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The Internet’s calling, you need to step up your game

Complacency is deadly. From an evolutionary perspective, every creature with a brain stem knows this intuitively. Yet time and again corporations, that most evolved creature of human organization, seem to become complacent in regards to their customer service policies. The Internet exposes complacency in a way unimaginable before the days of social media and citizen journalists. Whether or not companies have actually become more complacent or not is immaterial. The fact is that complacency before could be hidden, disguised, or compensated for. Nowadays, if any part of your organization is complacent that part will be exposed quickly, and virally, to everyone. And it stays exposed, for months and years via the magic of search engines and social media.


Image by Molzee via Flickr

Example the first: United Breaks Guitars is a rant from one musician, Dave Carroll, who dearly loves his Taylor guitar. I couldn’t hope to relate the story in as entertaining a manner as he does, so watch the video to get the summary of what happened. This video has had 5,342,399 views today. That’s 5 million. Five million. How much would United have to spend to reach that many people and engage them for 4:36 minutes a piece? Out of curiosity, and because in some reptilian part of my brain there lives a direct marketer, I tried to figure out what conversion rate Dave Carroll had achieved with this. I added up all the blog posts, Google hits, YouTube comments and ratings, and determined that 12% of those who viewed the video responded in some way. Any direct marketer with that kind of response rate would squeal like a little girl. At least I would, in a scaly reptilian way.

Dave Carrol doesn’t hesitate to call United out on his site: “The system is designed to frustrate affected customers into giving up their claims.” I personally doubt that the savings generated from such a system of denials would be equivalent to the cost of running a direct marketing campaign to reach 5 million people with a 12% response rate. Step it up, United. The Internet’s calling.
Example the second: Dooce vs. Whirlpool. Self-described mommyblogger Heather Armstrong issued an epic vitriolic screed against Whirlpool for their handling–or, rather, lack of handling–her warranty claims on her brand new washer. Carroll reached 5 million people in 8 weeks; Armstrong reached 1 million and counting in 1 second and I suspect this screed will have a longer half-life. Armstrong is more direct than Carroll, but who hasn’t been in her place from time to time? “I AM NOT SATISFIED. I DEMAND BETTER SERVICE. PERIOD.”
You know how call centers also announce that they record the calls for quality control? Armstrong reports that the customer service rep she spoke with said “Ugh” to her at one point. I so want to hear a recording of that “Ugh.”
Example the third: YOUR NAME HERE.
Do not sit idly by, secure in your complacency, and sympathize with Carroll and Armstrong (or United and Whirlpool, if you are so inclined), thinking how very, very fortunate you are that your awful customer service policies have not been dragged from the back of the closet where they’ve been moldering away with last weeks gym socks to see the light of day. It is only a matter of time.

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