Last night I blogged about my experience of Virgin Media over the Christmas break, you can read the full story here, but in a nutshell my broadband connection kept failing, the information I was given was incomplete and/or incorrect and I was bloody frustrated at missing the online shopping opportunities presented by the Christmas sales! I was also very pleasantly surprised at the brilliant customer service I got from the staff on the Virgin Media twitter team.
Today I’ve been very surprised and impressed at the response, which has included:
* The lovely Virgin Media twitter tweam sent me a thank you for my post and let me know it’d been passed on to other people to try help learn the lessons
* Alex posted a comment on my blog post acknowledging that it had been read and lessons would be learnt
* Two people who I follow on twitter who work for VM got in touch with me personally to apologise on behalf of their company – this was a really lovely touch, they had both offered to help out before and I was impressed with their pride and sense of disappointment that VM had delivered such a mixed service
* Then this afternoon I got a phonecall from the local Field Manager, he explained what had been done the last time a technician came out and that they’d checked the signal levels today and offered for a Principal Technician to come out and run a health check on the circuit (all sounds very New Years Health Kick to me) externally and internally to our property. Bob explained that the Principal Technicians have more sensitive equipment and should be able to rule out whether there are any ongoing, underlying faults on the system. This has been arranged for Saturday so I don’t have to take any further time off work and they are going to ring first thing on Sat and let me know roughly what time they’ll be here – to save me waiting in.
* Alongside all of those responses from Virgin Media, I also got quite a lot of chat and banter on twitter more generally. In amongst the general chat was a link to a post about the call centre script by @Martijn Linssen – couldn’t have put it better myself so I’ll not try, I’m sure you’ll recognise the problem; Guy Letts and Martjin have also been engaging in a fascinating conversation about ‘incompetence masquerading as innovation’, you can read more here on Martijn’s blog post Social Customer Service – Proving you failed?
Photo by Gene Hunt
All of this got me thinking about what is really going right and wrong here and I thought I’d offer my thoughts to help out the VM people trying to learn the lessons!
Is it about staff incompetence? I don’t think it’s that simple. I know that VM have something very right – the people I talk to who work for them, the people who evidently manage their twitter account, even to some extent the technicians we’ve dealt with – they’ve all shown an ownership of the Virgin Media brand and it is evident that they can give great customer service – within the constraints of the system in which they work. I’m not sure if this was clear enough in my earlier post – I’ve been very impressed with (most) of the individuals who I’ve dealt with about this matter – I just think that they could have done better if they were empowered to do so, if they weren’t following a script of options, if they weren’t limited by the equipment they had available; my sense is that this is a problem with the design of the service not necessarily just poor customer service.
Does Guy’s hypothesis stand? Is this incompetence masquerading as innovation? Again I don’t think so. The technology is new, the problems are old, but the response is something different. I feel that social media allows for a different type of response, my issue was that I didn’t have enough information and that I didn’t feel like my concern was understood – the twitter tweam were able to alleviate that, even though the underlying problem has yet to be guaranteed to be resolved. Problems will always occur, services will always break down but the response is what is different here. Add to that they really were taking on board what I was grumbling about – the suggestion that they would ring on Saturday with an estimated arrival time was brilliant, leaves me a little more in control of my weekend; if only that was routinely possible.
My sense is that Virgin Media have responded brilliantly….I consider that I’m lucky in that my grumble was picked up on twitter, if it had been my non-twittering mum experiencing the same problem I’m not sure she’d have got the same response or be as happy as I am, but then I guess less people would likely hear about it. A few months ago I blogged about a small problem I’d had with the awesome Pizza Cafe Newton and their brilliant response. Fabian Segelström read that post and later used it as an example of good service recovery. So what is service recovery I hear you ask? Rather than reinvent the wheel I’ve quoted from Fabian and Jeff Howard’s blog post about it:
…research has led to four major findings on how service failure and subsequent recovery affect customers’ loyalty towards a service company:
- Service failure has a negative effect on customer loyalty intentions.
- Failure resolution has a positive effect on loyalty intentions.
- Customer satisfaction with the recovery has a positive effect on loyalty intentions.
- Outstanding recovery results in loyalty intentions which are more favorable than they would be had no failure occurred.
Whereas the three first findings could be expected, the fourth is somewhat of a surprise and has become known as the service recovery paradox. The service recovery paradox means that a customer might be more satisfied with a company although they didn’t deliver on their first attempt than if they had delivered the service without errors, if the recovery action is perceived as very good.
Fabian points out that current estimates are that it costs five times as much to attract a new customer as it does to retain one; at this point in time I feel that Virgin Media have done all they can to resolve my problem – with the responses I’ve received today I feel like they 1) care and 2) might get to the bottom of it, so I guess at this point in time I am one of those rather random customers whose loyalty intentions might improve as a result of the failure I’ve experienced. For now at least. I think it’s about investment, illogical as it feels to put up with a deficient service, attempts at service recovery mean that I now feel like we’re in this together, it’s no longer my problem it’s *our* problem, in fact this feels like a joint investment between me and the best bits of Virgin Media.
Ultimately the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, if the problem continues and it can’t be found out why then I will have to look to move to another service provider, but at this moment in time my broadband is tickety boo and my loyalty to Virgin Media unquestioned. So again, thank you Virgin Media and thanks to Martijn, Guy and Wim for stretching my thinking on this one. Thanks also to Fabian and Jeff for doing the research leg work – nothing like some evidence informed thinking about the design of services.