20 GOTO 10, RUN

  • AXP: “OK. I’ll give you a moment to find your card.”
  • Me: [I’m at the office and my card is at home. Yes, I left home without it.]
  • Me: “Representative.”
  • AXP: “I understand you’d like to speak to a representative. If you’d like to report a lost or stolen card…”
  • This happened a few times. The second time I was wondering if I had missed something. The third time I was laughing about it. In the end, I got to where I needed to go by choosing option one.

    (regarding the title, try this if you’d like to program a bit of BASIC)

    Screen shot 2011-08-23 at 10.09.20 AM



    Bad Customers

    I learned about bad customers back when I had P&L responsibility for an online store. Once, we ran a gift with purchase promotion where the rule was a minimum $0.01 sale, while supplies last. It was fine, the GWP was out-of-season overstock that had a higher carrying than disposal cost. So we decided to get rid of it. But when we ran out – remember that “while supplies last” was clearly in the T&C’s – the complaints started flowing in from people who had purchased $3 keychains demanding their free GWP. Then they wanted an alternate free product. These were people who had never purchased from us and were never going to again.

    Why am I remembering this now? Because I just read “GroupOn Was ‘The Single Worst Decision I Have Ever Made As A Business Owner’“.

    I wonder what my friends Jackie and Ben think about this…

    The “last mile” in social business

    I started my consulting career by focusing on electric and natural gas utilities. At the time, most utilities were thinking through the impact of potential industry deregulation which at the highest level would unbundle generation, transmission, and distribution functions.

    Most companies were more than happy to consider the prospect of removing residential consumers from their service model. Why? Because unlike the large profits generated by industrial and commercial accounts, consumers were a hassle to serve given their sheer number and different types of service situations.

    Generation and transmission happen at scale; distribution to individual homes encounters the last mile issue. Think about this with regard to marketing; social campaigns are creating pull marketing scenarios where consumers too often discover disconnected endpoints.

    In today’s Dachis Group Collaboratory, my colleague Tom Cummings discusses the last mile in social business and how companies can start solving for this issue: Social Media Middlemen.


    Should customers be in control?

    As social media evolves, I’ve been wondering if the adages we all know still apply. I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about turning the adages upside down; one I left out was “customers are in control.” But should they be?

    Over the years, companies have taken heat for customer-unfriendly actions:

    • A decade ago, I was at Fidelity during a communications crisis called “Basic-Gate.”
    • Sprint fired some customers.
    • Ford let out the legal dogs on a brand fan in the “Ranger Station” situation.

    But at Fidelity, the customers encouraged to switch channels were more likely to ask about the weather than for a stock quote. Sprint’s customers weren’t very different. And after the social media mob calmed down, the truth about the Ford situation emerged.

    You may have even heard of the situation where a conference attendee requested free shoes from a Crocs brand representative otherwise she threatened to defame the brand on her blog.

    Recently, Powered’s Joseph Jaffe highlighted a comment from Ad Age about Nestle’s Facebook situation. It takes an alternate point of view to common brand advice, which I’ll excerpt here:

    “NOW, in a day when the kids all have megaphones and a sense of unassailable entitlement, the new social order is that when one of them lights a bag of dog sh*t on the [brand’s] front porch, the [brand] is supposed to proclaim what a funny little kid he is…If [the brand] doesn’t respond this way, [it’s] a dinosaur who doesn’t get it.”

    I think the confusion comes into play where individual voices are mistaken for customer voices. When you dig down into the root of Nestle’s issue for example, it’s revealed that an organized protest lies at the heart of the matter. Then often, the echo chamber rushes in and magnifies the issues. And it’s all individuals making the noise, looking like an apparent customer revolt when in fact the brand hasn’t lost control at all – it’s still dealing with the same detractors as usual, new channel.

    In fact, putting customers in control is the solution to this issue. How? By creating customer advocates, brands have supporters that can defuse issues in social media often before the corporation has time to mobilize. And brands create advocates via positive experiences that play out in a fair value exchange between institution and individual. Lesson: all customers are individuals, but not vice versa. The distinction is important!

    Using Twitter at scale

    In three short years, we’ve witnessed the evolution of Twitter from a way to exchange “inconsequential information between friends” to a business communication tool with a US$1 billion valuation.

    As Twitter’s user base has grown into the millions, companies have followed their consumers onto the service and started participating in conversations. You’re already familiar with companies like Comcast, JetBlue, and Best Buy, among the hundreds of companies with corporate Twitter accounts.

    But many of these companies are starting to face the scalability issue; a single person can manage the communication channel to prove the concept, but moving beyond one person/purpose can be difficult. Companies, unlike individuals, need to think through participation strategies for channel migration, which requires process, culture, and technology support.

    To that end, Dachis Group is pleased to be a part of CoTweet’s Enterprise Innovators Program. We will be working with forward-thinking brands to help capture value from their Twitter activity. These companies have started moving beyond the proof of concept stage and are starting to measure their efforts to better manage outcomes. If you are interested in participating, you can request an invite.

    Some of the experience we’ll be bringing to the program comes from a project that we completed recently for a well-known B2C brand. The company has been using a combination of personal and corporate Twitter accounts on an ad-hoc basis for customer support, but needed to step back and formulate a strategy for making their efforts work at scale. In our research, we found that most businesses are still using home-grown approaches, which are near if not already at their limits. If your company could use some help with this issue, let me know.

    Who “must die” now?

    The title is borrowed, of course, from Bob Garfield’s ongoing digital hatefest of Comcast, complete with its own Facebook group.  But rather than singling any telecom provider out, I think things are in bad shape all around.  Check this out.

    Last week, I had Comcast TV and Verizon FIOS (internet, phone) installed.  Comcast was quick, in and out in a couple hours.  But with Verizon, after a few hours of installation, it turns out that the fiber on my street isn’t hooked up to the main line at the cross street.  Upon further investigation, the installer discovered that my entire TOWN isn’t hooked up to the network.  Oops.

    So I called Comcast and they came back out in a couple days, set up phone and internet.  No problem.  Then I discovered, working out of a home office, I’m hogging the phone line like a stormy adolescent middle-schooler.  (Well, actually like me as a stormy adolescent middle-schooler, today’s stormy adolescent middle-schoolers use text messaging and IM.  We’ve got Forrester data on that somewhere.)

    So I call Verizon to request a good old-fashioned copper line installation.  Which would help if the power goes out, because with cable, the phone goes dead (same with FIOS, but they provide a battery backup – smart).  But there’s a problem – Verizon can’t handle a "downgrade" given the fiber already connected to the house, which is actually about as useful as a buried underground clothesline.  So reluctantly, they tell me to get a second Comcast line.

    Great.  Online, I see I can get a new line for $10 without voicemail, call forwarding, and all sorts of modern conveniences – I just need POTS, works for me.  The Comcast rep tells me that the $10 line is fine, but I’ll have to pay for long distance.  Well, what’s long distance?  For starters, "Boston is long distance."  (What?  I live 14 miles away from the center of the city.)  Also, "toll-free numbers are long distance."  (What?  Since when did toll-free not mean free?)  Yeah, "I’m seeing people having to pay for those calls more and more."  OK whatever – give me the $20 deal and add your gold star to the upsell board for today, I just need a 2nd phone line.  I called back the next day, downgraded to the $10 and told Comcast that they needed to give this crazy phone rep a geography lesson, who lives in the Boston area but seems to have the education of Miss South Carolina.

    Using Garfield’s parlance, is there any company that "must die" in this situation?

    In my opinion, it is what it is. Everything works now and I’ve got a blog post out of it.  Time to move on and get back to work.

    Verizon Wireless and strange BREW

    I have a friend who just can’t get competent help from Verizon Wireless.  See, for the past couple of months she has been receiving strange SMS messages to her phone that consist of a bunch of code, prefaced by the word "BREW."

    Now she’s pretty sure on why she’s getting these; about a year ago, she was upgrading phones (new every two!) and test drove a LG VX9800.  It was fun playing with "Get It Now" for a day or two, until you realize that the video is too small and slow to provide a good experience.  So she kept the same number and swapped it for a more practical Treo.

    But for the past two months she has been getting BREW SMS messages at all times of day and night, some days 20 or more.  It’s pretty clear that these BREW alerts are related to the old phone – they mention VX9800 amongst the gobbeldygook along with a site name like "Accuweather" or "Fox Sports" and apparent subject lines like "Doctors say Everett impr" and "VZW Fox Sports."

    But Verizon’s customer service can’t seem to figure out how to stop the messages.
    – She’s been in two stores where techs said they’d fix everything in 20 minutes.  No clue.
    – Been on the phone three times with tech support.  No help.
    – Sent to 3rd party alert provider.  No idea.
    – Checked settings online.  Nothing there.

    The solutions offered have ranged from "change your phone number" to "just ignore and delete them."  Verizon will not block spam, even when it’s their own.  That’s about 5+ hours of life wasted with tech support that had no clue.  They can’t even connect the dots on the "Get It Now" part of the equation!

    At this point, she is ready to terminate the contract and switch carriers.  If she’s going to switch numbers, why stay with a network that can’t help you?

    This is a known, but uncommon problem.  Anyone else experience this?  Have a solution?

    Three strikes for Comcast Triple Play

    ComcasticMy Comcast service is out at home.  I am a triple play subscriber.  This means:

    1. No TV (not a big deal)
    2. No internet access (a hassle)
    3. No telephone (potentially a big deal)

    Here’s the transcript of my chat session.  A quick summary:  "Oh hai.  Can’t help.  Here’s some spam.  Ok bye."

    user Peter_ has entered room
    P:  My comcast service is down – no internet access, phone calls, or tv.  When will it be fixed?

    analyst Eric has entered room
    E:  Hello Peter_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Eric. Please give me one moment to review your information.
    E:  I am very sorry to learn about the difficulties that you have experienced.  I will be happy to assist you in resolving them.
    E:  One moment please while I see if there is trouble in your area.
    E:  I apologize for the inconvenience. There is an outage in the area. Our technicians are currently working to resolve the problem. At this time we do not have an estimated time of repair.

    E:  Is there anything else I can assist you with today?
    P:  No.

    E:  Thank you for contacting Comcast. If you need assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us through Live Chat or E-mail (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Thank you again for choosing Comcast we appreciate your business.  To visit our local support page including links to contact us via Email, as well as  many downloadable forms,and FAQ pages, please visit:  http://www.comcast.com/nesupport/

    Did you know that Comcast offers its customers a variety of free benefits?  These include McAfee Antivirus, Firewall and Privacy software as well the Comcast tool bar that lets you take Comcast.net with you while you surf, and the Desktop Doctor to help you restore lost settings…plus much more, please visit http://www.comcast.net/downloads/ to see all of the extras that we provide.

    E:  Get tips from the FBI on how to protect your family online and watch an overview of the McAfee security suite! Please join us for “Online Safety for the Connected Family”, a free live webinar, September 12th, 2007 at 8pm. A live question and answer session will follow the presentation. Visit www.comcast.com/getconnected for more details and to register!

    Don’t forget Comcast offers its customers many free benefits McAfee Antivirus, Firewall and Privacy software as well the Comcast tool bar that lets you take Comcast.net with you while you surf, and the Desktop Doctor to help you restore lost settings…plus much more, visit http://www.comcast.net/downloads/ to see all of the extras!

    Thank you very much for contacting Comcast electronic support.

    If you require additional assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us again; we appreciate your business!
    To visit our local download page please visit:  http://www.comcast.com/nesupport/

    Analyst has closed chat and left the room
    analyst Eric has left room

    Update: Thomas and Friends recall

      I’ve been recalled 
      Originally uploaded by Pete Kim.

    About five weeks ago, toy manufacturer RC2 announced a recall of Thomas and Friends parts – mostly painted red.  It took me a couple of weeks to find and send our James #5 back; yesterday I got this email.

    Pretty good customer service, especially for a B2B2C company that you’d never buy directly from.  Not good"in the sense of "above and beyond," but rather from the sense of unexpected timely communication.

    —– Forwarded Message —-
    From: "[email protected]"
    Sent: Friday, July 20, 2007 4:12:41 PM
    Subject: Wooden Vehicle Recall

    We wanted to let you know that we received the items you have returned to RC2 Corporation in response to our voluntary recall. Please be assured that we are working diligently to replace your product in a timely manner. In the meantime, if you need to contact us regarding your replacement, please use reference number xxxxxx.

    The trust you have placed in the Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway brand is very important to us. We want you to know that we fully understand and share your concerns and are dedicated to safeguarding that trust. Since our recall announcement a few weeks ago, we’ve focused on three primary objectives:

    1. Recovery of products subject to the recall
    2. Determination of what happened
    3. Thorough review of our processes and procedures to prevent it from happening again and to assure consumers that our products are safe.

    We are making progress on all three objectives, and we deeply appreciate your patience and loyalty during this time.

    Consumer Service
    RC2 Corporation