Thursday, February 24, 2011

Customer Service and the Services We Choose

Image Credit: RW PhotoBug
This is a guest post from Harold Shaw, Jr. Harold and I got started in the ed tech blog-o-sphere about the same and met virtually during a call-in show on Wicked Decent Learning. A few months later we met in person when he lent me an OLPC laptop to try out with students. 


I want to thank Rich for giving me the opportunity to guest post on his blog. I got the idea for this post as a result of his recent struggles with his cable company and Internet Service Provider.

Customer Service - what is it? Pretty simple in theory, taking care of the people who use your products and finding solutions to problems they are having with those products as quickly as possible. Customer service is changing due to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc.  In the past most customer service issues were handled between the two parties at a relatively low organizational level. However, with the advent of social media, companies can “listen in” to know what people are really saying about their company at much higher levels - if they choose to and act upon those issues differently than they have in the past.

I recently wrote a post about MarsEdit, how it was not working for me and added the link to that post on Twitter. Within a couple of hours, I had a reply from Daniel at Red-Shirt Software asking me to contact him. We went back and forth for about a week and he figured out what the problem was, fixed the main issue I was having with MarsEdit, which made me a very happy customer. Due to his efforts I will continue using MarsEdit as my blog editor on the Mac. Also according to Daniel, they have some good things planned to improve MarsEdit and I look forward to seeing the updates that are in the pipeline.

While this is only an example of great customer service, it is not an isolated instance of companies paying attention to what is being said about their products on social media sites like Twitter.  I believe that almost all companies are actively listening to what is being said about their products on social media websites and attempt to resolve customer service issues that are discussed there as quickly as possible - they really don’t want something about their product going viral.

In today's world of Twitter, Blogging, Facebook and other forms of social media, when we review or discuss a product or service, our words can be spread to 100's, 1,000's or even more people almost instantaneously. These words can have a powerful effect on a product or business positively or negatively, therefore, we also have the responsibility to ensure that what we are saying is accurate, to the best of our ability.  

When I write and publish a post about a customer service issue or something that doesn’t work to my satisfaction and am angry or frustrated, are those the same words I would choose later?  In most cases they are not.  Usually I am simply venting and haven’t given the vendor an opportunity to actually have time to resolve the issue. Is venting this in public fair to that business or product if they haven’t had a reasonable opportunity to resolve the issue. I don’t really think so. I also know that I am not the most patient person when comes to technology  I just want it to work and work when I want it to (does that sound familiar to anyone else out there?).

I use the following rule of thumb when I am going to say something negative about a product or a businesses customer service - wait 24-48 hours (depending on how frustrated or angry I am) after writing the entry before publishing. That way I have time to take out something or edit it differently before others get to read it.  Who know perhaps, just perhaps you might get great customer service while you are waiting and have a completely different story to tell than the one you originally would have wrote about.  Then again if there is no resolution in sight and you have all you facts correct, you should be honest about what is going on, but like my grandmother used to say “a little honey goes a long way, where a lot of vinegar just doesn’t do whole lot of good sometimes.”

This relatively new power to communicate with with anyone within an organization via social media has empowered the “little guy” to be heard by people other than just that person on the other end of the phone or who reads your letter and throws it in a file “someplace”.  To my way of thinking this is a good thing.

What do you think? Has social media changed customer service in today's technology-based world? Does a company's use of social media influence your decision to use their products?