This week we discuss the importance of owning a customer’s bad experience, how Genie Bouchard is engaging fans off the tennis court, and the importance of social media succession planning.
Each week, we’ll take a look at the most interesting reputation management stories, answer your questions, and share valuable ORM tactics. In this week’s episode:
- Erin Jones of Social Ink co-hosts this week!
- How one online mattress firm passed the buck on a disastrous online buying experience.
- WTA tennis star Genie Bouchard proves that you can build a great reputation off the court.
- Do you have a social media succession plan? Don’t let this scenario happen to you!
If you have a question you would like us to tackle, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook Page.
Transcript (forgive us for any typos):
Andy Beal: All right. Welcome back. We are here with another episode and I’m delighted to say that Erin Jones is back with me this week. Hi, Erin.
Erin Jones: Hello.
Andy Beal: How are ya?
Erin Jones: I’m doing great. How are you doing?
Andy Beal: Doing good, enjoying some very nice early spring weather in North Carolina. So, that’s definitely helping to lift my spirits.
Erin Jones: Yes, we have been hitting the 70’s for the last two days but I have found out that we’re supposed to get snow tomorrow. So, our wonderful reign of sunshine is ending.
Andy Beal: Okay, well let’s quickly move on from weather then before you get too depressed. You were telling me a little bit about a story, a buying experience that your brother was having. So, let’s just dive straight into that.
Erin Jones: I was and unfortunately he didn’t even get to the buying part. He’s been researching mattresses and was looking to jump on the trend of getting a mattress online you know, that kind of comes vacuum sealed to your door and he tried for about four hours to order this bed. You know, they had switched payment processing companies or something and the, the charge wouldn’t go through and so he called Support and they worked with him for an hour and that charge wouldn’t go through and so naturally he was pretty frustrated and took to Facebook and let the company know that you know, he was really upset. He was begging them to take his money because he really wanted his bed and they came back and basically said, we’re really sorry you’re upset. Are you sure you entered your credit card information correctly and went on through a conversation on Facebook, just continuously making themselves look worse and worse.
Their responses got shorter and ruder every time they responded to someone. I actually jumped in and mentioned that I wasn’t really impressed with the way they were handling the issue and they weren’t really happy to hear that. So, they just kept going on and on and my brother finally got on the phone with a supervisor after he had had a couple of really frustrating support chats where they kept asking him the same questions over and over, very visibly scripted responses and a supervisor got on the phone with him and said, hey you know what, I’m really sorry for your trouble. So, we started out well and then he preceded to offer a 50 dollars discount on the bed in addition to three free pillows which you know, might’ve been a good deal if my brother hadn’t been looking at the website and seeing that that was their President’s Day sales deal.
Andy Beal: Oh.
Erin Jones: So, instead of giving him a great you know, compensation for his frustration he basically said, you can have the deal we’re giving everyone else. When he was called out on it he said well, we don’t allow stacking of coupons or deals. So, I’m letting you break the rules and you get the pillows and the 50 dollars off instead of one of the other.
Andy Beal: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Erin Jones: Yeah. As you can imagine he did not end that conversation on a positive note. So, I’m waiting to hear the next step in the saga but as far as I’m concerned GhostBed is hitting some serious reputation roadkill this week.
Andy Beal: Yeah. It’s, you know, I have a software company tracker and we deal with online transactions and quite often we get somebody that contacts us and says, hey we’re trying to sign up and the credit card’s not going through and it’s a very, it’s a difficult situation as the owner, because you’re pretty confident that there’s not anything going on your end, there’s no other reports, you’ve tested it, everything’s working well then you start assuming that the person’s just not entered their credit card information correctly. Maybe they’ve not put their security code in right or they’ve used the wrong zip code because they, it’s their company card. So, you start thinking about what all the issues are. However you have to assume that the error is on your side until you have ruled out every single possibility, because you don’t want to be that company that digs in its heels and says, nope the problem’s on your end.
We’re not going to do anything about it and then you finally find out that it is on your end and it, and there is a problem with your system and now the damage has already been done. So, really when you accept credit cards online you have to accept that there are going to be situations where you get these customers where rightly or wrongly the information is not going through and how you set yourself apart from others is how you respond to that and how you deal with it, so that you try to put as little burden as possible on the consumer, because yeah, you know, we started thinking about our profit margins and then you start saying to yourself, well if I have to walk them through the purchasing process that’s going to eat into our profits. It’s supposed to self service. That kind of thing. Well, you have to walk them through it because you, A, you want to get their business.
B, it’s not fair on the consumer because even if it is an issue on their side the chances are yours, your shopping cart is too confusing or there’s something else that’s not making it streamlined and so you walk them through it and either find the cause of the problem or you make it, you give them an alternative that is as simple as possible. So, in this case I would’ve said okay, we’re going to call you. Let me get your credit card information. Going to write down, you know, using an old fashioned pen and paper the exact model that you want. Going to take your card information and we’re going to make sure we get this into, manually into our system for you so that you don’t have to keep persevering with the checkout and hey, we recognize this is a stressful situation for you. We’re going to give you a discount. We’re going to give you something free but yeah, certainly it’s going to be something that’s going to hurt a little bit on your side.
It’s no good giving them the same thing that they could’ve got online and that’s the thing that a lot of etailers miss. They think that they can set up an online shopping portal with a shopping cart and never have to deal with customers at all because they’ve built this product that just sells itselves and they just you know, collect the payments and ship the product, but that’s not the case. You’re still in a world where things go wrong and you still need to reach out to your customer and you need to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Erin Jones: Absolutely, and I think that just a little PSA for newer community managers that haven’t been doing this a long time, responding to someone who’s already upset by saying, I don’t understand what the problem is. We processed a record number of sales yesterday, so it can’t be a problem on our end is a great way to throw someone into a rage. Especially when they’re begging you to take their money.
Andy Beal: Right, and even if it is on their end, even if they have made that mistake they’re not doing it intentionally and they don’t know that they’ve made that mistake and you can’t be completely confident that they haven’t just discovered some small glitch because they ordered a particular king sized mattress with extra padding and a certain coil and a configuration that nobody has requested before and therefore it’s throwing off your database and giving an error. You can’t rule that out, so you have to kind of like focus on their specific transaction, but you’re absolutely right. Nobody wants to hear, well you know, the other hundred people that purchased yesterday they didn’t have a problem so it’s got to be on your end, because I have seen time and time again that when I was naïve, when I was first selling online via shopping cart I was naïve and I was thinking, well nobody else is complaining.
Well, that might be the first person that’s discovered a new bug that has only just happened. You cannot rule that out and so you have to give them benefit of the doubt and you have to work with them. Otherwise, this is, I mean this goes back to what I’ve been saying for years. Most people go online to vent their frustrations in social media because they feel like the official channel, whether that’s telephone or email or live chat, they’re not taking the complaint seriously. They don’t seem interested in making it right. They’re patronizing the customer and so, yeah, they’re going to go online and they’re going to share it on Facebook and Twitter their frustrations, where if you went over and above at the outset, 90% of all online complaints would be eliminated.
Erin Jones: Exactly, and another thing that is something I know that you teach your clients and when you talk to people about reputation management that they messed up is they threw one of their partners under the bus.
Andy Beal: Oh.
Erin Jones: When they realized that he wasn’t going to take the payment processing issue for an answer they said, well we recently started working with this payment app. Maybe they’re having some problems.
Andy Beal: Again, don’t want to hear it. It’s not my fault.
Erin Jones: No.
Andy Beal: That’s not my problem.
Erin Jones: I, exactly.
Andy Beal: Yeah.
Erin Jones: I don’t care. I’m trying to give you my money and you’re not taking it. I don’t care who you blame you’re not getting anywhere with me here and this is definitely not what I would call customer service.
Andy Beal: Now, I have no problem with you using that situation to explain mitigating circumstances. So, I have no problem with you saying, we’re sorry you can’t make this transaction. We’ve looked into it and our credit card processing company has actually got an outage right now. However, we’ll make sure that you’re taken care of. So, I have no problem with you being transparent in, hey this is not something that we have control over but you can’t pass the buck. You still own that customer experience. It’s not their fault you chose a card processor that’s flaky. So, you still have to own the relationship.
Erin Jones: Exactly, and I, I actually mentioned that to them. I said, you know, this is your sale. You took the responsibility of owning this brand. However you chose to hire you’re taking responsibility for their actions as well.
Andy Beal: Right, and I think that the other lesson here is the importance of training your staff because as i talk about [inaudible 00:11:22] you know, I went through a mattress purchasing experience and by the way there’s a way there’s a reason why they say to change your mattress every eight to ten years and that’s because it takes you that long to forget how horrible it is to buy a new mattress. That aside, we went with the Mattress Firm despite reading lots of bad reviews about the Mattress Firm in general but the employee, the store manager, was the difference. He made sure that we got the mattress that we wanted.
He was the one that honored the hey, replace it and if you’re satisfied we’ll get another out for you. He was the one that was the face of the Mattress Firm and we see time and time again where whether it’s because companies have not empowered employees or they’ve hired the wrong type of person, whatever it is they’ve not given them the right training, where we see time and time again where a, an employee has a chance to think outside of the box and do the right thing and it’s that interaction between your employee and the unhappy customer that can make or break that relationship and it sounds here they missed that opportunity.
Erin Jones: Absolutely and I was not so lucky to have a Mattress Firm experience. We bought a mattress about a year ago and you’re right. It has taken over a year for us to finally find the one that we like. Yeah, Purple, but we, we bought a Tempur-Pedic mattress and we thought we loved it and after a few weeks we realized we were having some aches and pains that weren’t going away after getting used to it. Called the salesperson that sold us the bed who had guaranteed us that if we weren’t happy with it they would swap it out and then they let us know that well, it’s going to cost you a little bit and you only get two swaps. After that you’re dead in the water.
It was like one of those crazy Christmas white elephant gift exchanges but my husband was not about to be left on that. So, he called another store in the same family of stores and talked to the manager there and we ended up driving an hour and a half to another store because their manager was a, I’d like to say a Matt like manager, the guy that you worked with at Mattress Firm and he said, I know that your local store won’t do it. I will take one for the team and take a loss on this and get you what you need to make this right.
Andy Beal: That’s awesome.
Erin Jones: Yeah, and we’ll, we’ll go back. It was almost 80 miles away and he was amazing and he was amazing and he was wonderful and unfortunately that second bed ended up not being great for what we wanted either but that was through no fault of his own. You know, he got us taken care of. He called a couple days later to check up on us to make sure everything went well. It was a fantastic experience and completely opposite of the one we had had from our local store and they were the same store, you know just one had a much better manager than the other.
Andy Beal: Right, and it really goes to show that you, there’s two sides to building a great reputation. You can have a fantastic product that works flawlessly and people really love. If you don’t have that then you’d better have great customer service, amazing social media engagement and you’ve got to be ready to make things right and do what’s right for the customer, and I am going to shoehorn a segue in here to Genie Bouchard. You’ll be impressed how I do this because Genie Bouchard is a WTA tennis player who a couple of years ago burst onto the scene, had a fantastic year. I think she got into the top ten and then since then has really fallen off, has not really accomplished much, she has not really had a lot of success on the circuit and has kind of fallen away in terms of this reputation that she had a couple of years ago just being this phenomenal Canadian tennis player.
Well, during the Super Bowl, she was a Falcons fan. She tweeted that she knew that the Falcons were going to win this. A fan of hers tweeted to her that basically bet her that they would go on a date if the Patriots came back to win. Long story short, we all know the outcome and she honored the bet and she went on this date with this young 20 year old guy, posted pictures, video, they went to a basketball game and talk about this concept of either being really good and having a great product or being really good at customer engagement because she connects with her fans and she honored this bet and she showed that yeah she’s not in the top ten tennis players but she’s the kind of tennis player that you want to be a fan of and you want to follow and you want to support just based on the fact that she actually engages and cares and wants to have fun with her fans.
Erin Jones: I love everything about this. I am admittedly not a huge tennis fan. I know her name. I know her face now and I’m following her on Twitter because I, I thought that she handled this with so much grace. Her date was a total gentlemen. They’re going on a second date. I don’t know if you knew that, but I was super excited to see that. The whole thing just was so uplifting to follow. I loved it. I loved everything about it.
Andy Beal: Well, fortunately I’m a big enough tennis fan for the both of us. So …
Erin Jones: You are.
Andy Beal: It was a, It was great for me to have two worlds collide, what I do for a living and what I do every other waking minute of the day and that is either watch or play tennis. So, it was just a really good story and so, what’s the reputation lesson here? Well, as I said, engage with your audience. Don’t just pump out, here’s where I’m playing, here’s the result. You know, build a brand, build a personality and then when her wins come back, when she finds her form again she’s going to be loved just as much as Serena Williams or Roger Federer or whoever it may be because she’s built this reputation in the meantime of just being this fun, engaging personality. All right, let’s finish off with kind of almost like a PSA if you like, because you had an interesting situation come up recently where you were the sole remaining admin for a social media page. Tell us a little bit about that.
Erin Jones: Yes, a few years ago I did some pro bono work for a wonderful company who helps provide clean child birthing situations in third world countries. The woman who ran it ran it single-handedly. She was amazing. She was a nurse who not only had a practice where she lived in Washington but she also flew around the world to help people you know, train midwives and teach people how to help lower infant mortality rates and I had worked with her for awhile and awhile back she had let me know that she was going to slow down the marketing on her work. So, you know, we kind of fell off as far as updating Facebook and Twitter and I hadn’t spoken to her in awhile and unfortunately I found out last week that she had passed away.
She got brain cancer and it was really growing very quickly and she and I were the sole admins on her Facebook page and I hadn’t logged into the page in well over a year. I started getting messages and noticing that she wasn’t responding to messages and then you know, found out what had happened and so Andy I reached out to you saying, oh my gosh, I am not really sure what to do here, how to handle this gracefully. You know, I definitely want to honor her memory. I don’t want to be bothering her husband right now but I have no idea who’s taking this over if the business will even carry on at this point. So, I would love to get some advice from you on how to move forward without making a big mess of this and putting my foot in it.
Andy Beal: Well, I think you know, clearly there needs to be some transparency here with the fans. So, whichever channel it is, Facebook, whatever it may be you know, let people know that you know, if they’re not already aware let me know that they’re, you know, that they’re, that she’s passed away and that, that as a result you’re not, the Facebook page is not going to be active. Maybe have a sticky post at the top that kind of explains the circumstances, maybe points people to their, a website or a place where they can make a donation in her name, something like that and then at some point reach out to the organization, preferably some, there’s someone there that’s wrapping the things up. If it’s the husband or somebody’s he’s put in charge that’s taking care of wrapping up her organization and just say hey, you know, this is something you need to be aware of.
I would, you know, if you’re willing I would say I’m willing to help wind this down in any way that you see fit and that’s really the only thing that you can do because it’s not your responsibility to be active and to engage and to kind of keep it up but at the same time I know your personality and what a good person you are and you don’t want to just abandon it. So, I think there’s an opportunity there to kind of reach out to the organization and say hey, I want to, I want to get this wrapped up any way possible and then in the meantime you know, post a sticky and just let people know. I think that once you do that then it’s really not on you to then have to constantly respond to comments or posts made to the page and if you can’t get any resolution then you know, you’re just going to have to kind of make a decision on how do you want to move forward.
You could remove yourself as an admin. You could close the page if you’ve reached out numerous times. Certainly let the organization know, hey I’ve not heard back from you. I’m assuming you don’t want this to continue. I can’t continue with it. So, if I haven’t heard back in the next you know, three or four weeks, give them a certain date and then say, I’ll shut it down for you so that you don’t have to deal with it. So, give them some different options but I think you know, this is an important lesson for everybody to have a process in place. Have, we think about like CEO succession planning but we need to think about the channels, the social media channels and then having a backup if nothing else, having some redundancy and a process in place that like, okay, what happens if the founder passes away? What happens is our social media account manager quits on us? Who are the backups? What’s the process here?
Erin Jones: Yes. I have always thought that It was a good plan but this was the first time you know, I was like well, we have two admins, we’re good, we got a little bit of redundancy here and then I found myself standing alone here and having not being that involved with the business felt a little bit like an interloper stepping in and you know, doing a whole lot with it but I love your advice and I’ll definitely take that and get moving on it. It’s kind of the, you know, we joke that we always have that best friend that if something happens to us they’ll come and delete our browser history. You kind of need to have someone that you trust to step in for social media as well.
Andy Beal: Right, and I think you could maybe even reach out to Facebook and say to them, this is the situation and maybe they have a protocol in place for circumstances like this. If not, they should one. They should have one that basically allows you to market a page as you know, no longer active or managed. Now, one thing you can do is you could, which I would suggest if you don’t hear anything back is you could always un-publish the page. So, you don’t necessarily have to delete it.
You can just go in and un-publish it so that everything is archived there if ever they want anything back but at least that will stop the you know, you getting alerted and feeling like it’s, you know, you’re having to respond because the page would be un-published. It’s not the way to leave it but if you certainly, If you don’t hear anything back and you don’t get any direction as to what to do I think un-publishing the page will at least take that burden away from you, plus it still preserves everything in case you know, a family member wants to pick up the mantel and just kind of carry on with the cause.
Erin Jones: Sure. Okay, I think that’s great advice. Thank you.
Andy Beal: All right. Well, thank you for bringing that up. I mean, stuff like that we don’t think of and so if you guys have a question or a situation that’s happened recently and you’d like us to share our advice we would certainly love to help you with that. You can go to our Facebook page Andy Beal ORN or if you’re on our, the podcast blog post page just leave a comment on that particular page with any question or situation you would like us to discuss for either you or “your friend” we’d be happy to do that and we’ll be back again next week. Erin, thank you so much for joining me.
Erin Jones: Thank you so much for having me.
Andy Beal: Thank you guys for listening. We also appreciate it and never take it for granted. So, we hope you’ll join us again next week. Thanks a lot and bye bye.