Tag Archives: customer service

Successful Social Media Crisis Management

Every social media manager should remember that he or she plays a role in customer service. Sometimes, however, it seems like this is forgotten, resulting in a social media gaffe, embarrassment, and on occasion, a full-blown meltdown (I’m looking at you, Amy’s Baking Company). It’s always easy to criticize and point out what a company did wrong. We do it so often that we usually overlook corporate role models: companies that have handled social media snafus with skill and dignity. Here are three of their stories and what you can learn from them.

Burger King

The award for fastest resolution may very well go to Burger King over a photo posted to the Internet earlier this year of an employee standing on top of two open containers of lettuce. Though not Burger King’s fault, it immediately reflected poorly on the judgment of its employee, the quality of its ingredients, and likely diminished interest in further patronage by Burger King customers.

But almost as quickly as the Internet got a hold of this incriminating image, Burger King responded. Through tracking the online trail of the post, users of the site where it was first posted were able to locate the store with the offender and publicize the act to local media outlets as well as to Burger King. Three days later, Burger King fired the offending employee as well as two others and issued a public apology assuring customers that this sort of behavior was not tolerated and that food safety was a top priority.

KitchenAid

It happens a couple of times a year. Social media managers aren’t managing only their business accounts––they’re also managing their personal accounts. And sometimes they mess up. (This social media manager may have posted some of his personal VanScavenger Hunt pictures under the corporate account.)

KitchenAid ran into that problem when an insensitive comment about President Barack Obama’s grandmother that was clearly supposed to be on a personal account was tweeted on the company’s account. This immediately alarmed Cynthia Soledad, KitchenAid’s senior director. Immediately, she sent out apologies via Twitter. Having an upper manager issue the apology and take action, not by skirting the subject but by addressing it head-on, was the perfect strategy against the possible catastrophe.

Starbucks

Sometimes, a well-meant tweet can be misconstrued. Starbucks learned this in 2012, when it fired out a tweet apologizing to its Argentinean customers for running low on supplies and having to temporarily use Argentinean-made, non-branded cups and sleeves. Rather than being taken as a courteous update for customers, it was instead interpreted as an insult, the implication being that Starbucks was apologizing for using what it perceived to be inferior local products until its own arrived to replace them.

Starbucks reacted swiftly and appropriately with its response, issuing an apology with full transparency and legitimate remorse. Fighting back would have made the company seem like it had something to hide. Admitting it made a mistake, whatever the intent of the original tweet, humbled the brand and allowed it to save face.

So how can you learn from these brands and not become the inspiration for another article on what not to do? Listen to what your customers are saying. Both in person and online, have the proper tools in place to detect anything that may be damaging to the reputation of your business. Next, have a crisis plan, complete with a chain of command, worst-case scenarios, and multiple solutions to the possible issue. If a crisis surfaces, follow the plan, taking appropriate action to get to the source of the problem, while also addressing all those who may have been affected. Make sure to solve the problem, not fight, using a lighthearted tone that is also sincere and apologetic. Finally, review the entire incident and evaluate what could be done differently should anything like that ever happen again. This way, you’ll end up a social media champion instead of a target for critics and customers alike.

Author: Zack Smith

The Devil Is in the Details

Does your job need a perforation? Maybe a spot varnish? Does your label need consecutive numbering? What type of surface material is the label being used on? Did you remember to tell your vendor these details?

A good vendor will ask you these questions and sometimes many more. The basic list of specifications isn’t that long, but for certain products, the specifics are many. Label printing, for example, has many specifics. Face slit vs. back slit. Permanent vs. removable adhesive. Flat sheets vs. rolls. Outdoor use vs. indoor use. All of these specifications must be known at the start of the project.

The toughest part of our job is trying to “assume” we know what you need. We don’t. And if you don’t tell us, whose fault is it when the finished product is missing that vital detail? Even the best vendor might overlook asking the right question. Be as precise as you can when submitting specifications for a project. If you are not sure a particular application is necessary, ASK.

Better to be safe than sorry.

Author: Doreen Doyle

Customer Service: A Not-So-Great Experience

Image from insurancemarketinghq.com

This is a little story about not-so-great customer service. A friend of mine recently had a bad customer service experience with a cable company. Because I am a good friend, I stood there and listened to her complain for about half an hour.

Basically, they changed her promotional plan without notifying her. No email, phone call, letter––even a text would have worked. Nothing. They charged her double the price without checking if she wished to continue with the new pricing for her plan. My friend called and, realizing she wouldn’t win the battle of keeping the current pricing, agreed to pay more than she used to (and let the cable company know she was not happy about this). To make the situation worse, in the course of the next three days, she ended up spending almost four hours on the phone with various customer representatives because her new bill never displayed correctly when she tried logging in to pay. They ended up overcharging her, and when my friend called in––again––to try to fix the situation, she realized her account was set up for Auto Pay. The company had saved my friend’s credit card information without her permission and charged her automatically. Realizing that she has been charged twice and then having to check all the statements for the credit cards she used to pay cable bills––as if her life isn’t complicated enough––made her furious.

She called, complained, said she was going to switch service providers. And what did the cable company do? Well, yes, they said they were sorry. But in this case was this enough? I personally think they should have had done a little more, especially after her threat to switch providers. I understand the customer might not always be right, but in this case one little incentive could have made my friend happy. Switching cable companies might not be thrilling, but if you are angry and disappointed with customer service, you are bound to leave. Of course, you might say things like “I don’t want to do business with you any longer,” but deep inside you truly hope they will offer you something––beg you to stay––because you are a valuable customer. Just like in a relationship. Sometimes you get angry and say that you no longer want to be with that person, but you hope to be chased. You want to feel important. Customers like to feel good about themselves.

Show that you care, apologize, and give customers a reason to hold onto you. And they will. “I am sorry” is not always enough. At least it wasn’t in this case. What do you think?

Author: Marina Kaljaj

Great Client Service Should Start at Home

I made a unique observation last night on the train home. Wednesdays are “Matinee Day” on Broadway, and as usual the train was crowded with riders who normally do not take the train. These people could be identified by the Playbills in their hands and the “deer in the headlight look” in their eyes as they boarded what they hoped was the right train home.

Enter two couples who split up to find seats. Phil and his wife from Milford, PA, just back from seeing the musical Memphis, sat behind me. The unusual part was their use of words like “may I,” “please,” “thank you,” “pardon me,” and “excuse me.” They even told the person in the three-seater that they were sorry to squeeze in and asked if it was OK, responding with a “thank you very much” when he said yes.

They were extremely polite, to the point that as the train cleared out they actually asked the conductor if it was OK if they switched seats. I was taken by the kindness they gave naturally and even told them so at the end of the trip. Clearly this couple was genuine in their manner, and it told me this came from the heart and was grown at home. Yes, Mother was right when she told us to say “thank you” and be polite, and maybe this is something that is rare in today’s world. It was alive and well on the train last night, though, that is for sure.

Client service should always be polite and professional to the extreme, and in today’s business model, it could mean the life or death of a business. Poor client service can be measured in loss of revenue, loss of market share, and loss of good public opinion. It’s not enough to say the customer is always right––what should be happening is an open dialogue based on trust and civility. When something does arise, clients will be more willing to work with someone they trust and who can be polite.

I then started to think about the customer service that I offer my clients. I always consider myself polite, but was I going the extra yard? I then considered the people I work with and my team in particular. Client service is not a department––it is everyone’s job. Our motto of “99% Right is 100% Wrong” is a core belief that keeps us motivated every day. We can never take our clients for granted.

What we can do to improve:

Greet our clients by name whenever possible and often.

Ask how we can help.

Listen to our clients and fulfill their needs

Bring that extra touch than invites clients back again and again.

Use words like “thank you,” “please,” and “may I”  in every conversation.

“Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you are in business. Yes, and that is also true if you are a housewife, architect or engineer.”
––Dale Carnegie

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
––Mother Teresa

Author: Tom Caska

When Is It OK to Say No to a Client?

Are you insane? This goes against everything anyone in sales or customer service has ever been taught! The customer is always right, right? No! Is it right to promise what you can’t deliver? Is it right to tell the customer the job will be delivered in a short amount of time when you know it physically can’t be done? Is it right to tell a customer you have the capability to produce what you know your equipment or software isn’t capable of?

We always want to give customers what they want, even though we know we can’t always do that. But sometimes we need to say no if the client demands services that are prohibited, dishonest, or damaging to their brand, or if the client has extreme expectations. Consider this: Is it wise to say yes, work like a fiend, push your equipment beyond its limit, or spend all night writing a new program? No. This almost always results in an exhausted and frustrated employee, broken equipment, and a program that still doesn’t please the client. Disappointment is felt all around. It’s important to note that saying no doesn’t mean that you are ending your company’s relationship with a client. So, how do you say “no” without disappointing your most valued asset? When a client wants something that you can’t achieve, the best answer is to explain the reasoning behind the “no” and offer an alternative solution. People like being treated fairly. All the leading customer service and sales experts tell us to replace the word “no” with the statement, “Here’s what I can do for you.”

If you constantly give excellent customer service and your client is 99% satisfied with all that you do, it is always the better choice to say no when something cannot be done. Promise your absolute best, promise you will do everything “within reason” that you can, but remember that there is no shame in admitting defeat. And the most important lesson here is to admit defeat before you see “the whites of their eyes,” which will actually be the client seeing red if you constantly promise what you cannot deliver.

Bottom line: If you must say no, say it with empathy and clearness. Present an alternative solution so that the client doesn’t feel a loss of power. I personally dislike hearing “I understand how you feel.” Try to avoid that phrase. Everyone and everything has its limitations, which can often be overcome eventually. But for now, say no when you know deep down it’s the right answer.

Have you ever said no to a client? If so, want to share any stories that would help us all learn how to cope best with the situation?

Project manager Rob Mills offers great insight on when to say no to clients in this article.

Author: Doreen Doyle & Marina Kaljaj

Spotlight on Vanguard Direct’s Pennsylvania Office

Vanguard Direct’s headquarters are in New York City, but we have a total of five locations on the East Coast: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Florida. Our Pennsylvania office has nine employees based out of Fort Washington, PA and one employee based out of Florida.

The Pennsylvania office opened on December 1, 1999. They were established to help support our Philadelphia clients and expand our service markets in the mid-Atlantic region. Our Pennsylvania team works closely with our NYC headquarters. John Incollingo is part of our Upper Management team as the Regional Sales Manager and supports the office’s function to service and develop marketing opportunities.

Our Pennsylvania team has just recently moved from West Chester to Fort Washington in December 2010.  The move has allowed them to be more centrally located and to best serve their customer territory.  For the PA office staff, it has also improved the commute time and distance for most of the employees and has enhanced the office space. The new expanded conference room allows for onsite client presentations and serves as a training center for our staff.

The Pennsylvania office covers the five county area of Philadelphia, plus South Jersey, Delaware, and Florida. We have a very seasoned staff in the PA office – our sales team of five has over 125 years of experience, as well as our customer service team of five, has over 100 years of experience! That’s an average of over 22.5 years per person.

You can reach our Pennsylvania office at:
Phone: 267-468-0211
455 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 128
Fort Washington, PA 19034
Author: Stephanie Huston

Vanguard Direct in Chicago for Print Solutions Conference and Expo

Last week, Chicago hosted the 2011 Print Solutions Conference and Expo. For three days, the famous Navy Pier on Lake Michigan was home to educational seminars and exhibition booths. The overall theme this year seemed to be the continuing emergence of technology and how our industry is incorporating it. Much focus was placed on how print can work with social media and other marketing technologies.

Vanguard Direct sends a team every year, and I was fortunate enough to attend this year. As a contributing blogger to Utterly Orange, it was great to represent Vanguard Direct’s social media initiatives. I attended several seminars on how our industry is embracing this technological revolution. Most notable were seminars on mobile marketing and how to network in the digital age. Also making the trip were Tom Worrilow from our Pennsylvania office as well as President Bob O’Connell and Vice President Joe Corbo from our NYC office.

It was certainly interesting to note the many ways our industry is evolving to incorporate these new marketing channels. Continuing education is a vital part of Vanguard Direct, and attending industry events like this is one of the many ways we stay ahead of the curve when facing new trends.

Author: Dustin Hill