Archive for the ‘Customer service’ Category

The power of the Tweet

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 by Cat Breckwoldt


After being very careful not to mention brands, especially clients, in my tweets as I did not want to provoke any controversy, I was so frustrated with one aspect of the Gorkana Database (a media directory for PR people) that I decided to break my own rule and tweet about it!

‘Cat Breckwoldt can’t believe Gorkana regional mapping function STILL isn’t working!! But I am happy that the speed for the rest of the website has improved.’

I posted this on Twitter at approximately 3.53pm on Friday 20th February, thought nothing of it and continued working until 4.54pm when an e-mail from Gorkana popped into my inbox! After noticing my recent comment on their regional mapping section, they sent me a very apologetic e-mail, apologising for the maintenance work taking place to the site and promised to have it back up again and working soon.

I feel this highlights two major points: first of all the power of Twitter to communicate problems and voice one’s opinions in a very public forum. This is a very powerful tool for brands who want to communicate directly with customers and proves how influential social media can be for companies to solve any problems that their customers may be encountering.

Second, it highlights that you should always be aware of who may be watching or following you.  In the world of social media nothing is private, as George Orwell says in 1984 ‘Big Brother is watching you.’ Remember this before your next Tweet.

Digital kindness – a new concept?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 by Jon Clements

2009 is supposed to be the year more companies finally decide that social media is not just for the kids, but as integral a part of business as having a call centre, buying ad space, sending out news stories, etc.

But how should the bigger companies and brands – often steeped in a particular way of marketing themselves – make best use of the new tools and ways of working?

First things first: while there are new tools (Twitter, Facebook, et al), many of the ways of working are not so new; they are just being delivered in a different way. Listening to customers and meeting their needs – it’s been going on a lot longer than we have.

Valeria Maltoni’s Conversation Age blog gives a good appraisal of how companies should be responding to the “diminishing returns from traditional marketing”.

She talks about being able to read “digital body language” – how consumers behave online – and how business needs to recognise that control of the buying decision is now very much in the hands of the buyer.

Maltoni also highlights the importance of the impression companies make online, creating compelling content, measuring interaction and being willing to give to online communities rather than aspiring to control them.

One of the comments on her post, from social media monitoring firm, Radian6’s David Alston, emphasises that the principles that work online have been present for some time offline. He cites the example of an effective clothes shop salesperson who reads the customer well enough to know when to approach and how to be helpful, so heightening the chance of a sale – or, at very least, a conversation.

In its simplest form, effective online interaction with your audience could be deemed as “kindness”. BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week debated a new book on the subject – “On Kindness” by psychoanalyst, Adam Philips – which suggests that, in our society, being kind has become a sort of guilty pleasure rather than an instinctive response. The book says the preferable route is having a “sympathetic identification” with others.

Without wanting to – heaven forbid – come over all touchy feely, isn’t that the essence of social media? And when companies grasp that, is it not a more commercially beneficial approach to the “non-engagement policy” mentioned in some recent PR Media Blog comments?

Whether you are at the point of unravelling the myths of social media  or not, it’s certainly time to participate.

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 ''

Listen with Twitter

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Who would’ve thought it? A micro-blogging site with no apparent use beyond the inane ramblings of an early-adopting minority getting the full analytical treatment in the Daily Telegraph.

Well, Twitter has certainly come of age in the UK; now the seventh most popular social networking site and an online destination more popular than holiday shop, Expedia and personal finance comparison website, Money Supermarket.

But those dismissing Twitter as nothing more than a virtual location for verbally incontinent gasbags and, more recently, popularity-craving celebrities, should think again.

It is also a powerful tool for the world’s consumers to make their voices heard – either evangelising or denigrating a company, product or brand – and finding camaraderie with other Twitterfolk in doing so. It’s old fashioned “word of mouth” working its magic; something that lives beyond the controlling tentacles of marketing and communications departments, yet something they’d like to harness.

Companies across the globe are getting it in the neck from people on Twitter, from a disgruntled United Airlines passenger “tweeting” in real time about a rude flight attendant to a car buying customer in Aberdeen, sounding off about bad customer service at the hands of Skoda.

And the problem is, as Rebecca Lieb at Econsultancy succinctly points out, companies quick to broadcast on social media are not necessarily “listening”.

Yesterday, Staniforth client, Norwich Union, was itself on the receiving end of Twitter ire. The difference is, someone was listening. When we picked up the disgruntled customer’s Twitter posts, he was clearly furious and frustrated at being unable to resolve his query with the insurance company. The fact he was also a journalist just added another potentially damaging dimension to the story.

But making contact with him via Twitter, getting a blow by blow account of his case, getting it passed through to the right people at the company who sorted it out within hours, turned a customer on the warpath to someone sharing the pipe of peace, and letting the wider world know about it – again via Twitter.

Leaving aside the details, this was simply the case of a person, with a problem, wanting to be heard and understood. As with any company whose customers are numbered in the millions, mistakes happen. The way the mistakes are handled distinguishes those who keep or lose their customers. And with social media, it’s being conducted out in the open, whether brands like it or not.

Update: The New York Times does a good introduction to Twitter

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 ''

That Virgin Complaint Letter – What Should The PR Team Do?

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 by Mark Hanson


I can’t work out who first got hold of the Virgin complaint letter but its all over the web with a vengeance. Take a look at the amount of people sharing it on Twitter in the last few minutes alone. Even Stephen Fry is Tweeting. Check out the amount of comments from The Times blog and and Yahoo!. Its bound to be in the papers tomorrow!

But this is PRMediaBlog. You haven’t come here for a reheat of what’s everywhere else on the web. The key question is ”what should Virgin’s PR team do to respond?”

Paul Charles is their Director of Comms. Very online savvy and a former client or mine at a dotcom start-up back in 2000. He doesn’t need me sticking my nose in, but as he’ll be busy right now, I thought we could talk amongst ourselves. Here’s what I’d advise if he was my client now, would love your suggestions also.

– If you Google ‘Virgin ‘Complaint’ you find that virtually the whole page is links to stories about ‘that letter’ or seperate negative discussions. Virgin should buy Google AdWords that link anyone who is sniffing around for that story, is planning to blog about it or who has a similar problem with Virgin, towards a landing page that has the company’s response. It should be written in plain and accessible language, not legal-speak and be as sharable as possible.

– They need to agree a line that responds to the specific issues in this letter but also the broader concerns it raises. They need someone who can go and articulate that line in an accessible, human and humorous way. Virgin is a humourous and accessible brand and they need somebody to be the human face of that in social media. This may or may not be the same person that they are putting up to handle broadcast bids on it.

– That person could then respond to blog comments, post on the stories that are getting big reaction on Yahoo! and Timesonline, may be even contact the authors of those blogs and ask for an update to be added with their side of the story. This could include a link back to the landing page mentioned above, a short video response – basically whatever they feel comfortable with.

– Its also worth Tweeting a short view. Targeting those people who have already Tweeted, may be prioritisng those with over 200 followers or who have some demonstrable Twitter influence. Never underestimate the power of the Retweet.

The most important thing is for a brand to learn from these situations once the dust has settled. It’s always nice in a storm like this to have loyal customers who step foward and defend the brand unprompted. It may well be that this happens in the next day or so but its always an idea to grow and support this group of people.

Virgin should look closely to involve people in its brand online, through getting the views of regular flyers and making them feel part of the brand. So, when it’s attacked, they feel compelled to defend it.

These are my topline thoughts – would love yours!

UPDATE: Virgin Airlines’ Director of Comms, Paul Charles, responds below

Obama’s Web Strategist: What PR People Can Learn From The Campaign

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 by Thomas Gensemer

This is a guest post from Thomas Gensemer, Managing Partner of Blue State Digital, the strategy and software company that spearheaded the Obama campaign’s web operation.

He has chosen PRMediaBlog to exclusively reveal his thoughts on how the PR industry can learn the lessons of Barack’s online success.


What can communication professionals learn from the Obama campaign?

The network is better than you are. 

Obama for America changed the economics of campaigns. Instead of seeing supporters as passive recipients of message, they were seen as an integral part of the team that would propel Obama to the Whitehouse. 

And it had a simple strategy behind it all – find your support, recruit them, give them something to do and then say thank you. And by repeating these steps, changing the calls to action, and monitoring how each user responds, the campaign quickly built an organization of unpredicted scale and commitment to Barack Obama. 

While much of Obama’s success came from his capacity to promote a message that authentically resonated with the American people, this connection was dramatically amplified by supporters willing to adopt his messages and then share this endorsement within their own peer groups.   

By focusing the campaign on this process, Obama’s message was strengthened through independent third party support – and then shared with an audience that Obama could never have reached without his networks support.  

They embraced the idea that in a world of communication divergence you can’t afford to be a single message campaign in a multi-message world – and accordingly provided groups and networks for traditional and non-traditional support alike. So what happens when other groups – firms, charities, unions – start talking directly to communities? 

Imagine neighbours, friends, and family members, colleagues uniting for a shared love or cause. And then imagine what’d happen if you asked for their help.   

The key concept of Obama’s campaign still applies; whose advocacy are you most likely to respond to – your best friend or a monolithic organisation’s centralized message? Digital strategists often become blinded by technology.  But the Obama campaign wasn’t about cheap gimmicks, short term tactical wins.

It was about people – and the awe-inspiring capacity of a huge number of individuals to take small actions which in turn generate a huge communal effect. $500 million dollars, 1.2 billion emails, 10 million phone calls, and 300,000 grassroots events later, Barack Obama won the Presidency. And it all started with a “do this now” call to action. 

The Internet did not win the election – it simply provided the capacity to release and develop the communities potential, and in a far more efficient and analytical manner then ever before. 

Customer Retention: Be a Relationship Leader

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 by Bridgett Gayle

New York-based writer, editor and PR Media Blog reader, Bridgett Gayle, picked up on some of the sentiments expressed in our customer service blog post, This is her response:

Most salespeople are familiar with the 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of sales come from merely 20% of the loyal customer base. But so many companies are either unfamiliar with the rule or have abandoned it, evidenced by their weak customer retention program that devalues customer loyalty.

A Knowledge@Wharton marketing survey found that profitable companies are “relationship leaders” and make customer retention a priority. Loyal customers rave about great companies. Without that customer word-of mouth approval your company is skating on thin ice. One dissatisfied customer tells 8 to 10 people about their miserable customer experience. With the Web, one can tell thousands.

A weak customer retention program allows for two things (I bet there are more than two but I speak here from experience):  

1)     Not providing some reimbursement when customers are inconvenienced.

2)     Favoring new customers and ignoring the old. 

I’ve been a loyal customer of Verizon for almost a decade. One day I started to receive frantic calls from friends and associates saying that there was something wrong with my phone. All they heard were buzzing noises. Seeing as they were finally able to contact me, I assumed the problem was fixed. I was wrong. For two weeks I had spotty phone service. Verizon told me there wasn’t a problem. Verizon was wrong. Not only was there indeed a problem with my line but my entire neighborhood needed rewiring.

I called Verizon expecting some kind of reimbursement for the inconvenience. I was told they have no such policy for this kind of situation. I hung up feeling unvalued.

Time Warner Cable, like many companies, is hell-bent on getting new customers. They devise all these lures to attract prospects. But when they have you, they ignore you. I watched my cable bill more than double in about six years. I discovered that new customers were paying a lower rate than I was. How is that fair? As a reward for being a loyal customer, I pay more? Where are the lures to keep me loyal?

According to the Harvard Business Review, an existing customer spends an average of 67% more than new customers. And many companies lose 50% of their customers every five years. Becoming a relationship leader is much like running a good restaurant. The wait staff makes sure glasses don’t go empty (good customer service), checks level of satisfaction throughout the meal (customer valuing), and corrects dissatisfaction by bringing a new meal or offering a discount (customer satisfaction). The end result is customer retention.

CRM expert Jim Berkowitz provides six questions companies should ask themselves in order to become relationship leaders. I wonder if Verizon and Time Warner have asked these questions. 

Bridgett Gayle is an American-based writer and editor.

About Bridgett Gayle

Bridgett Gayle is a writer and content marketer bringing common sense solutions to improve the business-customer relationship.

Customer shmustomer

Monday, December 1st, 2008 by Jon Clements

And so, it’s nearly over. Barring the handover of some details that will set me free to forge a new life with a new partner, a relationship stretching back nearly 10 years draws to a close. Yes, I’m leaving my mobile phone provider.

But it hasn’t been easy: not because of some peculiar affection for a company which enables people to track me down at any time of night or day. No, it’s literally been the most difficult contractural arrangement to extricate myself from, ever.

Up to now, the service given by this household name has been quite acceptable (they let me make and receive phone calls – hard to mess up if you’re a mobile phone operator). I paid my bills on time by direct debit, so it’s the very least you’d expect. But dare to close your account and be prepared for the full force of corporate inertia to be unleashed.

The minutiae of the case is too painful to recount, but when Tory leader David Cameron referred last week to the Government as “Stalinist”, it suggests that he clearly hasn’t tried to swap his mobile phone number between networks.

After two months of endless phone conversations with an array of chirpy call centre staff promising to phone back with answers, trips to one of the company’s high street branches which bears the same name but might as well be a cheese shop for all the help it’s been, the pain should soon be over.

But anyone who lives within a radius of at least five miles will have heard me talking about this company in a way that would make Gordon Ramsay blush. It’s an old adage about the unhappy customer telling hundreds of people, but the level of customer service displayed sometimes by companies hints that they really don’t care. For all the investment they throw at advertising, PR and clever sponsorship deals, they are undoing it all at the point of delivery. 

Astonishing to note, but there is actually a British Standard Code of Practice for Customer Service, which is clearly being used to prop open doors or support coffee mugs across the nation. Elsewhere there is some pretty comprehensive advice to be had for free on the subject.

With the cost of winning new customers far outstripping that to retain existing ones, it’s curious that nobody yet at the mobile phone company has asked me why I wish to leave or what they could do to make me stay. Maybe they were about to dump me, but just got fed up of being put on hold.  

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 ''