circles, PR is still equated with “stunts” and “publicists” and “spin” – and nothing else. We know better. Social networking is PR – whether comments on social networks are good, bad or indifferent, it’s critical to listen and, when relevant, respond. Thanks, Hyundai for pointing that out.

I applaud Hyundai on its willingness to encourage customer interaction. I would recommend that they load their television ads onto their own site, though. If you run an ad encouraging social networking, shouldn’t that ad embody that spirit as well?

Has anyone recently purchased a Hyundai? If so, did the showroom customer service meet the “tell everyone” status boasted in the ad?

 customer service 2

Customer Service: Act Now or Pay Later?

The other day I was in a department store, and observed an irate customer trying to resolve a problem with a return. I overheard her, on her cell phone, calling the retailer’s corporate office to complain about the service she was getting, saying she had already spent 45 minutes trying to resolve the issue with the manager – to no avail.

I shopped around for at least 25 minutes, passed by her again, and overheard her on the phone, escalating her problem, but still not resolving it.

So at least 70 minutes spent (I left without knowing if she found resolution) – precious time she can’t get back. Now if she told everyone she knew – “by email, text or tweet” to use Hyundai’s language – complained on the retailer’s blog and posted negative comments on consumer blogs, she would likely have set off a far more viral process that attracted those with similarly poor experiences. She would have had the power that was once limited to consumer advocates working for traditional media companies to spread the word and influence others.

I’m sure many people are tweeting about their new Hyundai or forgoing customer service for customer action. PR is clearly in the hands of anyone with a mobile device or a laptop, and it is important for merchants to recognize the power of the consumer.

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