The holy grail of public relations is turning customer service into a marketing opportunity. Yet it seems like, with all our technology, the gap is still fairly wide. A friend recently purchased a Dell laptop prior to being deployed as a government responder in Alabama to assist in the oil spill cleanup. 12 days after purchasing the laptop he hopped on a plane to Alabama. He had started noticing issues with the mouse pad but with the hectic nature of prepping for his deployment he didn’t get around to addressing it until he arrived in Alabama. He called Dell Technical Support. There, the odyssey began… On his first call, after explaining the issue to the support tech, he was told that the motherboard was faulty and would need to be replaced. Disconnected. No call back. Tried again. Spoke to another tech. His extended warranty didn’t cover on-site repair. He tried to ask for an exception due to his unique circumstances. “Can I speak to a manager?” Escalated.
“Can’t you send someone out to fix it? I’m deployed in the Gulf helping with the oil spill cleanup. I need it to do my work.” We can’t help you. “Why?” You’re not in the country. “What do you mean?” You told me you’re in the Gulf so you’re not in the country.
What followed was a series of misinformation, ineffective techs, managers and failed connections. At one point he asked if he could just return it. He was told it was a refurb so the normal 30 day return policy was only 14 days.
“Can I get it extended?” No.
Get’s disconnected. Never gets a call back. Tries again. Different tech.
“Can you extend the return period to August 1st when I get back?” Yes. I’ll set it up for you. “Can you put it in writing”? No.
Call back another person, another manager. There is no extension in the system. “Ok. I can do that for you.” Authorizes a return and sends a UPS pickup which expires in 10 days. That’s a week before he gets back. No good. Call back again, another manager. Need it in writing. Manager can’t transfer. Can’t tell you my name. We can call you back. Nothing that can be done for you. Hang up. Find another technical support manager. All told he made 26 calls between 9:10am and 1:32 pm. From a cell phone. In rural Alabama. He has a broken computer they won’t fix and hopefully he can return it when he gets back (to the US) from Mobile, AL. Now am I saying my friend was entitled to special treatment? No. Aside from, perhaps, getting his problem solved in less than 26 calls. One of the challenges of global outsourcing is a cultural disconnect. Is there any informed person in the US who doesn’t know we have a major oil disaster in the Gulf…of Mexico? There is a challenge giving staff a proper frame of reference from halfway around the world. Outstanding customer service means understanding your customer. What we do have here is a missed opportunity – if they could have gotten the right person to recognize it. How would Texas-native Michael Dell have responded had he known there was a Dell customer lending a hand in the Gulf cleanup who needed a little extra attention? What public relations opportunity was missed? This gap represents an opportunity. Social media, CRM, SCRM. They’re all buzz words. Where the rubber meets the road is where we have the lowest end of the pay scale disproportionately responsible for customer satisfaction. How do we empower them to be more effective? Who is ready to step up to fill the gap?