Back in December 2006 I excitedly returned from the WOMMA conference in D.C., went a bit crazy, and wrote a lengthy essay/manifesto in the airport terminal to channel all my thoughts onto paper. I realized that customer service plays an integral role not only to creating good WoM, but also plays a major role in good corporate karma. Putting the customer first and making them happy above all else was a great impetus to creating good WOM and building a solid customer base, but after seeing one side of the coin – the theoretical part from the seminars at WOMMA- I was missing the other side where I actually got to experience it.

During one of the seminars at the conference I remember an interesting anecdote about a customer of intuit feeling much aggrieved at something related to intuit’s customer service – so much so he decided to (negatively) blog about it. By venting his frustrations on his blog he got the issue off his chest and likely felt a bit better and went to sleep. Much to his surprise the next day he saw a comment on his blog, straight from some semi-bigwig from intuit who had actually taken the time to read about the issue he was having, and who vowed to resolve it for him. It got resolved, the angry blogger couldn’t believe his luck, and he blogged again the next day on how surprised, amazed, and most importantly how happy he was that this massive corporation had actually bothered to see him as an individual person, not a number. Everyone ended up happy, and everyone listening in the seminar gave a genuine smile, and it’s stuck with me since – especially up to now.

2 weeks ago I ordered a brand new laptop from Dell Canada. I was obviously very excited and couldn’t wait to receive it. After some initial problems were cleared up (none of which are important or interesting enough to bring up here) I waited 1.5 weeks. Dell send some pretty neat email campaigns to a customer notifying them of their order status, and I hadn’t got one in a while, so I emailed them. Turns out my order was canceled. No notice to me, no phone call, no email, no nothing. Out of nowhere my order was canceled because, as it turns out, a SKU was wrong so the order got canned. I, the customer, had to then track down (via at least 4x 1-800 numbers) the right customer service department and find out what was going on. Safe to say I was livid.

I know this kind of stuff happens to other Company X Y or Z customers all the time, but I didn’t expect to be one of them. I was so angry at the concept of having to run around to find where and what the screw up was at a multi-million dollar company (which is just barely more than I make a week, FYI), that I couldn’t think straight. I was more than livid. …That is until I spoke to Heather, who was perhaps one of the best customer service reps I’ve encountered.

To put a (getting) long(er) story short, Heather made me feel completely comfortable. She took care of me, apologized for the mishap, explained exactly what happened (very candidly might I add, which was refreshing), and basically covered every single base there was to cover. She coolly dealt with my hot head at the beginning, and through the entire conversation never lost sight of the fact that as a customer I had the right to be frustrated, but that the situation had a solution and that she was going to solve it. By the end of the conversation my order was booked, everything was good to go, and I had a smile on my face and was very impressed. I checked my order status today and the laptop is on it’s way.

Which brings me here. Just like the guy complaining about Intuit, I have a blog and I felt like venting – but a good vent, not a bad one. I’m able to voice my opinion, regardless of who might listen to me, and that’s clearly starting to count more and more these days. Dell especially haven’t always had the best of ‘customer feedback‘ record, so maybe I’m just trying to show my appreciation for their handling of an individual’s customer service mishap by voicing it here. What any of this proves is that there’s a real development of reciprocation beginning online – because anyone can get on a soapbox and talk about a company or a politician or a movie, and because other people can and will listen, customer service can only play a more important role online. Customer service is all about making the customer happy, and the Web 2.0 movement is simply amplifying that importance.

Bottom line: Keep your customer happy and you can get 2 birds with one stone – you get to keep your customer, and you might get more customers (for very little cost to you) if they want to rant about it. …Get them angry and they’ll still rant about it, and likely stop their friends from buying from you ever again in the process. I wonder – which is the better option?

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