A New Era of Customer Service Is Upon Us. Are Ya Listenin?

The Internet has forever changed the business of customer service. Period. Response time has to be faster, more understanding, more flexible and more, well human. Its amazing to me that in an era of the Zappos’s of the world – where “surprising and delighting” customers with perks like unexpected and free overnight delivery is like breathing – that any company can still not “get it”. Recently I have had several vastly different web based customer service interactions. In this light I recant (I promise to be brief despite my desire to rant) a few:

Evite.com – A free online invitation service that allows you to host an event invite, collect responses, send emails, post updates and more. They make $$ from advertising. It’s slick and over the years I have been a loyal user and without question have helped them draw advertising dollars.

Recently I logged on to create an evite for a work event. I noted the “New” evite section and was thrilled to find all new layouts and great looking and creative invitations. Definitely an improvement. I spent 30 minutes or so browsing, selecting a template and creating my invite only to realize I couldn’t upload a list of invitees? Huh? I know it had that feature before. After quite a bit of troubleshooting and digging through the site I determined that “old evite” and “new evite” weren’t talking to one another. So, I could have my list in “old evite” but not use the new creative? What a mess.

After almost 2 hours I was pissed. I sent a nice-ish but slightly desperate note to customer service and went to bed. When I hadn’t heard back by noon the following day I deleted the beautiful “new evite” I had created and started over in the “old evite” – now vastly dissatisfied with the creative as I knew how good it “could” be, frustrated and well, angry, and I had to get this thing out.

So the best part. 6 days.. count em SIX DAYS later, I received the following note from their customer service. Not only does it not solve my problem, it doesn’t even acknowledge my problem! They just say “sorry.. we hope you figured it out by now.” WHAT??

07/06/2010 08:23 PM Customer

I have created an invite and uploaded my contacts, but when i am in the “new” evite I can see the invite and no contacts, in regular evite I can see the contacts and no invite. Can’t marry the two. HELP! I’ve spent hours trying to figure this out!! Can’t seem to import contacts from a CSV in the “new” evite. Thank you!!

07/12/2010 03:11 PM Response (n.s.)

Thank you for your patience, and we apologize for the delay in response. We have recently experienced issues with our incoming mailing system and an influx in requests. If the difficulties you have experienced requires further attention, please reply for prompt assistance.

We regret any inconvenience this may have caused you and look forward to assisting you.
Evite Support

Sorry evite. You definitely don’t get it. I am moving on. #Fail.

OpenTable.com –This free service lets you make a restaurant reservation online and every time you actually show for said reservation you receive 100 points. Once you reach 2,000 points you can cash then in for a $20 gift certificate. Brilliant. I eat out a lot. I’ve been a loyal customer for years as I prefer to make a reservation online to actually talking to a human. A perfect match.

Except for one catch. I moved and apparently had been using the service less. Apparently points expire 1 year from your last activity. Fine but when my points are about to expire WARN ME! DUH! I will be motivated and will go out and use your service again. It’s an excuse to go to one of your restaurants!

So when I shared this sentiment via email to their customer service (albeit not in as well chosen words as I have expressed here) I received a timely yet slightly curt reply reminding me of their policy to expire the points (yep, not the issue.. just WARN ME) but agreeing to reinstate mine. So, somewhat satisfactory as I did get my points back, but I am not convinced they really heard me or will make any changes. Still. I appreciate their returning my points. Any other outcome would have turned me from a formerly avid but slightly annoyed user, to a hater. Not good for anyone. Trust me. So.. all in all OpenTable.com = B/B+ in customer service.

Groupon.com – Stands for “group coupon” this brilliant new service uses the power of groups to get discounts. They post significant (often 40-50%) discounts and then allow people to “sign up” for them. The coupon isn’t actually valid till x number of people have signed up for it – thereby guaranteeing the retailer significant business and offering the user a great discount. Love it and I use it all the time.

Last spring though, I had a bad experience – not with the site but with a vendor for whom I had purchased a Groupon. I’d signed up for a Boot Camp to whip your butt into shape. Even though I am not a regular fitness buff (I am a little hot/cold on the whole thing) I am in “decent” shape and the site makes a big point of saying its “for all levels”. Um yeah. I am not going to get into the whole story.. but picture almost barfing and passing out on the first day. Yeah, it’s NOT for all levels. When I reached out to the owner after the first class to express my concern and ask if I could withdraw from that “Camp” to work out more for a few weeks and then re-enroll in the next, she refused. I am sorry, what? After about 10 days, two emails and a CC to her whole staff she finally agreed, but at that point I was just soured and pissed because it felt like I’d been played.

I reached out to Groupon to share my experience, and give them feedback on one of their vendors and WOW was I surprised at the response. I received an email from a real person.. with a name and everything… the following day (SUNDAY!) and was offered a full refund, no questions asked. And, he said things like “it sounds like you got more than you bargained for” and “I am sorry for your negative experience”.

Bottom line? Groupon = A++ in customer service. I was surprised and delighted for sure! The Austin boot camp named after the Roman warriors could learn a thing or two from you.

Overall my experiences made me wonder, do you think customer service people take a moment to Google their complainants? Do they do a search for them on Twitter or Yelp? If so, and if they find someone, does that impact their resolution? If not, it certainly should.

I am somewhat loud. I share my opinions on my blog, Yelp!, Trip Advisor and more. Everyone deserves good service, but it’s not realistic to treat all customers the same (IMC #101). Companies pay attention. Your customers know what they want. If you give it to them, without the attitude, without the delay, without the impersonal BS, it will come back to you in spades!

So, in the words of our dear friend Sharon Kennedy Andrews father I have to ask, “Are ya listenin??” It’s simple really. If not, you are missing the boat.


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