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Great customer service starts with empathy

Nobody’s perfect, but “I’m sorry” goes a long way

Last Friday night, my boyfriend was at the bank and, while he was filling out a deposit slip, he left his Blackberry on the counter. Within seconds, it was stolen. Upon his return home, I immediately called Sprint to put a freeze on his phone. The only problem? I couldn’t make any calls. Could this dastardly PDA robber somehow have sabotaged both phones on the account?? What should we do?

Then I remembered that Sprint has a live chat option with their customer service reps on their site. I quickly sign on, and, after some verification, I was chatting with Danielle, who was understanding and quickly shut down the stolen phone. She provided me with info on setting up a claim to receive a new phone and started troubleshooting the reason my phone wouldn’t make calls.

Turns out there were “voice outages” in my area. (For the record, I have never had an outage with Sprint before, and this one only lasted 20 minutes.)

I started to get really angry. “I am dealing with a traumatic situation here,” I thought. “How could Sprint do this to me?” Then Danielle stepped in. She handled it so brilliantly that I will just include that portion of our conversation verbatim:

 6:36:41PM   

   

 Heidi S 

It says “Available Networks *None due to radio off*”

 6:37:11PM   

   

 Danielle F 

Heidi, I am so sorry, however coincidentally there are “voice outages” in the Chicago Illinois area, that may be affecting your phone as well.

 6:37:25PM   

   

 Heidi S 

Not really my day, is it?

 6:37:57PM   

   

 Heidi S 

If it is just “voice outages” – would I still be able to receive emails to my blackberry? Should I test that?

 6:38:01PM   

   

 Danielle F 

I am very sorry.

 6:38:26PM   

   

 Danielle F 

I am also showing EVDO outages which means that Internet may be slow or completely not available at this time.

 6:38:56PM   

   

 Danielle F 

Please be aware that there is a ticket in the system for this issue, however I do not have an exact time that this issue will be resolved.

 6:39:03PM   

   

 Heidi S        

Okay, so we can pretty safely assume that the problem with my phone is just the outages?

 6:39:26PM   

   

 Heidi S  

And then also, just to confirm, the [123-456-7890] number has been suspended?

 6:41:11PM   

   

 Danielle F 

Yes, the line [7890] I have put a suspension block on that line.

 6:41:18PM   

   

 Danielle F 

You will have to call or chat back in to have that block removed.

 6:41:36PM   

   

 

  Heidi S  llivan 

Okay, we’ll have to reactivate when we get a new phone

 6:41:41PM   

   

 Danielle F 

I really truly apologize for the unfortunate events Heidi.

How could I be mad? The weather in Chicago was terrible and no company is ever perfect. Danielle talked to me as a real person, with real needs and real feelings. Shortly after our conversation, service was restored and after one three-minute phone call, a replacement phone would be arriving in 1-2 business days.

In today’s age of social media, customers and critics will base their opinions of your company not on your performance as a whole, but on the brief, individual transactions that directly impact each of them. People are going to talk about your company online – it is your choice whether or not to join in and be represented in that conversation. Each one of your employees is representing your company during those short transactions – are they providing the best customer service they can by treating your customers like real people?

Everyone has critics or a customer who is dissatisfied. But the majority of people you will respond to will be appeased through a little empathy. In Paul Gillin‘s new book, The Secrets of Social Media Marketing, he says, “Most dissatisfied customers can be mollified with a receptive ear and a constructive approach to problem-solving. In fact, your harshest critics can quickly become your biggest fans if they believe you are really listening.”

Thanks for listening, Sprint.

-Your Fan Heidi

Tags : social media

About Heidi Sullivan

One of PRWeek’s 40 under 40 in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She leads the company’s digital and broadcast content teams, the global research team for Cision’s media database, Cision’s social media community team and the company’s content marketing strategy. You can find her on Twitter @hksully.

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