On a recent trip to D.C., I popped into the Talbot’s near a friend’s home. Armed with a gift card and a rewards certificate, I proceeded to fill up my arms and the dressing room before realizing that there was no way I could cram all of this new clothing into my itty-bitty carryon bag. The sales associate said exactly the right thing: “we can ship this to you for $6.” Done. I walked out of the store feeling oh-so-smart—I’d gotten some great deals and I didn’t need to struggle to figure out how to get it all home.
Days pass, and I’m wondering where my purchases are, so I give the store a call. It turns out a customer in Florida received not only her items, but mine too—with no documentation in the box. She was shipping it back to the store; they were waiting to see who would call reporting missing items. The store manager was as nice as could be and insisted that they would make this right. She offered to ship it to me either to home or elsewhere (win #1). My husband and I were heading out on vacation, so while it was a nice gesture shipping the items elsewhere would have presented the same issue that had me sending the items in the first place, so I declined that offer. Then, without me asking, she stated she would include a discount or coupon of some sort for my troubles (win #2). When the items arrived back at the store, Talbots adjusted the prices of the items that had since gone on sale, crediting my card—again, without me asking (win #3). I finally received my items yesterday. Although it has taken several weeks to resolve this issue, I’m pleased with the store’s efforts.
And this was all done without me taking my gripes to Twitter, or fussing at them on their Facebook page, or blogging about it (well, until now). Why? Because at every turn, Talbots executed great customer service.
As social media enters the “trough of disillusionment”—and I agree fully with Paul Gillin’s excellent post on this topic—companies are going to start wondering why they are spending all of this money on social media. I’d argue that companies can not and should not drop or even reduce the focus on their social media efforts. I would suggest that one way to save money is by empowering front-line employees to execute flawless customer service.
Yes, there will always be the misanthropes who will find something to complain about—and companies will need to monitor for, and respond to, them. But by addressing customer problems *before* the customers become angry and take to social channels, you’re certainly going to reduce the social media response load.