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Social media can be harsh. The trick is to not take it personally. For the most part we the consumer understand that the failure is invariably not that of a human but of a human created process.

Telstra, Air New Zealand, DirectTV, Virgin, and others all employ thousands of smart and committed people. People who get out of bed every morning aiming to do a great job. Invariably what lets them down are the holes created by lousy processes, poorly designed services and products, and lack of training.

I’ve never held back from expressing my dismay with service providers who fail to meet expectations. Twitter is my medium of choice. It’s not about getting the issue off my chest. Rather its value I get in the form of tips, tricks and ideas to resolve the issue from other Twitters. More than often my signals of dissatisfaction draws a response from others faster than the company in mention (if they respond at all).

While we pay these companies in modest increments – think your phone bill – the sum total is often substantial. That’s our lens on the problem. For others – think airlines – the bill can be larger and very substantial in aggregate. Either way, both share very similar characteristics when it comes to service failings.


They aren’t proactive. When you identify the failure, be proactive. Use every means to reach the customer and resolve the issue. Telstra over the past three weeks knew they had a serious issue with my account. They knew I was overseas. So, they left me a voicemail on the account I couldn’t access. Never mind that this is the account I use to serve my customers. 

Proactive isn’t about ticking the box, its about reaching, engaging and closing the issue with the customer. This is a process issue – people are programed to process. 

They don’t recognize loyalty. Not all customers are created equal and not all loyalty programs are about loyalty. I remember trying to enter the Air New Zealand lounge on an international, multi country ticket. Because the first leg was with a partner airline – they didn’t fly to Fiji – they wouldn’t acknowledge my highest-level status with the airline and let me enter. Virgin did the same in the US. Qantas on the other hand welcomed me to their lounge, politely made the point they were going to make an exception due to the need I had, and thanked me for the many hundreds of thousands of miles I had flown with them. Qantas had clearly empowered employees to delight and take ownership of customer experience. Others hadn’t.

Customers who reward you with their loyalty expect it and aren’t interested in the fine print. Conversely, most businesses fail to not only recognize loyalty, but to indicate its value to you – a double miss. The most successful programs do – like Myer’s rewards.

They measure the response to the complaint, not the result of complaint itself. How many times do you get off the phone to be asked how the call went. What they should be looking to measure is both this and your current overall satisfaction with the service. I might, for instance, be happy with the way the person handled the call but as a result of the service failing be in the market for a new provider. 

They don’t follow through. I’ve experienced this endlessly from Telstra and Audi over the past week. We will call you back is followed by deafening silence. It appears there isn’t any pity in “be back city”. We will fix it is followed by no change at all. What is needed here is real rigor in measuring closure on commitments. Great service is defined by doing what you say you are going to do, quicker than you say you are going to do it. In short, get it right the first time.

They don’t show up. Service is an inevitable outcome of being in business. Just as life is difficult, so is business. Stuff happens. Why make it hard for people to reach you? Invariably you will find on most company’s we sites nearly every means of reaching them other than a phone number. My four chat conversations with Telstra yielded nothing other than hours of lost time. It wasn’t until we finally got a number to call them that I got to waste more time working to a resolution.

The brand promise isn’t delivered. For all the noise about customer service programs, promises and awards won, most put the brand position well ahead of their process improvements. Guided by the improvements in responses to service failings, the actual process failings persist. As a result, we walk to other brands. Little have effective listening programs in place. Virgin Australia appears to. My complaints on Twitter in the US about Virgin USA quickly got a responses from them. As did Air New Zealand. 

Ignore the social service signal at your peril. And correlate it with good social scoring – the person complaining might not be a valuable customer to you, but they could be a power influencer.

In an age where we are armed to signal dissatisfaction, companies need to address the root cause of service failings. They need powerful tools for listening and responding. And more than anything, they need to make the metrics related to total customer experience a cornerstone of brand performance. 


As service goes, so does the brand.

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