Thursday, 9 December 2010

Empowered customer service

 

  An incident last week triggered me to go back to ‘Empowered’, Josh Bernoff’s follow-up to ‘Groundswell’, which was published a few months ago.

The book argues that organisations must support and empower employees to solve customer problems.  To do this, they need HEROs: highly empowered and resourceful operatives, following a four-step ‘IDEA’ process (peer Influence analysis, Delivering groundswell customer service, Empowering customers with mobile and Amplifying your fans).

Anyway, what’s made me go back to the book was the example at the start of the sort of poor customer service that Bernoff’s HEROs are needed to resolve (Dooce vs Maytag).

I’ve long understood the power Twitter and social media give to people like Dooce, but I’ve never, until now, had a personal example.

Then this:

 

I was a bit concerned because I’d not booked these tickets, so even though I couldn’t find any records of this payment on any of my credit cards, I wanted to sort it out.

I’d tried phoning, I’d tried emailing, but wasn’t getting anywhere, so I thought I’d try to tweet (read from the bottom)…

 


 thetrainline 
@ 
@ Thanks John, glad we got there in the end. Have a good weekend. Ines
 Will Cleare 
@ 
 Jon Ingham 
@ @ @ Sorted. Thanks for helping make it a priority for them. 
 Jon Ingham 
@ 
@ Well done Ines, thanks for sorting for me. Shame I had to rant over twitter to get it done. 
 thetrainline 
@ 
@ I tried to ring but line engaged. Sent u an email explaining. Ines
 Jon Ingham 
I'm here. RT @ @ Thanks John. Under investigation as I type. I will be in touch shortly.
 Karen Wise 
@ 
@ it seems to worked!  
 thetrainline 
@ 
@ Thanks John. Under investigation as I type. I will be in touch shortly.
 Jon Ingham 
Sure (you have had them b4). RT @ @hey, sorry to hear that. Do you want to DM your e-mail address and phone no.? Ines
 Jon Ingham 
I bet they are!: thetrainline (@) is now following your tweets (@) on Twitter [ We're on Twitter to help] Let's see...
 Doug Shaw 
@ 
@ hope you get a resolution soon - could always write a song about it!
 thetrainline 
@ 
@ hey, sorry to hear that. Do you want to DM your e-mail address and phone no.? Ines
 Will Cleare 
@ 
 Jon Ingham 
@ @ thx anyway - feel much better now!
 Jon Ingham 
I was sort of thinking twitter would act as my customer complaints body! RT @ @ That is ridiculous -  
 Doug Shaw 
@ 
@ starting to look like one eh? train companies quite good at  
 Jon Ingham 
Does it classify as a stupid thing to a customer then? RT @ get @ his  money back? they don't seem to help
 Jon Ingham 
 is currently experiencing high volumes. Try again.. Option 3.. 3.. 3.. - engaged tone. Cut off. Not happy... turn to twitter...
 Doug Shaw 
Should we have a whip round to get @ his money back? They don't seem to be able to help
 Karen Wise 
@ 
@ That is ridiculous - can you complain to a consumer complaints body? or at least say you're going to 
 Jon Ingham 
I email . They email me back - I need to phone in. Oh oh - tried that before! Why do they think I've been emailing them!
 Jon Ingham 
5 days later, finally get them to agree to escalate the issue. 3 days later, this morning, still not heard from the escalatee
 Jon Ingham 
Just because  don't want to give me my £200 back I think! RT @ @ can't cancel what you haven't booked..do go on
 Doug Shaw 
@ 
@ can't cancel what you haven't booked.....do go on
 Jon Ingham 
They can't even give me any detail on my credit card used to find out if someone is still defrauding me on something else!
 Jon Ingham 
Starts last week with an email - my £200 ticket has been confirmed. Emailed  back - I hadn't booked it. Sorry, they can't cancel
 Jon Ingham 
OK, if you're sure the RT @dougshaw1@joningham go for it Jon - we need a Friday rantarama  sucks
 Jon Ingham 
... since it looks like they'll be going on for a while yet. You'll laugh, though I've not been.  sucks
 Doug Shaw 
@ 
@ go for it Jon - we need a Friday rantarama
 Jon Ingham 
I should have really been tweeting on the problems I've been having with .com since last week. Might as well start now...

 

This is the email I got sent:

 

OK, so not quite the same level as Dooce’s story, but then I don’t have over a million followers either.  And it will do for my social media training sessions!

 

There are a few lessons that I’d draw from this.

Firstly, if you’re not on twitter yet, then this is just one more reason that perhaps you should be.  Tired of not getting the response you need from an organisation or consumer complaints body? – if my, as well as Dooce’s experiences are anything to go on, this is the way (that sometimes) you get your answer.  Especially if you’re in a leadership role in a business or other organisation you need to understand this thing.  And the best way to understand it is to do it.  Sign up and join in!

 

As for the Trainline, I thought Inis did a great job – she stepped on my ranting quickly and cooled things down.  And within a couple of hours she’d sorted things out for me.    As I wrote in my tweet, however, it’s a shame Trainline employees on the other end of my emails couldn’t have done this themselves (and nothing can excuse making it virtually impossible for customers to contact you on the phone).  What was the difference?  Was it just that I was lucky finding Inis – or is it because she’s one of Bernoff’s HEROs that she’s been put on the twitter stream?

Actually of course, I don’t know whether Ines is a HERO or whether she’s just doing what her managers tell her.  And in a way, that’s how I would summarise my thoughts on ‘Empowered’ too.  I agree that organisations need to unleash employees to energise customers and transform their businesses.  But I don’t think they necessarily need to look for grass roots approaches to do this.  Business leaders can take hold of this agenda too.

 

And just one more point on the Trainline.  If the above wasn’t the reason my problem was resolved, is it just that a developing conversation followed by 4,000 people got a little more attention?  If so, then I think this has got to change.  Increasingly, organisations are going to have to assume that all of their customers are on Twitter and sort out their emails as fast as they do their tweets.

 

For other companies, I’d simply say you need an Ines.  There are a lot of things the Trainline could have done better – better email response, better call handling and so on.  But at least Ines was there to catch the ball before it dropped completely.  I’d about finished my rant but someone else might have gone on to write much worse if Ines hadn’t responded when she did!

 

 

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