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A few lessons learned from new PayPal president David Marcus

David Marcus, new president of PayPal who sent an email to Andy McMillan, creator of Build Conference in an ongoing dispute concerning a freeze on McMillan’s accounts for more than $64,000, is being called a publicity stunt. Even if that is true, it still shows how everyone needs to pay attention to what is going on despite one’s title or position. Of course, with corporate duties and other upper tier responsibilities, the waters of dealing directly with customers often are muddied, but it’s obvious executives still need to tune into what is going on for all levels of business.

According to Andy McMillan’s blog, a smashed violin and an account directed to help fund underprivileged children became an endless series of customer service personnel exchanges after McMillan’s accounts were frozen to cover possible future refund disputes. When customer service personnel refused to lift the freeze on all of McMillan’s accounts because of PayPal policies, McMillan scaled the customer service mountain up to the Resolution Center. Unfortunately the promised resolution only cemented the accounts being frozen; the customer had reached the end of the service line.

Whereas $64,000 isn’t an amount to sneeze at and just dismiss nor would PayPal respond to him anymore,  McMillan took his complaint one step farther and finally resorted to Twitter:

Months on and PayPal issues still ongoing, holding £40k of @themanual sales, accounts locked without review, call centre useless and …

  1. 4 days ago
  2. goodonpaper
    … Executive Escalations completely unresponsive. Overdraft covering shipping costs depleting fast. What the hell do I do? Can anyone help?
    4 days ago
  3. Granted I hadn’t expanded much, so I followed up with the full story in a Twitlonger post:
  4. goodonpaper
    Thank you so much for your support, Twitter. I’ve written up what’s happened so far, please reach out if you can (cont) tl.gd/j6glqa

And out of the tangled PayPal policies that obviously needed to be changed, entered new president David Marcus who sent an email to McMillan from his iPad and profoundly apologized for the unsatisfactory treatment and lack of resolution. Everything an organization should do when confronted with an obvious problem was addressed by Marcus. For instance, a new commitment to better service, a promise to change the policies that obviously had not been working as demonstrated by McMillan’s problems and the repeated apologies of a company that obviously cost a customer a lot of time, frustration, and disappointment were humbly addressed. A few times Marcus stated he would understand if McMillan never wanted to use PayPal again, but sincerely hoped for another chance and wanted to use this failure as a way to improve customer service.

Andy McMillan’s PayPal account has since been released, and he still maintains an account with PayPal. Time will tell if new lessons have really been learned. It is hoped however that all customers, no matter if their PayPal balance reflects $64. or $64,000 will be treated with a satisfactory resolution should a dispute occur in the future.

The importance of customer service in city government

The non emergency city and local call centers of 3-1-1 are a popular one-stop shopping conduit for citizens to report or question issues relating to city services. Either by using your phone to dial 3-1-1 or by using an online link, a resident can find out if the pothole on Military Trail in Palm Beach Gardens will be repaired or if Alternate A-1-A will reopen for traffic before the weekend animal adoption event. In Palm Beach County where I live and in many other cities, you can use an online form or mobile application known as SeeClickFix, and submit such problems as broken parking meters, street lights, community alerts, etc.  The service, depending on the city can handle hundreds of requests ranging from procuring a dog license, city parks and recreation, job applications, trash pickup, or information about specific services and problems.

Just this last month Detroit discontinued their 3-1-1 non emergency call centers claiming the current economic situation has forced budget cuts. Somehow politicians decided that customer service should be laid aside for residents and the 400 different requests areas formerly handled by polite and informative agents should be replaced by directories and the usual fare of the prerecorded maze of  “press one, two, three,” until the caller’s head spins in an endless turmoil of confusion and messages stating:

“I am not at my desk at this time, but please leave a message. Your call is important to us.”

In New York City, the 3-1-1 service successfully adds more services for the residents by adding consistent and periodic training for employees which strive to make the implementation of services more efficient and effective. Is it effective? Of course that answer can be somewhat objective depending on the callers, even though New York  states their quality assurance and operations are provided with routine feedback and quarterly assessments. The most common complaints center around the departments citizens are referred to – more often the lack of services once a caller gets to the designated department relative to their issue or complaint.

The City of Philadelphia initiated their 3-1-1 Contact Center in 2008 with the promise of becoming a national leader in customer service. By 2012, city records show the service has handled 4.5 million contacts. The service isn’t advertised; it has become known through word of mouth, and citizens are extremely pleased with the degree of courtesy and respect demonstrated by their customer service agents.

City government should be a place where citizens can readily find solutions to their problems in a straightforward way and in the most efficient time considering the tight time parameters of busy residents. In actuality 3-1-1 non emergency call centers can:

  • Help citizens contact the proper city department and save city workers time, money and energy having to explain to a resident they need to contact a different department
  • Help citizens find a quicker method to resolve their conflict or answer a question
  • Aid in a positive public image needed by communities with 3-1-1- agents who have been trained to respond to a wide venue of community interests and issues.

There is no doubt that all levels of  government needs to be accountable and treat their citizens to the best customer service possible. How does your city compare?

Interview with Rob Siefker of Zappos – Part 4 of 4

This is the fourth and final part of my interview with Rob Siefker, the Director of the Customer Loyatly Team at Zappos. In this part of the interview, Rob talks about performance reviews, how Zappos encourages employees to further their knowledge (and pays them for doing so), what he thinks about seniority and tenure amongst call center agents, how Zappos handles scheduling, how the company encourages “personal emotional connections,” and finally, what Rob thinks companies can do to deliver Zappos-like service.

You can read part one of the interview here, part two here, and part three here. To read this part, click “read more.”

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Interview with Rob Siefker of Zappos – Part 3 of 4

This is the third of a four part interview with Rob Siefker, the Director of the Customer Loyatly Team at Zappos. In this part of the interview, Rob talks more about the service metrics that Zappos tracks, how the company empowers its Customer Loyalty Team Members (and has avoided bureaucracy), how escalations to managers work at the company, how the Zappos compensates its employees, and the extensive continuing education programs employees have access to at Zappos and how they work.

You can read part one of the interview here and part two here. You can also jump ahead and read part four here. To read this part, click “read more.”

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Interview with Rob Siefker of Zappos – Part 2 of 4

This is the second of a four part interview with Rob Siefker, the Director of the Customer Loyatly Team at Zappos. In this part of the interview, Rob discusses how Zappos motivates members of their customer loyalty team, what programs they have in place to recognize good service, and what service metrics the company tracks and how.

You can read part one of the interview here. You can also jump ahead and read part three and/or four. To read this part, click “read more.”

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Interview with Rob Siefker of Zappos – Part 1 of 4

After interviewing Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh  and seeing the company’s HQ outside of Las Vegas, I knew I wanted to learn more about the nuts and bolts and day-to-day operations of Zappos. To get this information, I spoke to Rob Siefker, Director of the Zappos Customer Loyalty Team. In part one of this four part interview, Rob talks about what he does at Zappos, how the company handles operating 24/7, what the training process is like for Zappos employees, and how the company makes the most out of cross-training its employees.

Click “Continue Reading” to see the questions and answers. You can also jump ahead and read part two, three, and/or four.

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Tour of Zappos HQ

Zappos is a company we’ve talked about a lot on Service Untitled (including an interview with the founder and CEO Tony Hsieh), so earlier this week when I was in Las Vegas for the first time, I made sure I got a tour of the Zappos.com Headquarters in nearby Henderson, Nevada.

The tour was really interesting. Unsurprisingly, the Zappos offices don’t resemble a typical office or call center. And the employees working in the Zappos office also don’t resemble the people you see in an average call center. The main difference? They seem very happy to be working at Zappos. I think you’d have a difficult time finding a call center with as many happy people as I saw walking around the Zappos headquarters. The place looks like a fun place to work and as followers of Zappos (and readers of Service Untitled) know, they clearly do things very differently than a lot of companies.

Some interesting tidbits from the tour:

  • All employees go through Customer Loyalty Training and are taught how to use the company’s various systems. That way, when the holidays come around, every employee can pitch in during their down time or if they want, work some overtime, and help out. Cross training helps make it so Zappos doesn’t have to hire as many temporary service employees.
  • Employees move cubicle locations every six months.
  • Customer service employees are divided into teams by mediums (phone, live chat, and email) and then each team is further divided into groups of about 15 or so with a team lead. Team leads sit at the end of each row on a larger desk. Live chat has been the company’s fastest growing medium.
  • There are no offices at the company and everyone, including the CEO, sit at a cubicle. I also didn’t see any executive conference rooms.
  • Zappos gives tours to approximately 100 people per day, sometimes way more.
  • Most employees are paid hourly, but all have access to the cafeteria that has free light meals and snacks and hot meals available for $3.00. The vending machine is $0.25 and proceeds are donated to charity. There are also unlimited free drinks available.

I’ve included a bunch of pictures after the jump. I’ve also included comments and further information with each picture. Click “read more” to see the gallery with photos and comments. To see a larger version of a photo with comments, just click on the photo. To see the full size version, click on it again.

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How to deal with angry online customers

[Social Media Week] E se fossero i Social Media ad usare Voi?No matter how hard any of us try to deliver the best products and the best service, something can always go awry. For instance, there’s the online florist who sent Valentine flowers on February 16, or the online dress boutique who sent a little black dress in a size 14 instead of the ordered size 4.

If  similar mistakes had been made while shopping at the local mall, it’s a pretty simple procedure just to go there and work out the details for an exchange or adjustment, but the online business can be a bit trickier, and if you’re a new online business, the effect of unresolved customer service issues could irreparably hurt your future success. Keep in mind, for online issues, there’s no compassionate sales manager to speak with an angry customer to calm them down, nor is there an immediate way for a customer to find a resolution – that is unless you, as an online business, takes the responsibility of dealing with angry customers as a number one priority. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Always start out with a FAQ. The more answers you can provide on your website, the easier it will be for customers to understand your policies, but remember that competition is keen for online businesses, and you will want to compare your policies with your competition.
  • Don’t make excuses. Take responsibility when something goes wrong. If flowers were meant to be delivered on Valentine’s Day, there should not be the excuse that “it was a very busy day.”  What husband, boyfriend, or son wants to hear that the special bouquet he ordered was not delivered when it should have been? Take steps to resolve the problem in the future, but do something to assuage the anger and frustration of the customer. Begin the process as soon as possible, and if you don’t have an immediate solution, then follow-up with an email or phone call as soon as you do.
  • Communicate with your customers. Offer relevant information. Have blogs for timely information. If you’re a florist, why not blog about planting and seasonal flowers in different parts of the country? Make your information useful, so customers and potential customers will want to return to your website. Offer discounts and coupons after you have resolved the customer’s problem.
  • Answer complaints within one day. Imagine how insignificant and angry a customer could become if they don’t hear from the online organization? There’s no one they can face personally and no store they can visit.
  • Ask for feedback. Make customers feel appreciated. In turn they will show their appreciation by clicking on your website again.

No one is immune from making mistakes, but keeping your head and appreciating customers in an honest, upfront manner promises success.

photo credit: Simone Lovati

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