Turning Bad Customer Experiences into Wow Experiences

Bad customer experiences can be great opportunities to transform not-wow into wow. When people have a bad customer experience, their expectations are lowered. Usually, this results in the customer abandoning the product or service and moving to a competitor.

Magician's Want and Hat - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/AndyL, Image #1617900

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/AndyL

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it can be an opportunity for organizations to win customers and generate positive word-of-mouth. But it all hinges on someone taking the initiative.

For example, I recently switched Internet service in my home from AT&T DSL to Comcast cable. AT&T had provided us with consistent, reliable service for years. But Comcast promised to deliver approximately three times the download speed and ten times the upload speed. When I found this out, I switched. It was a no-brainer.

Comcast definitely lived up to its speed claims. In fact, we were often getting even faster download speeds than we were promised. However, the service was extremely unreliable. We found ourselves rebooting the cable modem several times a day.

Last Saturday evening, after rebooting the modem five times, I had had enough. I called Comcast customer service. After navigating through a complex and frustrating phone tree, I finally got a real human on the phone. She checked my connection remotely, walked me through a trouble-shooting protocol, and eventually came to a dead-end.

“Sir, I need to send a technician to your home. Does Wednesday work for you?” (Keep in mind this was Saturday.)

“Are you kidding me?” I said, assuming she could send one out on Sunday or Monday at the latest.

“No, sir, I am not kidding you. That is the first repair slot I have available. Would you prefer the morning, between 8:00 and noon, or the afternoon, between 1:00 and 5:00.”

“Actually, I would prefer tomorrow,” I quipped. “I cannot wait until Wednesday. I depend on the Internet to do my work.”

“Sir, I apologize,” she stated coldly, “but Wednesday is the best we can do. Do you want us to come out or not?”

“Well, then I guess I don’t have a choice,” I said, as my expectations took a nosedive. “Afternoon is best … but I don’t appreciate having to pay for a service I’m not getting.” I held out the faint hope that she might at least comp my service for a month to compensate for the downtime and hassle I had experienced.

“I would be happy to credit your account for the five days between now and the time the technician repairs your system.” She sounded annoyed.

“Fine,” I acquiesced, realizing that she was playing strictly by the book.

I then hung up, feeling like I had just had a head-on collision with a heartless municipal monopoly. I felt powerless and frustrated.

Like I do throughout the day, I then Twittered about my experience—and my frustration. In fact, after seven tweets, it got to the point that my own family and a few friends threatened to stop following me on Twitter. “This is not like you. You need to stop. Now!” That got my attention.

About fifteen minutes later, I was contacted on Twitter by Frank Eliason from Philadelphia (a.k.a., “@ComcastCares”). Here was our Twitter conversation. Keep in mind that Twitter usernames are preceded by the “@” symbol:

@ComcastCares: “Were they able to assist?”
@MichaelHyatt: “You obviously haven’t read my early tweets. I am not a happy camper.”
@ComcastCares: “I am sorry for the bad experience. Let me review the signals on the account and see what I notice. What is the phone number on the account?”
@MichaelHyatt: “XXX-XXX-XXXX. My issue is that that they can’t send someone out until Wednesday to fix it!”
@ComcastCares: “I agree. It is completely unacceptable especially since we did not get it right the first time. That is first date available to me but…”
@ComcastCares: “I want to see what I can get done for you. What is a good contact number? I am looking to see what contacts I have in your area.”

Frank then tried to solve my problem remotely. Like the first rep I talked with, he was unable to do it. However, he promised me that a technician would be at my house the next day—on Sunday. I was skeptical.

On my way to church, I got a call on my cell phone. It was a local Comcast technican. “Mr. Hyatt, this is Jeremy with Comcast. I will be at your house in 20 minutes, if that is okay.”

“Actually, it’s not okay. I am on my way to church…. Any chance you could come this afternoon? I will be home by noon.” I just knew I had missed my chance. Darn. I thought to myself.

“No problem,” he assured me. “I’ll give you call after lunch.”

True to his word, he called and then showed up with two other technicians at about 1:00 p.m.

He started the conversations by saying, “Mr. Hyatt, I am sorry you are having problems with your cable service, but I can promise you this. We will solve your problem today if I have to crawl over every inch of your house.”

Jeremy worked with his friends for the next two hours. They checked and double-checked everything. I won’t go into all the details, but they found the problem: a bad cable split on the street that was creating a lot of noise. It was causing me to lose my IP connection repeatedly.

The wonderul thing is that they quickly fixed the problem. I have not had a single issue since Jeremy left. He solved the problem—and apparently solved it for good.

However, this would never have happened if Frank had not taken the initiative to stand for wow. Any other outcome was simply not acceptable.

Here’s my take-away:

  • Bad customer experiences are inevitable.
  • You have to plan for them.
  • You have to have a plan in place to deal with them.
  • You have to move with lightening speed.
  • You must make a commitment to fix the problem—and then deliver.

Suffice it to say, Frank and Jeremy’s response wowed me. I was on the verge of reverting to AT&T (which I still had not disconnected). However, I am now an evangelist for Comcast. Frank’s initiative—just one person—turned my not-wow experience into a wow experience. And now his action is forever digitally enshrined in my blog.

It just goes to show you that everything you do matters. You can turn things around. You can create wow. But it begins with a decision.

Your decision.

Question: Where can you take the initiative now to stand for wow and make a difference?
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  • http://twitter.com/JVelthoen @JVelthoen

    I keep hearing how Comcast makes Wow through twitter, meanwhile their subscriber base without twitter suffers. Wow starts with installation, continues through customer service, then through customer retention. We had to wait over a week for my girlfriend to get Comcast to set her up, then the installation guy claimed multiple TV's were impossible. Another week and the next guy asked why it wasn't done when the last guy was there because it was so easy. She still suffers from weird complications. A truly WOW company would make every contact a pleasure.
    That is why I refuse to let Comcast near my house.

  • http://twitter.com/JVelthoen @JVelthoen

    I keep hearing how Comcast makes Wow through twitter, meanwhile their subscriber base without twitter suffers. Wow starts with installation, continues through customer service, then through customer retention. We had to wait over a week for my girlfriend to get Comcast to set her up, then the installation guy claimed multiple TV's were impossible. Another week and the next guy asked why it wasn't done when the last guy was there because it was so easy. She still suffers from weird complications. A truly WOW company would make every contact a pleasure.
    That is why I refuse to let Comcast near my house.

  • http://twitter.com/timgrable @timgrable

    This is an excellent customer service story and quite frankly a great example of WOW. It is also a very good testimony of the power of social media and networking. I do agree that most people are treated like you were on the first call, however, the real lesson is in how two people were able to take charge and solve a problem! If a company can empower their employees to taken ownership like this, they will become know for their customer service.

    Frank & Jeremy hat's off to you for a great job. I wish that everyone at Comcast shared your passion for customer service. Our company is in the process with ATT because we could not get in touch with the Comcast Business here in Nashville.

  • http://twitter.com/timgrable @timgrable

    This is an excellent customer service story and quite frankly a great example of WOW. It is also a very good testimony of the power of social media and networking. I do agree that most people are treated like you were on the first call, however, the real lesson is in how two people were able to take charge and solve a problem! If a company can empower their employees to taken ownership like this, they will become know for their customer service.

    Frank & Jeremy hat's off to you for a great job. I wish that everyone at Comcast shared your passion for customer service. Our company is in the process with ATT because we could not get in touch with the Comcast Business here in Nashville.

  • http://renewalclockc.om/ Mac

    Regardless of who the customer is, how a business handles the situation when things go wrong says a lot about how they operate. Think of the Apple experience, Genius Bar, etc. Things don't come up roses 100% of the time, but they are at least there to help you the best they can long after you made your purchase.

  • http://renewalclockc.om Mac

    Regardless of who the customer is, how a business handles the situation when things go wrong says a lot about how they operate. Think of the Apple experience, Genius Bar, etc. Things don't come up roses 100% of the time, but they are at least there to help you the best they can long after you made your purchase.

  • Bill Whitt

    My experience with Comcast was also a "WOW" experience — as in, "Wow, how could a corporation devalue and disrespect their customers so much and still exist in the marketplace today?" Where I work, we switched from DSL to cable Internet service earlier this year for the speed improvement. Like everyone else, I started by calling 1-800-COMCAST. After navigating a confusing phone tree, being put on hold several times, and being transferred from representative to representative, I was accidentally hung up on after an investment of 40 minutes of my day. Later, I finally got through to the rep who covers our area. But he's only available by phone about two hours per day, so I left him a voicemail. He never called back. I left another voicemail. He finally called me with pricing info and said he would setup an appointment for the install.

    He never followed up, so I called again and left a voicemail again. And again. When he finally did get back with him, almost a week had passed. He said the first available install date would be in 2-3 weeks. Yes, WEEKS! I told him to schedule us in, realizing "better late than never."

    Infuriated, my boss called Comcast himself and apparently navigated the phone tree differently. He spoke to some other department. They said they had plenty of slots available for installs in our area and had not even seen an order come through for our business. Who was this guy I had been talking to all along? What was he doing if he wasn't scheduling us for an install? Anyway, these people DID schedule the install, and that happened relatively quickly and without a hitch.

    So, to sum up my experience, I found Comcast to be a beast of an organization that's so big, its right hand doesn't know what it's left hand is doing. And because this guy wouldn't even return my phone calls or emails, I felt very disrespected as a customer. If I had only tweeted about the experience, I might have gotten something done! But, really, should that have to be the case? Should you have to use @ComcastCares to get good service, or should Comcast just care about everyone from the beginning? Give me a break!

  • Bill Whitt

    My experience with Comcast was also a "WOW" experience — as in, "Wow, how could a corporation devalue and disrespect their customers so much and still exist in the marketplace today?" Where I work, we switched from DSL to cable Internet service earlier this year for the speed improvement. Like everyone else, I started by calling 1-800-COMCAST. After navigating a confusing phone tree, being put on hold several times, and being transferred from representative to representative, I was accidentally hung up on after an investment of 40 minutes of my day. Later, I finally got through to the rep who covers our area. But he's only available by phone about two hours per day, so I left him a voicemail. He never called back. I left another voicemail. He finally called me with pricing info and said he would setup an appointment for the install.

    He never followed up, so I called again and left a voicemail again. And again. When he finally did get back with him, almost a week had passed. He said the first available install date would be in 2-3 weeks. Yes, WEEKS! I told him to schedule us in, realizing "better late than never."

    Infuriated, my boss called Comcast himself and apparently navigated the phone tree differently. He spoke to some other department. They said they had plenty of slots available for installs in our area and had not even seen an order come through for our business. Who was this guy I had been talking to all along? What was he doing if he wasn't scheduling us for an install? Anyway, these people DID schedule the install, and that happened relatively quickly and without a hitch.

    So, to sum up my experience, I found Comcast to be a beast of an organization that's so big, its right hand doesn't know what it's left hand is doing. And because this guy wouldn't even return my phone calls or emails, I felt very disrespected as a customer. If I had only tweeted about the experience, I might have gotten something done! But, really, should that have to be the case? Should you have to use @ComcastCares to get good service, or should Comcast just care about everyone from the beginning? Give me a break!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/BrianTCarroll BrianTCarroll

    While this might be a good argument for the WOW of Twitter, it shouldn't take seven tweets to get the service that should have been provided after the first telephone call. That's why we dumped Comcast for AT&T, and have never looked back.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/BrianTCarroll BrianTCarroll

    While this might be a good argument for the WOW of Twitter, it shouldn't take seven tweets to get the service that should have been provided after the first telephone call. That's why we dumped Comcast for AT&T, and have never looked back.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelmccurry michaelmccurry

    Michael, I thought this really was a terrific post and in fact have shared it with our entire account management team at Experient, my company. You consistently deliver a quality blog product here day in and day out and I just want to show my appreciation for your thought leadership!!!

    Thanks for being my blogging mentor!

    Mike McCurry
    http://twitter.com/michaelmccurry

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelmccurry michaelmccurry

    Michael, I thought this really was a terrific post and in fact have shared it with our entire account management team at Experient, my company. You consistently deliver a quality blog product here day in and day out and I just want to show my appreciation for your thought leadership!!!

    Thanks for being my blogging mentor!

    Mike McCurry
    http://twitter.com/michaelmccurry

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/DeYoungJD DeYoungJD

    :-) i'm glad its working for you! I'll let you know as soon as I get my new modem online – can't wait to help you upgrade to the new speeds! its going to be remarkably fast! I'm so stoked!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/DeYoungJD DeYoungJD

    :-) i'm glad its working for you! I'll let you know as soon as I get my new modem online – can't wait to help you upgrade to the new speeds! its going to be remarkably fast! I'm so stoked!

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  • http://jeanettefisher.com Jeanette

    Wow! The power of blogging… This is as relevant today as it was when written.

    Comcast listens to @ComcastCares. More companies need to support their Twitter representatives.

  • http://alexspeaks.com Alex Humphrey

    Michael, that is amazing! For me, taking the wow initiative is giving my clients an experience far beyond what they’re expecting. My plan is to build my financial coaching business philosophy so that from the moment I receive that first phone call or email until the day they are in a place they no longer need a coach, they will be blown away by the progression they’ve been able to make and the opportunities presented. I don’t want to be just another coach or a counselor with a different hat. I want to be a friend and leader who directs them into the life they’ve always wanted. And when that goes well I want to refund them completely.

    That’s my wow

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1346029195 Yvonne Green

    The more I learn the more I realize its not the circumstances that are the key factor its the attitude.  Attitude  determines outcome .  As one of my mentors says “Give a Smile get a smile … Give a compliment get a compliment.”  He even goes on to say how His Mother had a saying “People bring you joy either when they come or when they leave.” 

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  • http://todaymade.com/blog Garrett Moon

    Awesome post Michael! I have recently been trying to implement some WOW into how my company does business. Just the other day we ordered a huge box on thank you cards and are already sending them out like crazy. Simple, I know, but our cards are sincere and funny. It is already amazing to hear the reactions. Wow experiences work! 

  • http://twitter.com/jacktx42 jacktx42

    It’s great there’s something in place to catch the bad stuff.

    My problem/question is: Why does everything except the last ditch effort to save the account have to be so fraught with incompetence and incivility, that your experience has to be horrible and gut-churning, and it makes you want to pull out your left kidney just to ease the pain of dealing with them?

    It seems in these times so many companies focus on how to extract money from its customers rather than working to effectively provide the service for which they are being paid.

  • http://donkily.com/ Scott Reyes

    I agree with this completely. One of my company’s biggest accounts came from the way that we took care of our mistake when we were only doing a little bit of business. Most of the training that I do with my account managers revolves around handling a customer issues even though they are few and far between.

  • http://twitter.com/theworld4realz Andi-Roo

    How
    many times have we heard it said, “The customer is always right!”?
    It seems we accept this as fact and have decided it’s a completely
    valid way to run a business.

    Except
    when the customer isn’t right — which is a lot more often than it
    used to be, back when the world was flat and customer bases were
    limited to the farm next door which might happen to be like 100 miles
    away or whatever. 

    If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, the rest of this article is posted here: http://www.theworld4realz.com/2012/02/12/the-customer-is-not-always-right/

  • http://ignitechange.net/ Craig Morton

    Hi Michael.  So much of customer service is not set up to help, but rather simply take complaints for those that are higher up.  Those on the phones, like you said, “play by the books” and are forced to simply act like robots in their actions and their corporate dialogues. It’s almost tragic that humans have been reduced to not being allowed to problem solve in that job.   Glad you got it fixed :)

  • http://twitter.com/engagementindex EngagementIndex

    thanks for sharing your experience.. 5 years ago if someone had a bad customer experience they told 5 people, now then can tell 5 million people.. Social media and in particular Twitter is a game changer for businesses. It means as customers / consumers we can bring them to account for their shoddy customer care.

    It also  means that businesses have a huge opportunity to deal with things, get them right and as a result create loyal brand advocates. Thats the point. Twitter is another channel for them to deal with customers.

    With all that in mind, and in wanting to help raise the corporate customer care bar, we recently launched engagementIndex. The 1st customer care score for Twitter. We have already published scores on UK Supermarkets, Utilities, Mobile Operators and banks, with plenty more to follow…

    You can see these scores at http://www.engagementIndex.co.uk

    thanks

    Mark Shaw
    @engagementIndex:twitter 

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  • Lang

    Dealing with Comcast is a dreadful experience. I’ve dealt with the @89499117a54e8c5d5ea1b3ff098ebcb0:disqus folks before, and it only adds a layer to the bureaucracy. You’re still stuck with the same useless phone reps. In fact, Michael’s post was the first time I’ve ever seen anyone actively promote satisfaction with the Comcast customer service system, with its labyrinth auto-phone tree, dead ends, and unknowledgeable reps. I was shocked to hear anyone praise the Comcast experience. I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that Michael got special treatment due to the fact that he sits on a huge stage with a big microphone. The audience stats are right there in plain view his Twitter profile where the whole thing started. Having said that, I get Michael’s point — the point of his post wasn’t to praise or suggest that his experience was a normal experience with Comcast, nor does it matter whether he got special treatment. The point is what’s possible with customer service. And while I hope that Comcast learned the same lesson, I highly doubt it based on my experience. I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • W.K.

    I love hearing stories like this. There is a great small book called “The How of Wow” that talks about wowing your customers. They have several other inspiring customer service books too but that is one of my favorites. http://servicewithasmileblog.com/

  • Micki

    I so agree with your analysis of the situation. I did a blog post as well on good and bad customer experience, “One Simple Action That Can Dramatically Increase Your Customer Base”, http://www.lakeviewconsulting.net

  • Hugh O’Donnell

    Mark Hurst, who is located in NY, runs a wonderful company devoted to including the customer, i.e., “customer experience,” called Creative Good. Check him out. His books and soon-to-be-updated GoodToDo app, as well as his services are things you might like to be aware of.

    Love this blog!

    Best,

    Hugh