Archive for the ‘Customer service’ Category

Coe shows Blatter secrets of crisis management

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 by Mark Perry

A post on PR Media blog last week looked at the shenanigans at FIFA and the own goal scored by Sepp Blatter in handling the media storm surrounding world football’s governing body.

There was an interesting comparison today when Lord Coe appeared on a number of television and radio programmes to answer the growing discontent about the allocation of tickets for London 2012.

A consummate politician, Coe comes across as being at ease in front of the camera and microphone and puts across his position in a clear concise way. He  appears to be open, honest and transparent in talking about his subject.  He even managed to get away without giving precise numbers of tickets available in the second ballot.

He could quiet easily have ‘ducked’ the whole issue and the 2012 organisers put up someone from the communications team. Instead, he came to the studios to answer the questions while showing that he is still very much the face of the event. He has helped to try and get the 2012 ‘brand’ through the storm untarnished unlike the impact of last week’s events on FIFA.

Coe, 54, has grown up in the media age and, as a sportsman and politician, has seen how the media can either make or break you.  Blatter, 75, comes from another age.

Blatter is attending the 2012 Games in his position as a member of the International Olympic Committee. While he is here maybe he should take time out to discuss with Coe the secrets of  handling the media in a crisis.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

Seetickets Puts Fans in a Rage

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Chris Bull

Tens of thousands of music fans were left enraged after seetickets, the only website on which fans were able to enter the draw for the free Rage Against the Machine concert, apparently crashed. The error left many fans staring at a loading screen or frantically refreshing the page for the three hours it took for all the tickets to be allocated. 

The free gig in London’s Finsbury Park was announced by the US anti-establishment rap-rock band earlier in the year as a thank you to British fans who helped the band’s expletive-ridden 1992 single, Killing in the Name to reach this year’s Christmas number one slot.  

The band achieved the feat after a social media-driven campaign – urging music fans to shun the latest X-Factor offering -caught the imagination of a large part of the British public. As the campaign’s website proclaims: “You spread the word, you swayed the outcome, you made music history”.

Over the weekend, tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands, went to to pre-register for the draw. Fans were then told to log on to the website at 9:00am on the 17th February to enter the draw for tickets.  

However it appeared that, despite knowing how many people were likely to visit the site, seetickets could simply not handle the numbers. Many have now taken to social media – the very platform which brought the gig into existence – to vent their frustration and lambast seetickets for its poor foresight and lack of preparation. 

From a PR perspective, this was a golden opportunity for seetickets to achieve some money-can’t-buy brand awareness. The only thing most music fans are aware of now, however, is the site’s ineptitude. Do a Twitter search for seetickets and you will struggle to see a positive comment, with many stating they will never use the site again. 

Seetickets? Just seeing the homepage would have been nice.

About Chris Bull

Account Exec for Staniforth PR, based in the TBWA\ Building in Whitfield Street, London. Areas of interest include politics, the car industry and sport.

High Speed Boiling Point

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 by Jo Rosenberg

An interesting piece of research by broadband provider Talk Talk has revealed that due to high speed internet access, we’ve become a highly impatient nation with 70% of us “losing it” if we have to wait any longer than one minute for a page to load.

And this somewhat inflated level of impatience is also apparent in the offline world where in a restaurant, we’ll demand our meal after just eight minutes and 38 seconds, we’ll wait only 10 minutes and 43 seconds for a tradesman to show up and we’ll allow 10 minutes and 1 second for a friend before we burst with annoyance.

It’s clear that patience, once a Great British trait, is slowly wearing away as we embrace an era of high speed internet activity and that’s not just down to the advent of broadband. Twitter, for example, offers a unique feed of real-time conversation and sentiment with news being delivered faster than any other medium, providing us with an immediate global sense of events.

And gone are the days when journalists conducted a quick vox pop to gauge opinion, now they simply use the Twitter crowd as a source of immediate information and push out headlines and blogposts to Twitter via RSS and

A recent fault with Virgin Media which left many customers without TV and broadband, displayed not only consumer impatience (understandably) but infuriation at the fact that Virgin had not considered using Twitter to inform their customers of the problem, regardless of the fact that a number of people were tweeting about Virgin’s service issues which suggested a major outrage was brewing.

Clearly a massive oversight from Virgin and one which other service providers should take note of. Twitter is a critical vehicle for communicating information, instantly, and could quite easily have dampened the fire that was raging amongst its tweeting customers.

It’s clear we want speed. We thrive on being the first to know and unsurprisingly, it’s the 18-24 year olds who are least prepared to wait, which questions just how impatient future generations will be.

Public transport operators, call centre workers…. you have been warned.

Does the motor trade want to sell cars?

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 by Jon Clements


Are you in the market for a new car?

Good luck – you may have trouble finding a dealership wanting to sell you one.  Bear with me – this isn’t a post about cars, but about customer service.

This year, the UK’s retail motor industry welcomed, with outstretched arms, a new word into its lexicon – “scrappage”. In the middle of a thumping recession, the Government-funded scheme has helped the car business boost sales with a £2k sweetener for buyers agreeing to scrap their 10-year-old vehicle when buying a new one. Without it, the world of the motor trader in 2009 would have been a very different one.

A world without scrappage was depicted in a recent speech by Joe Greenwell, Ford’s UK chairman and president of the Society of Manufacturers and Motor Traders at its recent annual dinner. He said: “Without scrappage, this year’s total registrations would have been less than 1.7m. Against a high of nearly 2.6 million units in 2003, current expectations are for car registrations to fall to 1.8m in 2010. There is no doubt that..underlying demand remains weak.”

And this is the point. At a time like now, every customer counts.

It was Chris Brogan’s recent blog post on frustration with bricks and mortar retail that came to mind on a weekend trip to several high end car dealerships from which I came away convinced that some dealerships don’t want to sell cars.

First up – VW: we entered an empty showroom where the only person keen to talk was the receptionist. A salesman just about managed to grab some brochures but the car we wanted to see was “being used by a colleague over the weekend”. That’s fine, but did he want to arrange a viewing? No.

Next, BMW: we were sitting ducks, asking to be sold the benefits of a particular model. The salesman – not looking terribly busy – said: “I’ll get you a brochure. It’s all in there.” What about the boot space? The car battery was flat so the boot wouldn’t open. Now there was a veritable crowd of customers awaiting the grand boot opening. Eventually the lid was lifted and off the salesman skipped: “Leave it up, won’t you,” he chirped.

Lastly, Mercedes: best of the lot, but not great. We did get invited to sit down, but for a rather lacklustre chat about the car in question and promises about the great vehicles coming out of that manufacturer in the next couple of years.

For an industry facing a steep incline next year with a spluttering engine, it’s a worrying picture of customer interaction.

One man who knows a bit about car sales is one Derek Clements (disclosure: my father) who spent more than 50 years in the car business and ended his career training dealership staff in customer care. He said: “Getting new customer enquiries is expensive and dealers have to make the most of every one. It’s vital that sales staff make people truly welcome, comfortable and unthreatened before talking to them about what the customer wants or needs and matching that with the features and benefits of a car.

“In other words, make the customer feel important, listen to what they’re saying and start to build their confidence in dealing with you.”

With all this in mind, I asked Letty – a woman of advancing years and 10 years on the local Tesco checkout – what she felt customer service was all about and she said: “It’s just about being friendly. People seem so detached from each other these days and it costs nothing to smile.”

Listen to Letty – you could do much worse.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Democratic Consumerism – The Retail Future?

Friday, October 30th, 2009 by Julie Wilson


The World Wide Web has radically shaped the way we do business, in particular that of the fashion retail sector.

Estimated to be worth over £4.1bn by the end of 2009*, the sector is booming, with no self respecting high street retailer now without a transactional website. 

The savvy aren’t, however, solely using the web as a sales platform.

Responding to the rise in popularity of social media, a new culture is emerging, labelled by industry leaders as “democratic consumerism”.

Pioneering the move towards the new culture is Asda Chief Executive, Andy Bond, who recently announced plans to open up the workings of the business to scrutiny from customers in a move to build greater trust and long-term loyalty amongst shoppers. 

Among the range of initiatives to be introduced by the retailer is Asda’s new blog,, which invites customers to participate in the buying process – voting on their favourite styles and colour ways.

Still in its infancy, the blog is already enjoying a positive response.  Speaking on it its launch Beth Somi, George Marketing and PR Manager, said: “ is a great way for our customers to understand more about what goes on behind the scenes at Asda and to know more about our colleagues who work here.

“I enjoy talking to people about my job, so this is a great opportunity to do it while I’m at work. There is so much to talk about, we have new ranges launching in store every week so there is always something going on. The tough decision is knowing what to blog about so that I don’t bore everyone!

“I love the fact that I can ask for feedback on my blog and that the readers respond in such a positive way. It’s a great way for us to get instant ideas on our new ranges. As I speak to the teams here at George House, they are excited about what we can ask for comments on in the future.”

An example of an entirely web-based retailer epitomising democratic fashion is  Possibly one of the most ingenious fashion websites to launch in recent years, puts the customer at the heart of the proposition, allowing the user to design a garment from scratch choosing fabric, colour style and trim.

The site goes against the typical nature of the fashion industry with trends that ‘trickle-down’ from the catwalk to the high street, asking the user to vote and design exactly what they want to wear.

It is also a fashion community with users rating and commenting on one another’s designs. Recent celebrity fans include Duffy and Holly Branson.

Not only good news for fashion addicts looking to create an individual look, is a pretty good business model.  The retailer only produces what its users order so there is never over-supply; good for the environment and for the businesses overheads.

Chief Executive Officer of, Iris Ben-David, comments: “StyleShake is all about empowering the user, providing them with the means to express themselves and celebrate their creativity. We are delighted to offer new ways of collaboration”.

The retailer’s vision is to become a leading online resource that revolutionises the way we consume fashion by making it much more personal and individual. 

A design obsessive from a tender age and regularly frustrated shopper, I personally, am delighted by what looks to be a customer-empowered future.  But what does democratic consumerism mean for the future of retail?

Its potential to impact on the overall business model is huge.  Armed with increased customer insight, the risk of costly, unpopular bulk buys will undoubtedly be lessened, reducing retailers’ need to discount and perhaps marking the beginning of the end of the January sale.  The retailer/supplier relationship will also inevitably see a change.   The potential for collections to be further tailored by store in response to regional demand an increasing reality.

Democratic consumerism, it’s an interesting one to watch, one I will certainly be following with a close eye.  

* Taken from Mintel’s Fashion Online report, August 2009

Freedoma gives customers the hippy shake

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Today sees the official launch of , a Manchester-based customer review site which seems to take its ethics from another era.

Promising to “spread the love”, Freedoma can’t help but make you want to reach for a kaftan and head for San Francisco with flowers in your hair. Well, you might want to ask your parents first if there was anything wrong with free love.

PR Media Blog agreed to share the love with Freedoma’s brain (love) child and MD, Caleb Storkey, and blow away the joss stick smoke to reveal all about this latest social media business: 

PRMB: Why is Freedoma needed in Manchester at this point? 

Freedoma: Freedoma promotes and supports local businesses, helping customers share their thoughts on the organisations they love and those to steer clear of. For Manchester, it’s all about getting alongside the local, independent stores. For businesses, it’s all about them being given the opportunity to grow and develop their reputation online, so that customers choose them not based on how big their marketing wallet is, but on how good they are.
PRMB: How does it differ in what it does?

F: Unlike which only offers an address listing and very little additional information, Freedoma collects and collates feedback from customers of each business to get the lowdown on what a business is really like. It also make it possible for local businesses to offer special offers directly to customers. There is the ability for users to see which businesses their friends use and rate. There is a whole bunch of stuff in development, that is already knocking our socks off, and will be unveiled in the forthcoming weeks and months.  

PRMB: How will people find you online?

F: We’ve a lot of quirky activity going on offline that will bolster up the finding online. Shortly people will find us when searching for special offers, plumbers in Manchester, cafes in Leeds, etc, through our SEO and SMO campaigns. But, the power and incentive of word of mouth will be a key to our success. 

PRMB: How will the site make money?

F: The simple way that the site will initially make money is through businesses taking out enhanced listing, which entitles them to a bunch of additional features. We’re rollling out intially with special offers during the launching season. There are a number of additional monetisation routes, but these are currently under wraps until these features are launched. 

PRMB: Will you be aligning it with other social media, e.g., Twitter feed?

F: Yes- integration with other social media is an important part of phase 2.

PRMB: How will you police potentially libellous material?

F: People will have the capacity to flag reviews that are libellous, which will then be assessed. 

PRMB: Freedoma has a very different feel about it. Has it been inspired by another company with similar values or from your own personal outlook on life?

F:  I’ll take that as a compliment (I think ;). It’s come from my personal outlook on life. I really believe in desiring the best for people, and that if businesses adopted more of a position of serving society, society would be all the better for it. The financial bottom line is one motivator for people, but appreciation, spreading the love and the recognition that their hard work can positively impact people’s life, is a far greater motivator. I guess we’re all learning how this can outplay itself. Little bit hippy and change the world (ish), but I’m convinced somehow life and business can work like that. I think if done well, that’s one of the major potentials of social media. 

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Keeping abreast of your customer

Monday, May 11th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Saying sorry is very much back in fashion.

How much it will help him and his party’s election hopes is another matter, but Gordon Brown has now apologised “on behalf of all politicians” for the current expenses scandal engulfing Parliament.

And last week, M&S took the step of advertising its apology to more ample women who were having to pay extra for the retailer’s larger sized bras. The issue had spawned a Facebook Group, Busts 4 Justice – set up by Brighton’s Beckie Williams (pictured above) with more than 17,000 members at time of writing – and national media interest.  Meanwhile, rival retailer, Asda, joined the fray by introducing a “one price fits all” bra.

But the point is, M&S did just the thing that companies find hard to swallow: to admit publicly it was wrong, change policy and offer customers a discount sweetener. It also reflects two truisms; one old as the hills, the other a more recent phenomenon.

The first is about crisis management. If you’ve upset your public, then recognise it and respond. As Alison Theaker says in The Public Relations Handbook, “Tell it first, tell it fast”.

The second is about the growth of online people power. Busts 4 Justice not only reflected the views of women – all potential underwear customers – but the support it generated got noticed in the mainstream media, so multiplying awareness of the issue.

M&S – with its response to the D cup storm – managed to meet the two essential elements of human interaction described by The Conversation Agent’s Valeria Maltoni as 1. Do you care? and 2. Can I trust you?

Who knows – maybe Elton John will have to abandon singing “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” altogether, as it no longer is.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

#PRWIN – Carphone Warehouse gets social

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 by Jon Clements


Companies using social media to become customer service champions seem to be flavour of the month right now.

Econsultancy has carried its fair share of insightful pieces on the topic, and businesses are really beginning to wake up to its benefits.

And not before time. Last December, I wrote about a personal customer service trial I was going through with a mobile phone company, whose name was spared in the hope the sorry mess would be resolved without resorting to name calling.

Needless to say, it wasn’t and – in desperation – I turned to Twitter to try to penetrate what felt like the huge, uncaring behemoth of Carphone Warehouse. And I found Guy Stephens, the company’s Knowledge and Online Help Manager, who appeared to be tackling customer rage in a passionately empathetic way on Twitter. I tweeted him at 8pm; by 8.07pm, I had a reply, rendering me unconditionally blown away. Three months of periodic call centre torture had got me nowhere, but via social media I felt listened to within minutes and my problem solved within a few days. 

True, I was a departing customer, but not before being turned from a “hater” to a fan of what Carphone Warehouse is doing to improve its customer experience via social media.  You can read the specifics about the company’s approach in Guy’s own words here, and he agreed to field a few questions from PR Media Blog on why embracing social media is important for the company. In customer service? Read and learn…

What prompted CPW to get involved with customer care via social media?

I think it’s more a recognition that our customers are taking part in that space. They’re conversing about us on Twitter, Facebook and the various feedback-type sites such as GetSatisfaction, ComplaintCommunity and Plebble. Regardless of whether we choose to ignore the conversations or take part in them, people are going to continue talking about us.        

How good/bad would you rate CPW’s customer service reputation previously?
Like many companies we’ve got both advocates and detractors. You tend to be more aware of the negative comments, and a company like CPW has no shortage of them on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. But, I see negative comments in a positive way, as it’s the customer telling us directly what we need to change. They’re the ones experiencing or living the process, not us.

How did CPW management deal with accusations of poor customer service online?
I think businesses have shied away from getting involved in this space. However, the landscape has changed so much now, that everything is happening out in the open. Businesses have the choice to take part or ignore it. Either way, customers will do what they want, write what they want, and we’re probably heading to a time when actually customer service may well be co-created or engineered by customers themselves between customers on sites such as Plebble or ComplaintCommunity.        
Is the social media customer approach part of an agreed management strategy or a dipping-toe-in experiment?

We weren’t sure what the response would be. We’ve learnt quickly on the job and I would say there’s a definite appetite for it. We recognise that Twitter has a part to play and we’re still defining what that is. New skills are required, or should I say a new mix of skills is required – part customer service, part PR, part maverick. Not a happy combination for any company.

How well has the social media activity/customer service activity been received so far?
There is an increasing awareness of the opportunities presented by social media and certainly a momentum for it within CPW. The key is to understand what each channel does well, and then see if it fits together. Social media won’t be for every company and that’s okay; companies shouldn’t feel the pressure of having to integrate it. But they should at the very least do their due diligence to see whether it’s something their customers want and, if so, how to use it.

Have you been able to measure the results of your social media activity to date?
We’re still at the early stages of using it and understanding it. However, Twitter is great for a customer to initiate a complaint and a subsequent dialogue with a company, though it’s not a resolution channel. Because of the nature of twitter and Data Protection Act requirements, it does take slightly longer to get to the complaint to deal with it. But that’s simply a process issue to overcome and we’ve simply got to find the best way to deal with it. And what you’ve got to remember with Twitter is that there are entry requirements – knowledge, propensity to tweet, requisite technology, etc. It’s not for everyone; it just gives those who use it another option.

How does it compare to what your competitors are doing?
We’re all doing different things but our angle is very much centred on customer service, whereas mydeco, asos or geek squad will be doing their thing.  There’s plenty of room for everyone.

What does the future hold for CPW’s social media engagement?

Onwards and upwards, more learning, but always being honest, transparent, open and feeling empathy for the person complaining. Stephen Covey calls it ‘empathetic listening’. It’s also understanding what this new world looks like: customers are setting the agenda almost, and with Twitter we have the possibility for real time customer engagement in both a positive and negative way, and we have the break up of centralised information held by companies. Companies are having to go out to where customers are; in other words, as I read somewhere, fishing where the fish are.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Ryanair’s Blog Wars – It Gets Visual

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 by Mark Hanson

It’s not just text that your audience can use to comment about you – technology means easily sharable visuals quickly do the rounds as well. Ryanair’s recent problems just get worse…..


Hattip: Antony Mayfield

How Do You Measure A Smile?

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 by Mark Hanson


I do most of my best thinking on holiday and my favourite place to go is the US. My bestest friends live there, I’m obsessed with US politics and media and I generally love the people.

One of the things that always makes an impression on me is the hotel staff. Always friendly and helpful, not (just) in an obviously fake way but asking you the kind of questions that conveys some kind of interest in you having a good time. Frontline staff are such great PR!

I smiled when I noticed this from Josh Bernoff. He stayed at a Hyatt Hotel recently and had to complain. Next time he stayed there he arrived at his room to find nice food and drink and a special note from the manager.

They’d obviously logged him and his complaint somewhere….and done something small but significant that showed they listened and value him.

I don’t know if Hyatt are savvy in social media but they sound like the sort of company that would be.