Is this how to handle customer complaints on social media? Really?

There’s an old adage about how

“a happy customer tells one friend, and unhappy customer tells everybody”

I have a bad habit of telling the world (well, 1500-odd people on Twitter and a few thousand more via my blog) when something doesn’t work out for me and, over the weekend, it was Three UK (3) whose inability to supply me with a password to access my account online resulted in this tweet:

Ineptitude just cost @ a customer. Can't view bill except over 3G on iPad; can't set password for web access without visiting store
Mark Wilson

I’m certainly no celebrity and I don’t expect every company to roll over when I act like a petulant teenager, but they could at least try to address my issue. Couldn’t they?

To be fair to Three, their online team @ThreeUK (which is clear about its online hours: Monday-Friday, 9am to 5.30pm) responded but their response simply bounced me to another Twitter account operated by the company:

@ We have a CS team on Twitter too, @ - it may be worth a tweet.

They also responded to another tweet of mine arising from a discussion about the issue with one of my Twitter contacts:

@ We do care! I hope are CS tweeters can assist you.

Ignoring the grammar, if you care about customer service, what happened to owning the customer’s problem and managing it to resolution?

Clearly Three have (at least) two Twitter accounts operated by two teams: marketing and customer service. That’s OK, but they don’t seem to be able to take a problem inside the organisation to work out the best approach – they simply bounce me from one to the other. Oh dear.

So I got in touch with @ThreeUKSupport

.@ Would be interesting to see your comments on (@ seem to be marketing-focused)
Mark Wilson

and a reply came back soon enough but it merely repeated what I already know – that their process is broken…

@ I'm afraid currently you can either view My3 via your iPad or you need to put your sim in a phone that takes a micro-sim to...
@ able to receive the text message

…absolutely no response to my issues:

“My issues here are: having to pay to speak to a customer service agent and being kept on hold for a while; getting poor advice from the agent (unless Three can tell me how to drag and drop my bill from their portal to my email, on an iPad); and not getting an answer to my problem. Visiting a store is simply not worth the effort (20-odd mile drive, pay for parking, an hour of my time) – but could well lose Three a customer.”

I even threw them a lifeline:

@ Thank you for responding... even if both you and @ have failed on the customer service front...
Mark Wilson

Nothing from @ThreeUK, and a “yeah, whatever” (I paraphrase) from @ThreeUKSupport:

@ You're welcome. I'm sorry you feel we've failed you.

Now, I know that implementing social media for large corporates is bloody hard. I tried – and there is a lot that we can do better where I work too… people in glass houses and all that… but this is me, responding as an individual, not as an employee, so hear me out, please.

  • Firstly, if you want to operate a corporate Twitter account (or any other “social” account), be ready to deal with complaints. For support, be ready to direct people to official channels but for customer service issues, then a little more tact and diplomacy might be required.
  • Secondly, if a customer outlines multiple issues to which they would like a response, it’s OK to ask them to supply some contact details so that you can get in touch and investigate further.
  • Finally, if all you do is provide stock answers then you’ll annoy a customer who is already unhappy with your company’s service.

For whomever is responsible for social media at Three, there’s a really good book I can recommend: it’s called “Empowered” and it’s written by Forrester analysts Josh Bernoff (@jbernoff) and Ted Schadler (@TedSchadler). The book talks about groundswell customer service and provides real-world examples of how innovative leaders and their teams use technology to solve customer problems… it’s definitely worth a read. And Forrester released a report yesterday entitled “Twitter: the public forum for your brand”. If you don’t have access to the report, it’s author, Melissa Parrish (@melissarparrish) has some great blog posts about the use of Twitter too.

Incidentally, Sainsbury’s, another company that recently incurred my wrath on Twitter after failing to follow up on a customer service email about the quality of the groceries they had delivered a few days previously deserves mention for fixing my issue. Their social media team took action to get my enquiry dealt with and compensated me for the problems I had experienced. Arguably, that is how to respond… Three’s example is how not to…

I started this post with a quote, so I’ll finish with another:

“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.”

[Donald Porter, British Airways]

[Update 16 January 2012: Three have been in touch and would like to make it clear that they do care about their customers on Twitter. I’m still disappointed about how my calls and social media follow-up were handled, but it is good to know that they are at least attempting to improve the experience that their customers receive via social media.]

A workaround for iPad users/Three UK subscribers to access their mobile broadband bills on another device

Three UK (3) has just been added to my list of mobile operators who haven’t got a clue about customer service.

For the last few months I’ve been using Three’s mobile broadband service on my iPad. The in-store service when I joined the network was pretty lousy but today that got a whole lot worse. I needed to store a copy of my bills and found that the My 3 portal was only available to me over Three’s 3G network from my iPad. Access from a PC, or over Wi-Fi needed a password. And resetting that password needed the ability to receive SMS, a capability that my iPad does not have…

So I called Three. Actually, I rang several numbers for Three, trying to avoid paying for the call (I can’t use their free number because I don’t have a phone on their network…) and I spoke to someone who understood the issue but couldn’t help because they were in the mobile dongle department. He transferred me to someone in the iPad team (approx. 10 minute wait…) who confirmed I could only access my bills on my iPad and when I asked how I could download them he suggested either dragging and dropping them to my email (what?!). At this point, I think he was well off his script and just making things up but he asked me if I have an iPhone 4S. I don’t, so he suggested going into store, putting my SIM into the store’s iPhone 4S, and getting the password sent by SMS to it…

[Thinking about the situation as I write this post, I don’t have an iPhone 4S but I do  have another phone that can take a micro SIM… but Three asked if I had an iPhone 4S]

My issues here are: having to pay to speak to a customer service agent and being kept on hold for a while; getting poor advice from the agent (unless Three can tell me how to drag and drop my bill from their portal to my email, on an iPad); and not getting an answer to my problem. Visiting a store is simply not worth the effort (20-odd mile drive, pay for parking, an hour of my time) – but could well lose Three a customer.

I did find a workaround though, for anyone who has Dropbox installed on their iPad…

  1. Disconnect from any Wi-Fi networks and open the My 3 portal on the iPad (My 3 loads in Safari without asking for credentials if you are connected to the Three network with a 3G connection).
  2. Navigate to Recent Bills and press/hold the PDF icon to open a bill.
  3. Once loaded, open the PDF in Dropbox – it will be saved as a file called viewInvoice.nocache, which is a PDF file, but without the correct file extension.
  4. Rename viewInvoice.nocache to add a .PDF file extension and open it as normal on any device you like.

Interestingly, O2 (whose incompetence caused me to switch my mobile broadband to Three in the first place, but who did later take steps to address the issue) still send me an email every month to say that my mobile broadband payment has failed… that suggests my account is still live… maybe with 5GB of data still loaded… perhaps I should search for that micro SIM and try it again…

Finding the SIM serial number for my iPad, without taking the SIM out

Earlier this afternoon, I was searching for my iPad’s cellular data number (CDN) and Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) serial number (I needed the last 6 digits for a password reset on my carrier’s billing portal).   The cellular data number is fairly straightforward (looking in the About screen in the General Settings) but the SIM is a little less so. My carrier (Three) advises taking the SIM out and physically inspecting it but I thought there had to be a way to do this in software…

…it turns out that there is: the SIM serial number is also known as the Integrated Circuit Card ID (ICCID) and Apple support article HT4061 details several ways to find this information, along with the device serial number, Universal Device Identifier (UDID), International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) and CDN.