Robert Stephens Understands Blogs

A week or so ago I read this post on Consumerist about Robert Stephen’s commitment to resolve any reader complaints relating to the Geek Squad and Best Buy. This was quite interesting to me.

Firstly, how many executives do this? Not many. In most cases, it is a miracle if anyone responds to complaints posted on blogs, much less tells the editor of a related site to send any issues their way. The various companies I interview are usually interested in hearing about any complaints or issues relating to the company, but they don’t do it in the same way that Robert did.

Secondly, kudos to Robert for actually following through. From when I’ve talked to him and forwarded issues his way, he does get them resolved. This is tough in a lot of organizations and it really helps. If you say you’re going to help, you should. If you over-promise and under-deliver, it is a recipe for disaster.

In reading the comments, as expected, there were cynics. I agree that the companies should try to get to a point where elevations aren’t necessary. However, that’s awfully optimistic thinking. The larger the company gets, the more complaints it’ll receive. Even if a mere 1/10 of a percent of people complain – if you do enough business, it’s a lot.

Best Buy has 128,000 employees – most companies don’t have that many sales transactions a year. Many towns aren’t that large. It is impossible to do everything right when you operate on that scale. Let’s say Best Buy does 1,000,000 transactions a month (completely hypothetical number – their revenue is $30.8 billion/year, though). If they can make sure that 99.9% are happy enough where they don’t complain, they’ll still get 1,000 complaints. That’s a lot.

Robert’s dedication shows a lot about his attitude towards customer service. He truly wants to make Geek Squad and Best Buy customers happy. He realizes that it’s impossible for them to be perfect and wants to make it so customers can get an easy resolution.

Now, how can you duplicate what Robert is doing?

  • Watch the web. Use Google Alerts and other tools to watch what people are saying about you and your company.
  • Pay attention to related sites. If you notice Google Alerts is constantly giving you alerts from Consumerist or from Z forum, etc., watch those sites. Sign up, subscribe to the RSS, etc.
  • Watch industry sites. Watch any major sites, communities, etc. related to your industry and/or niche. That’ll help you know what’s going on and help you identify the right people.
  • Contact those sites. Contact the management at those sites and talk to them. Ask for their suggestions, mention that they can contact you with issues, etc.
  • Respond. When you do get a complaint, respond to it. Ensure that you get a resolution and that the person updates their original topic, etc. with the resolution.
  • Follow up. Once you get a resolution, be sure to follow up in a few weeks to ensure everything is still going well.
  • Stay in touch. It’s important to stay in touch with the editors, moderators, etc. at the sites that are relevant. They’ll be a tremendous help down the road.

For some more reading, check out this post about responding to angry forum (and it works with bloggers, too) posters.