Tag Archives: complaints

You are awesome. We will be back.

Most days I am thoroughly underwhelmed by mediocre customer service experiences.

It amazes me that in a competitive marketplace how little emphasis seems to be placed on providing outstanding service, especially when we know that personal recommendations are key in helping people make purchasing decisions, whether buying a new product or choosing what charity to support.*

If you receive poor or mediocre service you might not say anything. You just might not return. If the service is diabolical you probably will tell the world in order to stop anyone else having he same bad experience, or sometimes to give the diabolical service provider the opportunity to put it right. (You can see some of the best diabolical service complaints letters that went viral here)

So when something exceptional happens it really stands out. Something exceptional happened this week and I want to tell you about it.

I went for lunch with a friend at the Oxo Tower Brasserie on London’s Southbank. It’s on the 8th floor and has stunning views over the city. It was her birthday.

TG51We had a delicious meal and while we were waiting for coffee something unexpected happened. Our waiter, Marco, arrived at our table with a plate with Happy Birthday written on it in chocolate sauce accompanied with a scoop of ice cream with a candle in it.

My friend thought I had arranged it. (For a fleeting moment I thought of taking the credit, but I had to confess I hadn’t been that thoughtful.)

TG50

I asked Marco how he knew. He said he had overheard us talking when we toasted with our wine earlier and he thought it would be a nice thing to do.

It was more than a nice thing to do. It was awesome.

So a scoop of ice cream with a candle on is no big deal. The big deal was that someone was paying attention to us, understood that it was a special occasion and took the time and effort to do something to make us feel special.

Exceptional service like that is so rare. Yet in a competitive marketplace if you don’t offer exceptional service how do you get your customers to return and recommend you to others? The same applies to your supporters and donors.

It takes a bit of extra effort – but the result was that Marco and the Oxo Tower Brasserie stands out in a crowded marketplace of average experiences.

So thank you Marco for being a brilliant waiter and making our day. You are awesome. We will be back.

*Recent research claims that 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations (Source)while only 14% of people trust advertising.  Source: “Marketing to the Social Web,” Larry Weber, Wiley Publishing  2007

 

 

There are people dying now, so give me the money

On 31 May, hundreds of fundraisers gathered in London to hear 22 fundraising professionals share which fundraising ideas they wished they had thought of. I was proud to be included in the line up of speakers.

I took some inspiration away from every single presentation. So that’s at least 22 ideas (if I include my own).  Not bad for an afternoons work.

Rebecca Mauger from Red Cross spoke about Live Aid. Now this struck a bit of a chord with me because I really remember Live Aid.

The Christmas before LiveAid, I remember going to WHSmith with my pocket money to buy the 7” single, ‘Do they know its Christmas’ to help victims of the Ethiopian famine. Yes that is physically going into a shop (with my mum), and buying a vinyl record and coming home and playing it non-stop on my parents hi-fi system. Back in 1984 this made me very cool. And I haven’t been very cool since.

At the time it was the UK’s best selling single and raised an estimated £8 million. The point is that it made giving to charity very cool for not just me, but for many people.

I also remember my dad coming home from work being super excited that he had seen Bob Geldof getting on a plane (my dad worked at Heathrow). He rushed off to Boots (yes the pharmacy) to get his film developed (no digital then) and we were delighted several days later (one hour service didn’t exist) to see 24 shots of a small man with big black hair (or possibly a hat) in a white t-shirt getting on a plane in the very far distance (no zoom lens). You might have an app that makes your photos look like this. My dad was, nevertheless proud of ‘meeting’ Bob Geldof, even though he was ‘a bit scruffy’.

Live Aid was a music concert held the following July simultaneously in London and Philadelphia. 58 bands played over 16 hours attended in total by over 170,000 people and the broadcast was watched by two billion people in 160 countries. Oh and they planned and delivered it in 12 weeks. Oh and this was before the internet or email was invented.

In 1985 Live Aid was an entirely new phenomenon for the fundraising world. Nothing like this had ever happened before.

I remember being glued to the telly that day. And I remember Bob Geldof getting all shouty and sweary. Now I know that he was getting frustrated that there wasn’t an urgent enough call to action when he famously said ‘f*** the address! –  there are people dying now, so give me the money.’ You can watch below.

The original fundraising target for LiveAid was £1 million and the final figure raised was about £150 million. Outstanding.

So thank you Rebecca for indulging me on a trip back to when I was cool. But more importantly for reminding us all that with an urgent need, passion, determination, bloody mindedness, a strong ask and sometimes a bit of swearing we can achieve outstanding things.

Have we amazed you?

The zip on my very very favourite pair of winter boots broke this week. It was devastating, partly because I had to walk round with one cold foot for a day and partly because no other boot in the shops would be as good.  These boots are perfect.

I knew I couldn’t replace them, (physically or emotionally!) so I investigated getting them mended. My local shoe mender took one look, inhaled quickly over his teeth and shook his head slowly, and said, “no. we don’t do zips here”. He suggested I tried some other shoe mender ‘in town’. *

So yesterday, when ‘in town’ I made another attempt at solving my cold foot challenge. The two shoe menders at Charing Cross Station were closed for lunch. In my frustration I remembered someone telling me about how good Timpson were, so I looked on my phone to see if there was a shop nearby.

I wish companies would think about how people are accessing their websites now. Stood in the cold waiting for the data to download and then trying to navigate reams of information on a little screen just to find a list of stores isn’t a great experience.

Anyway, I found a Timpson, I called them to find out exactly where they were and spoke to a friendly guy who gave me directions. Ten minutes later when I arrived he greeted me with a big smile and remembered the phone call.

Steve the Manager and I chatted about the devastation of boots breaking. To be fair I’m not sure he really felt the pain, but he made a valiant attempt which I appreciated. We also discussed the weather; we are British that’s what we do.  He explained the process to mend the boot, and why it would take 2 weeks and that he would call me personally if there was any problems.

On the counter I spotted this. Timpsons campaign for better service.

The first question; Have we amazed you? Actually you did, because your service was good, partly emphasised because most places give decidedly less than amazing service, plus you were actually open when I needed you.

£250 incentive; this is interesting. I don’t give feedback to be put in a prize draw. That’s not an incentive for me. I’m writing this and sending off my postcard because Steve did a great job and should be recognised for that.

We know that personal recommendations are key to making purchasing decisions so the ‘would you recommend a friend /colleague?’ question is a good one.

I think there was a couple of things missing; perhaps seeking to learn if anything didn’t amaze and suggestions for improvement.

I also question whether there should be a line about how they will use my data. As much as I loved the service I don’t want you to get in touch with me. (unless its Steve to talk about my boot.)

The branch number wasn’t filled in, so if I don’t write which branch amazed me how will Timpson be able to feed back to that amazing branch?

I’m impressed that there was a feedback card in the first place. It’s amazing how many customer-facing businesses don’t actively seek feedback from the people who are the key to their business success.

I was talking to a friend recently about how he felt about seeking 360 feedback from clients, which he does at the end of every piece of work. He felt apprehensive. Especially as part of his service was to give feedback to fundraisers on their work, he felt concerned that an invite for feedback could be ‘pay back time’. I don’t actually think that is the case, but understand his apprehension.

So it can feel a bit scary, but if you don’t seek feedback, how will you know the amazing things you are doing that you could do more of? And as importantly, how will you know where to make improvements?

When you are giving feedback, do consider the impact it will have. Always tell people when they have done a good job, and always tell people when they haven’t, but take care to be constructive and thoughtful. Telling someone they are rubbish with no explanation isn’t ok. It’s just plain mean.

So get over the fear and make giving feedback and seeking feedback from customers, clients, donors or colleagues a habit.

Without feedback it’s hard to become amazing at what you do. And you all deserve to be amazing. Right?

Your thoughts and feedback welcome…

*’in town’ being central London

Failure – it’s the real thing

Last week I ran an innovation breakfast for fundraising leaders with the creative team from Sandbox. One of the key discussion points was that in order to innovate well, organisations and individuals would need to take a new approach to failure. In fact, failure must be actively encouraged in order to learn, and ultimately achieve greater success.

One of my favourite (?!) failure stories is from Coca-Cola.

In 1985 in response to its declining market share and the increasing popularity of its key rival Pepsi, Coca-Cola launched New Coke.

At the time Pepsi’s advertising campaigns were based around asking the public if they could taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke. They could – and they preferred the taste of Pepsi.

In response Coke developed a new sweeter tasting formula.  After conducting over 200.000 taste tests, which according to the taste testers not only tasted better than the old Coke, but also tasted better than Pepsi, New Coke was ready for launch.

However on 23 April 1985 when New Coke was launched and old Coke was taken out of circulation it was a disaster. Customers were horrified that their Coke had been changed. Some people likened the change in Coke to trampling the American flag. A black market for old Coke emerged, at a market value of $30 a case.  On July 11, Coca-Cola withdrew New Coke and reinstated old Coke.

So what happened?

“We did not understand the deep emotions of so many of our customers for Coca-Cola,” said company President Donald R. Keough.

The development of New Coke was all about taste and overlooked the importance of the relationship customers had with the brand. Until the launch of New Coke, Coca-Colas brand had been about its ‘original’ status. For example in 1942, magazine adverts in the United States declared: ‘The only thing like Coca-Cola is Coca-Cola itself. It’s the real thing.’

If you tell the world you have the ‘real thing’ you cannot then just come up with a ‘new real thing’. To make matters worse, since 1982, Coke’s strap line had been ‘Coke is it’. Now it was telling customers that actually coke wasn’t it, but New Coke was now it instead.

Coca-Cola were fighting a taste battle with Pepsi in response to Pepsi’s marketing campaign. What Coca-cola overlooked was that the battle was not about taste, and they underestimated the value of brand loyalty and the heritage of Coca-Cola.

Ironically, through the brand failure of New Coke, loyalty to ‘the real thing’ intensified and Coke recovered its market position with old Coke, repositioned as Coke Classic. Some conspiracy theorists say the whole campaign had been planned order to reaffirm public loyalty for Coca-Cola. But whether it was planned or not, the fail of New Coke affirmed the value of the brand and with that insight Coke went onto retake its leading market position.

Learning important insights from its failure was key to Coca-Colas reclaimed success over Pepsi. So what if organisations and individuals actively encouraged failure in order to gain insight and ultimately achieve greater success? What would it look like? What would our leaders, managers, fundraisers, volunteers and supporters need to do to really make failing part of ‘how we do things round here?’ How do we make failure an important part of the organisational culture and an important part of greater success?

Answers on a postcard please or to @lucyinnovation.

P.S. If you are interested in failure you might also like my blog on sofii.org

It’s all about you

There is often debate about how much contact charities should be making with donors. In a recent blog by Jeff Brooks he highlights that there is no proof that increased contact leads to donor attrition. He notes that too little contact could be detrimental to your fundraising, but the worst thing of all is being irrelevant.

Charities need to focus on the donor. It’s all about the charity providing the donor with the opportunity to change the world and feel valued in a way that is relevant to them. From the style of the copy, to the key message, to the choice of images, to the channel of communication, it’s all about them.

My question is; can we compare our fundraising communications to other sectors, for example clothes retail, restaurants or mobile phone providers? I think we can.

A couple of weeks ago I was doing some work with the direct mail fundraising team; considering how we make our donors feel special, important and loved. We did some work reflecting on our own experiences and considered what organisations (if any!) had made us feel valued or special lately.

We came up with a good list that included, Eagle Cabs, a dentist, Bupa and Virgin (?). My example was Boden, which I will share with you here.

Johnnie Boden has been writing to me for a few years now. I don’t remember asking him, or when he first embarked on his correspondence with me, but he writes to me a lot. In fact I get more post from Johnnie Boden than anyone else. I have to say his overly friendly chirpy marketing copy does grate on my nerves a bit. However, somewhat ashamedly I admit, I am a Boden customer.

The reason this example was so relevant to the question about communication being all about the donor is that Johnnie Bodens latest autumn catalogue was all about me.  The centre text reads, ‘I owe Lucy everything’  as well as other references to ‘Lucy’. I think this is brilliant. There were even personalised stickers so I could mark what I wanted.

But while I’m on the topic, it’s not just the personalised catalogue that makes Boden stand out. Johnnie Bodens customer service is excellent too. A few months ago I complained about a scarf because all the bobbles fell off it. I emailed customer service and I received a real email back from a real person the same day. They sent me a new scarf and a freepost envelope to return the bobbleless one in. All within a couple of days. Impressive.

So what can fundraisers learn from Johnnie Boden? Here is my list.

  • Personal; great personalization of materials – see the example above
  • Frequent; I must get something monthly at least. It doesn’t put me off. It probably helps me buy more.
  • Offers; I get an incentive with every catalogue. I’m sure every single other customer does too. But I feel special.
  • Customer service; It’s good. Real people answer emails and take action. Refer to the scarf story above.
  • Targeted; Johnnie Boden sends me stuff I’m interested in. He segments his data well. I check in with my other target audience friends and we receive different creative and offers. Sometimes we get a bit jealous of each other’s Boden relationship.  (I acknowledge that could be perceived as sad on our part)
  • New; the catalogues always have some new lines.
  • Topical; The Royal wedding edition catalogue contained make your own cut-out bunting and Royal wedding bingo game. Other catalogues refer to recent events or seasons.

So, whether you are in the market for a brightly coloured rain mac or not; don’t just take my word for it, Test the Boden theory, or another company that makes you feel special. Ask yourself what is it that they do. Then try to recreate that special feeling for your donors.

More from the catalogue below.

Better to aim too high and miss

For me customer service is really important. Often I’m criticised for having too high expectations of people. I don’t think I do. I just think most people have very low expectations because they are so used to getting crap service.

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”  Michelangelo

Last week my brilliant friend Sue booked a meal for four of us through Groupon (and you know how I feel about Groupon) at a London restaurant called The English Pig.  Great concept, unless you are a vegetarian as it only serves pork. Delicious pork.

We got off to a great start, the manager was brilliant, friendly, chatty, told us about how business was tough but the Groupon deal was really working. He recommended several top dishes and we were all suitably impressed.

He took our order, the food arrived, which I have to say was delicious, but sadly, after that the service nose-dived. We had to practically do a Mexican wave to get anyone’s attention to order more drinks, we quite fancied dessert but by the time anyone noticed our frantic waving the moment had passed. So we tried to get the bill, but ended up going to the bar to ask for it as all the staff had disappeared.

Now is it just me, or is this a common occurrence? You arrive at a restaurant and staff are falling over themselves to take your order, often more than one person is prowling round the table interrupting your conversation in their eagerness to serve. As the meal progresses the staff become sparser until you are left stranded, desperately vying for someone’s attention to process the bill.

So we know that the world is a tough place for any business right now. We also know that it’s way harder to and more expensive to get new customers than to keep and develop your old ones.

So why invest in a Groupon deal to get people through the door and then do such a rubbish job that they won’t come back? Or worse still they tell their friends/the whole world about their below par experience?

Now let me make an analogy to fundraising; Groupon is the equivalent of a mass participation event. It’s about getting lots of people through the door. If you do not have a strategy to get those people more engaged, to make them want to come back then you are not making the most of your investment.

So ask yourself; Are you really looking after your donors, or are they going thirsty? Does their experience with your mass participation event leave them full and satisfied, eager to return, or are some leaving feeling short-changed?

How can you use the restaurant analogy to think of ways to engage supporters?

A well used creative thinking technique is to view a challenge from a different perspective, so for example you could use the restaurant analogy in a fundraising context as an example of how not to treat donors, and then do the opposite. You may come up with a fresh perspective on how to engage supporters.  Go on, have a go. I’ve given you some examples below to start you off.

  • Prowl around at the start and lose interest towards the end could translate into – celebrate at the end, make the end of the event really special, make the process of giving money a pleasure
  • Allow them to leave feeling uncared for, like you don’t value their custom could translate into – giving them a reason to come back; a post event party, an opportunity to volunteer/make more of a difference
  • Don’t make any attempt to build a relationship apart from the initial greeting could translate into building great rapport; have dedicated volunteers whose role is just to build rapport with participants

What other ways of developing supporter relationships can you come up with using the restaurant analogy?

What innovation isn’t

Innovation, in my opinion is an overused term. People often seem to bung innovation in a sentence if they want to make something sound good but are too lazy to think properly about what they actually mean. A bit of a catch-all term that is so overused it loses its’ meaning.

My best example of innovation overuse was on a cheese, ham and pickle sandwich – an innovation from National Rail catering. Apparently.

“When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts” Larry Ellison

Last week I was explaining innovation to some friends. Turns out it was much easier to explain what innovation isn’t than what innovation is. Here is the list.

Innovation isn’t

1. A lone genius. Einstein practically had a fail factory, with teams testing different ideas. Innovation is about a series of previously unconnected connections and collaboration.

2. A cyber city of geeks ‘doing’ techy stuff we’ve never heard of.  Technology is an enabler of innovation, but not all innovation is about new technology.

3. About lime green bean bags or slides to the coffee machine. I say no more.

4. About being crazy or wearing wacky glasses.  All humans are creative. It makes us human. You don’t have to be wacky glasses to have breakthrough ideas.

5. Group hugs. If you just want a group hug, don’t disguise it as innovation. Just check out these guys.

6. Brand new stuff. Innovation can be a new approach, adaptions or a combination of existing stuff to produce something new. Think about the invention of the printing press, combining type setting and wine pressing.

7. All glamour. The world-wide web was invented to share scientific documents. Absolutely nothing glamorous about that.

8. Just for organisations with big budgets.  It costs nothing to take a creative approach to life. Yes you need to practice and there are lots of free resources to help you.

10. Power.  It’s not battle of the egos, it’s about leadership. It’s about encouraging individuals and organisations to think and work differently.

11.  Irrelevant.  If organisations do not adapt to changing markets and customers needs they will die. Innovation is essential.

12. About stupid silly names, iteration or misspelling to be ‘cool’.

13. Google. Lets get this clear, Google are a great example of an innovation culture, fuelled by great leadership and the opportunity to develop new products in an emerging market. Innovation is not just about Google per say.

14. Instant success.  Back to point one and Einstein in his failure factory.  You got to try and fail and learn and try and fail and learn. Pack for a long journey.

15. A blueprint in a box. You can’t just follow the instructions and it will work. You have to find the best way to innovate for you and your organisation.

What else isn’t innovation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Tune in next time for more on what innovation is…

My Groupon story…….”But they still whip up an amazing fish curry”

From half price pedicures to cheap jive lessons to exclusive restaurant deals, Groupon offers you daily deals in your local area. The deal only activates if enough people sign up, encouraging customers to promote the deals and the collective buying power guarantees the merchant a minimum amount of business. Groupon keeps half the money and the merchant gets the rest.

Groupon has been applauded for making this innovative business model work. On the face of it, it sounds like a win-win arrangement. The customer gets cheap stuff and the merchant gets increased sales and profile of their product.

However scratch under the surface and Groupon doesnt always provide the best experience for the consumer or the merchant.

Let me tell you my Groupon story….

My friend bought some Groupon vouchers for a fish pedicure as a Christmas present at Pasha Clinic in London. After a month of phoning an engaged line and sending regular emails into the ether in an attempt to redeem the vouchers before they expired, my friend was getting somewhat agitated.

The customer service team at Groupon who claim on the website that “Nothing is more important to us than treating our customers well.” Suggested she just keep trying.

Eventually, after six weeks she got through and had a rather heated conversation with Pasha Clinic who didn’t have any weekend availability before the voucher ran out. They did offer up a weekday lunchtime. Although she then added that if we had paid full price they could have found us an appointment. My friend ended up putting the phone down on the less than satisfactory response from Pasha Clinic. Then she received this email. I kid you not.

“you are extremely rude. i cancelled your name from our system.  you failed to provide proper details of your voucher and still blaming us on being late. You should be saying sorry for taking our time with your incopitance to provide basic voucher detail. you have no telephone manner at all.  it is sad that you live in the most civilised country but have no idea about being civilised.
you bougth a £9 worth treatment and vaiting to be treated like a queen. looser. now forward my mail to geoupon  so make sure you dont come back.”

Priceless.

Groupon were very apologetic about the above email and have given my friend Groupon credit for the vouchers. Presumably so she can waste another six weeks of her life chasing another great value deal. Bet she can’t wait.

I’ve got several points to make,

1. Firstly the customer service of Pasha Clinic is so terrible it’s practically comedy. Pasha Clinic I wont ever use you – even though your website looks quite good.

2. I’m sure that Pasha Clinic are not the only company to have been inundated by customers. (I understand that one coffee shop in Portland  was swamped with a stampede of over 1000 customers on the first day.) However, Groupon officials state that ‘deal’ subscriptions should be capped in advance to a reasonable number to deal with this situation.

3. Companies need to consider carefully what a Groupon deal means to their business; can they cope with the increased business, are the terms and conditions on the deal right, are they sure they are not actually driving themselves into bankruptcy?

4. However much of a mess merchants get themselves into there is no excuse for poor customer service and the above email.

5. The weather is getting warmer and my trotters are not up to scratch. And you know how important good trotters are to a lady.

I’d love to know if you have had a good or bad Groupon experience.

If you are interested in the Groupon phenomenon, Bob Phibbs the retail doctor has quite a lot to say on the matter too.

P.S. And while we are on the subject, Groupon recently made an ‘interesting’ Superbowl advert in which actor Timothy Hutton begins by making a plea for the people of Tibet before delivering the punch line: “But they still whip up an amazing fish curry” Groupon have apologized and the ad has been withdrawn but you can watch it here.

 

 

Great customer service – It’s not that hard is it?

Every single day someone gives me an appalling customer service experience.  Take your pick from HSBC not calling me back, laissez-faire waiters, queuing for hours in Southern Electrics multiple level phone holding pattern, the general shoddiness of the London Underground ‘service’, the man from SKY drilling into the neighbours lounge instead of outside, the receptionist at the Doctors with a ferocious face that could make children cry, miserable indifference from people working in a customer facing role, Elephant family never called me back and don’t even get me started on the Ramada Jarvis in Leeds – that deserves a whole blog to itself.

So when I get brilliant customer service, not just once but consistently I have to share it because it is a precious gem. A gift. A miracle.

My local coffee shop is wonderful. Let me tell you why.

  1. Their coffee is delicious – they have a great product
  2. Everyone that works there smiles and makes you feel welcome
  3. Everyone engages you in conversation (good conversation, not the forced conversation that you get at the checkout in Sainsburys because the cashier has attended Sainsburys ‘having small talk with customers’ training day – Sainsburys I like what you are trying to do but you haven’t cracked it yet)
  4. Everyone remembers you and refers back to previous conversations
  5. They do this consistently. Every day.
  6. They do this with all their customers
  7. They actually seem to be enjoying themselves

They also go out of their way for their customers; last week I went to get coffee and on my way I made a quick phone call as I walked down the street. The call lasted longer than I anticipated and I ended up pacing up and down in front of the shop for a few minutes while I chatted. After a couple of minutes one of the staff appeared in the doorway of the shop with a soya latte (they knew my coffee) and then wouldn’t let me pay for it. That was a priceless gesture.

Sometimes they give me a free coffee, and sometimes a complimentary bun if I’m looking particularly hungry. Once they ran out of soya milk so went to get some especially for me.

Going to Reason to Eat is a pleasure. It makes my day. I get great coffee, a meaningful conversation and I feel part of a local community. I always leave there smiling.

Great customer service – It’s not that hard is it?

  1. Recruit the right people for customer facing roles – people who like people
  2. Pay them well – they are representing the company. They are important.
  3. Give them the tools and training they need to do the best job they can
  4. Listen to them – they are talking to your customers every day

I now recommend Reason to Eat to everyone that I know – and also people I don’t know because it’s a joy to be their customer.

Do you think your customers and donors feel that it’s a joy to work with you and your organisation? If the answers no – then please put it right soon.

If you are interested in being the best you can at your job or in your industry you might be interested in reading

The Fred Factor

Fish

Linchpin

Dear Cretins, the balance of power is shifting

Responding to your customers needs and providing them with an exceptional service is basic common sense. It’s also very important.

“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it” PETER DRUCKER

In world that is becoming increasingly online, the value of meaningful human interaction is greater than ever before. But how are businesses adapting to the emerging needs of online and offline communities?

The development of internet communities has created a shift in customer dynamic, in the past you might complain about shoddy service, but who would listen? Now online communities enable you to link with people who feel the same as you to form a critical mass that actually has influence over large organisations.

When HSBC decided to withdraw their free graduate overdraft facility more than 5,000 students joined Facebook’s Stop the Great HSBC Rip-Off!!! Group. HSBC reversed its decision.  Overdrafts remained free. Graduates rejoiced.

Facebook enabled students to come together around a specific issue with minimal risk, effort or financial outlay to influence the business strategy of a world bank. That’s impressive, and a wake up call for HSBC and other big corporations.

Customers are having conversations online that businesses have not been party to before. This can be a good thing; offering insights and giving companies the opportunity to respond to real customer needs (as opposed to the perceived needs). It can also go very sour if companies don’t respond quickly.

In February stationers Paperchase were accused of copying an independent artists designs. The publicity round this was huge mainly through use of Twitter which resulted in a lot of bad publicity, fuelled by initial lack of comment and an overall slow response.

Earlier this year the Vodafone twitter account was hacked by a rogue member of staff tweeting some lewd and grammatically incorrect tweets to customers. Vodafone customers were quick to inform Vodafone, who were honest enough to admit it wasn’t a hack but an employee. They apologised quickly and continued to engage with customers throughout the day and seemed to gain trust for their honestly and engagement.

This beautifully written complaint letter to Virgin went viral and allegedly resulted in a personal call from Sir Branson himself.  Compare to ‘Dear Cretins’, a complaint letter to NTL which presumably still isn’t resolved.

So my points are;

1.Good customer service is expected – you don’t get any points for just being good

2. Delight your customers, go the extra mile, demonstrate Fred like qualities and your customers will value you

3. Give a rubbish service and your customers will complain and tell the world

4. Put the problem right and you will get the value back (see point 2)

4. Don’t underestimate the influence of online communities and networks for both good and bad

5. Respond to social networks quickly and honestly and you can get the value back (see point 2)

6. Never call me ‘Madam’ It’s a personal thing. You have been warned.

If you are interested in this stuff, you’ll like these.

The Fred Factor – Mark Sandborn

Here Comes Everybody – Clay Shirky