Customer Relationship

Would you recommend Cingular?

Would you recommend Cingular?

Yesterday my bill from Cingular arrived. Two months earlier I had added my daughters phone to our family plan. For the first month a new phone gets free, unlimited text messaging which allows you to figure out which messaging plan to sign up for. Let me tell you that teenage girls text a lot!

After the first month I got on Cingular's web site, logged into my account, and changed her texting plan to allow MANY text messages, 3000. Turns out that's just enough. But, when the phone bill arrived yesterday it showed that I didn't change the plan so the text portion of my daughter's phone bill was $170. If you're wondering, that represents 2700 text messages in one month (busy fingers).

I called Cingular, 611 on my cell phone. I explained to the customer service rep how I got on the web site and made a change to my plan to accommodate my new rapid texter. She checked the records and found out that I made a change to the account but that I ended up with the same plan. To me that means "no change" but they have record that I did something that day. She said she would refund half of the $170, not because she had to but to show good faith. "I don't have to do this sir". She didn't believe that I made the change. By-the-way, if you didn't already know, Cingular has a website that frequently has problems. Well, at least that's been my experience over the past 1 1/2 years.

While having this discussion with the customer service rep my Cingular call just dropped. It makes a sound when that happens, "da-da-da-da-daaa".

I called right back, got a different rep, and told my story again. She listened. She checked and found out that I had the same plan before and after the "change". Then she said "I'm making changes to your account sir, I'm post dating your text package to the date you tried to make this change". Then she took care of the overage and other assorted things she needed to do to get it to all work out so that my bill would be correct.

THANK YOU!!!

Cingular is an immense company. I won't argue that Cingular is a good wireless provider or not. Mostly it's worked well for me but a bad experience with them and I would be pushed to change providers, it's hard to have a lot of loyalty to a mega-company. It's hard unless they deal with you correctly in all circumstances The experience with the first rep wasn't good, it was exactly what I had feared would happen. That coupled with the extra $170 and other fruity action from their web site and I had plenty of reason to leave Cingular's service. Had this story ended there I'd be with another wireless company right now. But, one customer service rep made all the difference for me. She made it all right, over the top of the first one and other bad experiences I've had with the company. A huge company and one person in it makes the difference. A remarkable person.

I don't talk about my cell phone company unless something gives me reason to, whether it's good or bad. It's good this time and I'm telling others. I'm using a megaphone (this blog) to do it. If Cingular were my company... I'd be rich! No, no, no. If Cingular were my company... I'd find out who my happy customers are and give them a megaphone to tell their friends about how great a company I have.

If you have a company you should do the same with your happy customers. Find out who they are and give them a megaphone to tell their friends about what a great product or service you have. You can do it and you should do it. If you need help with the finding and the megaphone you can get it here.

Whitewashing fences today...

Whitewashing fences today...

Quick, how many words can you come up with to describe this photo? If you said pool, child, kid, water, goggles or blue you and I would have just made 100 points at one of Googles latest projects.

Remember how Tom Sawyer made whitewashin' the fence so tempting to those passing by?

It seems Google might be doing something similar to label images they have indexed.

Here is how it works. You push a button and get paired up with a partner. A 90 second timer starts and you each are shown the same picture. You type in as many descriptions as you can. As soon as you have a description that matches you are shown another image. Each image you match is worth 100 points. At the end you can even hover your mouse over the images and see what your partner guessed.

I think it is brilliant. Not only are they getting free work from people, but they are discovering what people really think when they see an image. Oh yea, it is also fun.

Think of your business, is there a fun way you could get feedback from your customers helping you whitewash your fence?

(By the way my current record is 900 points in 90 seconds)

More happy customers. More repeat sales. More referrals. Learn more

The Starbucks Online Coupon Fiasco--Venti Size

The Starbucks Online Coupon Fiasco--Venti Size

Just about everybody with a blog commented on Starbuck's recent problems with online coupons. You can read the story here . John from Brand Autopsy asserts they never would have done something that dumb in his day (used to work there) and recommends more limited expiration dates. Seth has some additional principles for avoiding such issues. Countless others also weighed in on how it could have been avoided and what Starbuck's should do now that it has happened. All good stuff, but I hope the baby (online coupons) doesn't get thrown out with the bath water.

In a nutshell, Starbucks created an online coupon with about a thirty day expiration date for a free iced coffee drink. They gave the coupon to a few employees in select areas and expected it to stay limited. It didn't. It took off like wildfire thanks to the internet and they ended up posting signs in their stores saying "regretfully" they would no longer be valid at any Starbuck locations.

In my mind, the real story is not that online coupons don't work, but quite the opposite: online coupons work well--in this case too well. Remember the old days when you had to pay to get coupons printed in a newspaper or to hand out. You had to pay for every one! Not so on the internet. They multiply without costing you a dime. Isn't that just what you want to have happen? It should be. So the lesson is this: make sure that any offer you put on an online coupon is something that you would be happy to see proliferate. Tools to do that? Limit the expiration date, make it a "buy something to get something" offer, give away something with no hard costs. Have other ideas for creating coupons you're happy to see proliferate? Post them here.

Get customer feedback, generate referrals, and increase repeat sales for as little as $150 a month. Learn more

True Blue Fans Create!

True Blue Fans Create!

I've written some in the past about the benefits of inviting your customers to participate in the creative process. Two benefits: 1) the content produced and 2) the fact that the more they do for your business, the more likely they are to mention it to others. Just came upon another example of that process taking place online.

CougarBlue.com is a discussion board for BYU Cougar fans (yes, I am one). Anyway, a new thread got started that suggested fans bring a white or blue towel to the football games this fall. The thread quickly became an online brainstorming session including assignments and reports on assignments etc. You can check it out here. Several pages of posts you'll need to scan through to see its progression.

Not sure if the vending or marketing folks at BYU are plugged in to or are aware of it, but it is a great example of fans (customers) getting involved and creating something that they love and will pay for. How can you turn your customers into fans, creating something they will love and pay for?

Go Cougars!

When you pass out a Promoterz bounce back card you automatically build an accurate customer list, increase repeat sales, increase referrals and prevent lost business. Pretty powerful little card. Learn more

Customer Service Lessons from Station 2

Customer Service Lessons from Station 2

Had a chance to visit a local Tempe, AZ fire station last night (career night with venture scouts). I was impressed and came away with a few lessons, or at least things to think about, to improve customer service.

  1. Hiring. When asked what it takes to become a fire fighter our tour guide responded, "They can teach anyone to do this job. What they are really looking for is some one with people skills that can deal with the public and get along with everyone on the team." Now certainly there are certain skills that you look for when hiring for a particular position, but in my experience the fire chiefs got it right: most important is people skills. The cost of hiring someone that is hard to get along with? Read this.

  2. Everybody's Job. Apparently the greater Phoenix area has a dispatch system that is the envy of most metropolitan areas. Somehow common sense won out over politics in this area and the number one rule of dispatch is "closest engine gets the call" regardless of which city pays the bills. Simple but powerful, and in this case, life-saving concept. If you've decided to sequester your "customer service" people in one corner of your building and have everyone forward irate customer calls to them you are losing lives. Change your policy to "closest employee solves the problem."

  3. Know Your Role. When the alarm goes off, firefighters in station 2 have 60 seconds to be in their clothes, in the truck and screaming out onto the street. At night they get an additional 30 seconds to allow for wake up time. Everyone obviously has to know what their duty is, where their equipment is, etc. to make that happen. If the engineer is off or out for a particular shift a substitute driver is designated at the start of the shift--no time to do rock, paper, scissors for driving privileges once the alarm has gone off. Here's the point, knowing what they are supposed to do when there is an emergency empowers firefighters to be fast and effective. Do your employees know what their role is when the alarm goes off? Perhaps even more important, have you given your customers an easy way to set the alarm off? Someone with a house fire knows to call 911 and will follow through and do it--they have no other option. Someone with a bad experience at your business could easily just walk away and tell several of their friends. Unless you provide an easy and obvious way for them to sound the alarm, you may never know what damage is done.

Maybe it is extreme to use the firefighters as a standard for customer service--after all, they are dealing with life and death situations. On the other hand, ignore or handle poorly volatile customer situations and it could be a life or death situation for your business.

Find your happy customers and put a megaphone in their hand. Learn more
Syndicate content

Seeds from the blogworld
We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.

Blogroll