Social Media More Powerful Than Mother Nature

I took my annual holiday in the Adirondacks last month to spend time with Mother Nature at her finest.

Yes, it was incredibly beautiful and, no, I did not disconnect from the grid as I had planned. In fact, I took the time off as an opportunity to upgrade my mobile, Internet and TV services.

Here is my first-hand customer experience story that took me on an omnichannel journey through brick-and-mortar store visits, multiple phone center calls and, ultimately, to the promised land of social media.

Nurturing the Customer

What does it take to nurture loyal customers in today’s omnichannel world? Loyalty programs are important, including points or rewards for purchases, early access to new products, tailored perks and unexpected thank you gifts.

Perhaps most important, however, are those “moments of truth” that occur when customers are upgrading products and renewing services. Companies need to perform well or risk the consequences of a lost customer.

Here’s what happened to me.

Chapter 1: My store experience

Before we hit the road for our vacation in the great north (aka Upstate New York), we traveled to a retail store near our home in Maryland to upgrade our mobile phones and service. It was a great experience because we encountered a knowledgeable and personable salesperson that seemed to have endless patience.

We also got to play firsthand with different devices we had earlier checked out online. We chose a new iPhone and plan, and a ton of accessories from the display case (yes, in-store impulse purchases remain alive and well in the digital age.)

Okay, story over, right? Not by a long shot.

We have a bundle with the provider. So we need to address the new packaging and pricing, as well as deal with some loyalty discounts that were set to expire for the bundle.

Good news. Mike, the store specialist, will help us with our bundle. He reviews our bill and services, and appears to be going online, getting assistance and researching pricing adjustments. He is very pleased to tell us that, while our previous discounts are no longer available to us, he has found new ones that will keep us at a similar level for our bundle. He prints out what he has achieved and gives us a copy.

Cue scene of Happy Dance. WHOOT!

Chapter 2: The endless call center loop

You guessed it. Premature celebration leads to disappointment. A look at the first bill tells the tale. None of the promised discounts are in there. Sigh.

I call the billing service number and get a very nice call center rep, Rebecca, who regrets the confusion and “very much wants to help me” get things corrected. Unfortunately, she does not see any discounts possible for me from her view of my account nor any available offers she can apply.

Apparently, to do this I must fax her over the printout from the store (seriously?). I try to fulfill her request but alas, her fax number seems to be continuously busy. I suggest that I can snap a pic of the printout and email it to her but, no, email is not a way she can communicate.

Okay, I am a professional. I can deal with this. I drive to the store and talk to the specialist who arranged for my new bundle discounts and ask him to straighten things out. He is shocked and amazed that there is a problem (join the crowd). He makes a few calls and faxes the printout to the call center, then gives me a number to call for resolution.

I’m back to the call center and this time I have a different call center rep, John, who regrets the confusion and “genuinely wants to help me” but has discovered that the faxed printout is flawed. Mike should have never promised me the discounts.

He truly regrets that he has to tell me this. I ask if there is some way to escalate this, since I am sure they do not want to lose a loyal customer. The answer is “unfortunately, no. But is there anything else he might do to help me today?”

Cue scene of my head exploding. AGGHH!

Chapter 3: Social media nirvana

I know I am supposed to be on vacation and off the grid, floating on the lake and thinking deep thoughts, but I am now a woman on a mission. I bring up Facebook on my mobile phone. With all due respect, I enter a message on my provider’s Facebook page.

Within 24 hours, I get a message back via Facebook that states the company values my loyalty, regrets I am having troubles and advised me to click through a specific URL to chat with Sam, a service rep who can address my issue. I do so. Long story short, he assists me, reaching out to the special billing group and somehow finding and applying appropriate discounts to fulfill the promised level of pricing.

Cue scene of fist pump, YES!

Lessons Learned

There are lessons to be learned here from my personal story. I have written before about the importance of managing a consistent and channel appropriate set of customer experience views, but there are also critical needs that lie beneath.

Different channels need to be able to communicate effectively with each other, and all must be able to access a holistic view of customer and company information. Further, companies need to focus on congruency for their service channel guidelines and powers of authority.

My outreach through social media clearly gave my provider the opportunity to make things right, but for a company to truly succeed in this new world of omni-channel they will need to not only give Sam, but also Mike, Rebecca and John the tools, processes and policies they need to get and keep loyal customers.

Oh, and one more lesson learned. I need another vacation please.

Title image by Deb Miller, Lake George, N.Y.