Personal customer service is dead…or is it?

Guest post by Jessi Wortley

customer serviceI had a great customer service experience the other day and want to thank the company publicly for it. A great experience can’t be possible, you say? Maybe not very often, but apparently it still happens.

We all know what has become, unfortunately, the “typical” customer service experience. You encounter a problem and need assistance with a product/service/account and realize the only way you’re going to get anywhere is to call for help. And who are you going to call? Unfortunately, not Ghostbusters. You’re going to have to call the dreaded 1-800 customer service hotline. The one where you go through an endless maze of automated numbers, option prompts, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand your request,” a few choice expletives, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll reach a real person on the other end who is probably six time zones away, barely speaks English, yet refers to himself as “John.”

“John” will not actually be able to help you, and will refer you to his supervisor, who again will transfer you or better yet promise to look into it and call you back. End result: you are frustrated and usually no better off than where you were before you picked up the phone.

But not this time. I use Constant Contact to send e-mails to a group I belong to and I needed to send one Monday morning. Upon logging in, I was greeted with a message informing me that our account had been suspended because the bank card on file was no longer valid and our monthly bill could not be processed. Perfect. What a way to start my day, and I decided to vent via Twitter: “Everyone’s having Internet issues today. Blocked sites, e-mail down, Constant Contact inaccessible…it’s just another typical Monday!”

After making a few phone calls to our other board members, it was determined  the bank had canceled our card and issued us a new one but, a) didn’t inform us and b) never actually sent the new card. A call to the bank only resulted in them saying they would immediately send a new one, but it wouldn’t be here for five to seven days — not what I wanted to hear. So, anticipating the worst, I decided to bite the bullet and call Constant Contact, beg for mercy and have them sign us up for direct debit to avoid this in the future.

Boy was I ever surprised! I called the 800 number and listened to a short list of prompts, pushed 3 for billing and after a few seconds was connected to a live person who spoke perfect English! I explained the situation and asked about direct debit. Unfortunately, that was not an option. However, the customer service representative pulled up our file and in less than a minute told me she’d put an override on our account valid for one week until our new card arrived. I couldn’t believe it! She not only went out of her way to make sure I could access my account, but she didn’t even have to check with a supervisor to do so.

It’s not often you find a company that has empowered its employees to take the initiative themselves to go above and beyond. I was very impressed and an extremely satisfied customer to boot. But, the story isn’t really done there. After hanging up the phone, I realized I had a message on Twitter from Constant Contact (@CTCTHelp) saying “Apologies for any inconveneince (sic). Send us a tweet or call 866-289-2101 if you need any help.” They’d seen my tweet and contacted me. Again, I was very impressed. It felt good being able to write back and say thanks for the offer, but my problem was already solved by one of their great customer service representatives.

I guess personal customer service isn’t totally dead yet. It might be on life support, but maybe with the advent of Twitter and other immediate connectivity options we can revive it. What do you think? Are there other positive stories out there, or was mine an isolated incident?

Jessi Wortley is a communications professional in Lansing, Michigan. You can offer her great customer service via Twitter at @minij.

(Cartoon courtesy of Shafeen Charania and his blog Synthesis.)

3 comments on “Personal customer service is dead…or is it?

  1. It’s funny how we have become a society that is actually surprised by good customer service. With all the cutbacks and reorganizations that companies are doing, customer service departments are often seen as a cost center, with little revenue generation. They are often the ones who are paid the least, have the worst equipment, and are typically treated the worst in the company (you are allowed only a 5 minute bathroom break, and its coming out of your pay!). I wish most companies would think of their customer service department differently, and actually realize that they are the face of their company, not the marketing department, the website or the front facade of their building.

    To prove my point, search the net for AT&T or Comcast. All you will find is people complaining about poor customer service. The number of hits listing this type of ‘marketing’ is 500 to 1 for every good piece, including the ones that the companies put out themselvs. If they were smart, they would not promote one concert or basketball game and would focus that money on the true face of their company.

    The experience you spoke of with Constant Contact is excellent, and should be shared. These companies who do value customer service should be rewarded and modeled after.


  2. Thank you for taking the time to recognize the recent efforts of our Support team. Constant Contact takes the utmost pride in meeting – and ideally exceeding – our customers’ expectations. We are committed to “Delighting the Customer.” When this happens, I am personally delighted to hear about it.

    If you have additional questions now or in the future, I hope that you will again turn to us. If you know of another small business or organization who could benefit from the types of products, services and expertise Constant Contact supplies, please let them know where we can be found!

    Thanks again and kindest regards,

    Larry Streeter
    VP Customer Support
    Constant Contact


  3. Pingback: 2010 on my blog – a review by Wordpress « Here Comes Later

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