When the social media team turns anti-social…

When the social media team turns anti-social…

Social media? What’s it about? It’s all about people.

It’s about people connecting with other people in their personal lives and about people connecting with people in their work lives, at companies and other organisations.

What can customers expect from social media exchanges with companies on Facebook and Twitter?  Well, they would hope that a straight question would be greeted with a straight answer, at all times and without unnecessary delays.

So, what happens when a person at a company seems to lose this basic ability to answer a straight question?

Well, it seems to happen a lot. And it happens around a very simple question. Have a look:

What’s the question being asked here?  It’s one of the most basic and easiest-to-answer questions a person can ask about any organisation when something has gone wrong:  Who is in charge? Who is the top person in the organisation?

Why does this matter?
It matters because when customers don’t get answers from “customer services”, or when “customer services” people are not empowered to make a difference, then it’s time to escalate the issue to the person who can make a difference, the Managing Director or CEO. This is the person who has executive power to intervene and resolve an issue that has gone on for too long or which is not being handled properly.

Why does the social media team suddenly become “anti-social”?
Social media teams have in general got better at handling customer enquiries and responding to questions in a timely manner. This is because using social media is a cost-effective way of connecting with customers and of helping them with their problems with a company’s product or service. And when it works well for customers, it can help enhance a company’s public image. But where a company does not respond on social media, or where questions are met with resistance, as shown above, then this can only have a negative effect on the customer’s view of a company.

There are several possible reasons why a social media team member is unable to answer a basic question of the type shown above:

  • Ignorance – They genuinely do not know who is the Managing Director or CEO of their own organisation – this is very unlikely, as everyone knows the name of their boss! And if an employee doesn’t know the name of their boss, what else do they not know? If they don’t understand their own company and its people, how can they possibly be of any use to anyone outside of it?
  • Outsourcing – The social media feed is being run by someone who does not work for the company and who doesn’t know the name of the boss of their client – this is also unlikely but possible… In this case a company that has outsourced its social media should ensure that the company providing service on Facebook and Twitter is fully informed about their client and its key people and can properly answer customers’ questions about it.
  • Lack of Empowerment – The social media person is not empowered to provide the information requested. This happens when a company does not entrust its social media staff with the power to make a difference to customer enquiries. If the social media person is unable tell a customer who is the boss, then he/she is also often unlikely to make a difference to customer service issues. Using a social media team, whether inside or outside the company, who are not empowered on a social media site is worse than not having a social media presence at all…
  • No Name policy – The dreaded “no name” policy… In these situations, the company has a policy which means that any questions asking for the names of people in an organisation are met with a blunt refusal to answer the question.

Does “No name” mean no responsibility?
A company “no name” policy is an unfortunate hangover from the 20th century, where companies would refuse to provide the names of their directors and staff, out of fear that they might be “poached” by other companies. In the 21st century some companies believe they can use a “no name” policy to shield their senior staff from their customers. Staff may do this because they believe the CEO should not have to deal with customers and/or because they think that it will expose the poor performance of the customer service team.

In a connected world of social media there is simply no place for a “no name” policy at any organisation. Any company or organisation that still has a “no name” policy in the 21st century needs to take a serious look at itself, its attitude to its customers and to the world in general.

Openness and Transparency are key
The companies that perform best at customer services, especially on social media, are those which are open with their customers about the problems they encounter and transparent about their organisation and the people who lead it and work for it. These companies are honest about situations when they mess up, they empower their staff to tell the truth and they allow their customers to make contact with the person who can make a real difference, the CEO or MD.

So, the next time you see a “social media” team on Facebook or Twitter being “anti-social” and telling you that he or she cannot tell you the name of the boss, demand to know why… then go and find the contact details for the boss on http://CEOemail.com   And take it to the top…!

 

Today’s guest post was written by Marcus Williamson 
Marcus Williamson is a journalist and consumer campaigner with a background in the Information Technology sector. In 2010 he established the website http://CEOemail.com which now helps more than 11,000 people every day to resolve consumer issues by escalating them to the individuals who can make a difference.

 

 

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It’s payback time for broken broadband

As followers of this blog and my social media know, I always bang on about telecoms being the sector for the worst customer service. One has to really know their rights and know how to complain effectively to get companies to pay out when they should.

Today however, Ofcom announced plans that may make it a little easier for customers. In a scheme similar to delay repay for trains Ofcom proposes to introduce a scheme whereby customers will no longer have to “fight tooth and nail” to get “fair compensation”, Ofcom said. It suggests that the plan (subject to consultation ending 5th June 2017) could benefit up to 2.6 million customers.

The payments would apply whenever services go wrong and are not fixed quickly enough. Slow repairs, missed deadlines and engineers’ visits that fail to happen as promised would all be covered.

This is good news although it will still be a case of making sure people know about the scheme if and when it is introduced. In 2013 Transport Focus found that almost 9 in 10 of passengers eligible for compensation for delays, did not claim. In 2016 it spoke to over 7000 passengers and found that the number claiming compensation has increased to 35 per cent in 2016. The research shows how few people are claiming what they are owed. One wonders if this will be similar.

Commuters always had rights regarding delays and in October 2016 The Consumer Rights Act 2015 brought rail into line with other service providers regarding providing services with reasonable skill and care. It really is a case of companies doing more to ensure that people know their rights.

To back up my point Ofcom said that there were 7.2 million instances that would be subject to compensation under its new proposals every year but that currently, only 1.1 million of these attracted payments. Given my regular complaining to Virgin Media over the years I am not surprised. I know my rights, I know how to complain effectively but still I meet continued bad service and fob offs. Having taken it to CISAS twice (and won) and gained redress more times than I can remember I can say with absolutely assurance that it has never been easy and always protracted with several emails. Most people a) don’t know their legal right and b) even if they do would understandably give up.

In response to the plan, BT, Sky and Virgin Media have issued their own draft proposal for automatic compensation through a voluntary code of practice. A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “It’s important that customers are treated fairly when services can’t be delivered, but this is best achieved through a robust industry-led approach.

“The industry is working together on ambitious reforms that would incentivise communications providers to compete to provide customers with a better service, while also setting minimum standards that providers would have to meet.”

Cynically, and with a lot of experience of Virgin Media, I would say that’s another way of saying “Our service is rubbish and we aint gonna improve it until we are forced to do it the same as everyone else. Whilst we can get away with not paying out we will.”

Ofcom proposes  a  scale of charges:

  • £10 for each calendar day that the service is not repaired
  • £30 for any time that an engineer fails to turn up for a scheduled appointment, or that it is cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice
  • £6 for each calendar day of delay at the start of a new service, including the missed start date.

Ofcom hopes that this will mean consumers will not have to go through a lengthy claims process. However, in the meantime you ARE still legally entitled to redress for the examples above and more. See All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers for more.

See 20 Top Tips for Complaining and How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! for information, tips, advice and templates for complaining effectively to telecoms and other sectors.

 

 

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Plusnet gets a “minus” – and a big fine – for incorrect billing

Plusnet has become the latest telecom provider to be fined by the regulator Ofcom. The broadband and phone provider, owned by BT, has been fined £880,000 for billing former customers. It is the third provider in less than 6 months to be fined by Ofcom.

In October 2016 Vodafone was fined £4.6m for breaches of consumer protection laws and in January 2017 EE was fined approximately £2.7m for incorrect billing.

Plusnet faces a fine of £880,000 imposed by Ofcom for continuing to bill more than a thousand former customers for landline and broadband services. The case involves more than 1,000 ex-customers who were overcharged a total of more than £500,000.

Ofcom says in its press release:

“The penalty is the result of an investigation, which found that the telecoms company broke a fundamental billing rule by continuing to charge a group of customers for landline or broadband, after they had cancelled their service.

Once a customer cancels his or her home phone or broadband service, providers’ billing systems must recognise that the line is ‘ceased’. In this case, an error in Plusnet’s billing system meant that cancelled lines were still recognised as ‘live’.As a result, 1,025 customers who had cancelled either their landline or broadband service continued to be billed, meaning they were overcharged by more than £500,000 in total.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “There can be no margin for error, and no excuses, when it comes to billing customers correctly.”

“This fine should serve as a reminder to telecoms companies that they must adhere to Ofcom’s billing rules at all times, or face the consequences.””

Ofcom says that Plusnet has attempted to refund all affected ex-customers. It has so far refunded 356 customers a total of £212,140, which included interest at a rate of 4% for each customer. Any remaining money, from former customers who could not be reached, has been donated to a dozen local charities. Plusnet has also clarified to Ofcom the steps it has taken to prevent any future billing errors of this kind.

Ofcom says that the fine, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, telecoms really are the worst sector for customer service. It really needs a company to pull out all the stops and do things differently, risk not making any money for a while and then watch everyone flock to them for the customer service.

Useful information
Ofcom does not investigate individual claims. If you have a complaint about a telecom provider whether broadband, landline or mobile, see All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers which provides information and how to complain effectively to telecom providers.

See How to Complain; The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! for tips, advice, consumer laws and templates for complaining effectively.

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Celebrate World Consumer Rights Day by shopping smarter online

Press release from The Complaining Cow

The 15th March 2017 is World Consumer Rights Day[1], organised and promoted by Consumers International[2]. This year’s theme is ‘Building a Digital World Consumers can Trust.

In a world where consumers are purchasing more and more online it becomes more important for people to know their rights and how to complain when things go wrong. So what are your rights when purchasing online? Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer expert and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! shares much of what you need to know!

  • Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you can reject any goods that are faulty, do not match the description or have not lasted a reasonable length of time. The seller must refund you and pay return postage in any of these events.
  • Up to 30 days after purchase you are entitled to a full refund for items that are not of satisfactory quality or do not match the description. After this time you may have to accept a repair or replacement.
  • If you have paid for a dated or timed delivery and this has not happened, you are entitled to any out of pocket expenses you incurred.
  • The above rules also apply to digital goods, such as downloaded computer software, games and films.
  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 also states that goods must be delivered within the time frame agreed with the seller. If one hasn’t been agreed (you have agreed a time frame if the listing supplies a time frame) the trader must deliver ‘without undue delay’ and at the very latest not more than 30 days from the day after the contract is made. After this time you are entitled to a full refund.
  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 provides specific coverage for digital content. Digital content must not be supplied by the retailer within the 14 cooling-off period unless the customer has agreed to it. Once the download starts the cancellation right is lost. If the customer does not give agree to the terms then s/he will have to wait until after 14 days before downloading.
  • Your contract is ALWAYS with the company (or individual) to whom you paid the money. It is not with the courier. Do not be fobbed off when the retailer tells you to contact the courier company. Make the retailer take the time and effort to resolve the situation. It is the retailer who will also have to provide the redress, if necessary, not the courier.
  • You may think you are covered by Section 75A of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 for items over £100 bought on a credit card. However, should you complete a credit card transaction through a third party payment service, the credit card provider and the seller are no longer in a direct relationship, so are not equally liable. This exception applies to PayPal, Worldpay and Google checkout, for example.

Too often consumers get fobbed off because they don’t know their rights. Dewdney says “By ensuring that these laws are observed, and seeking enforcement where necessary, consumers can make smarter choices when shopping online and get justice if things go wrong.”

For more information, advice, help and templates for complaining effectively see GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! 

Note to editors:

  • World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is an opportunity to promote the basic rights of all consumers, demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and a chance to protest against the market abuses and social injustices which undermine those rights. http://www.consumersinternational.org/our-work/wcrd/
  • WCRD was inspired by President John F Kennedy, who gave an address to the US congress on 15 March 1962, in which he formally addressed the issue of consumer rights. He was the first world leader to do so, and the consumer movement now marks that date every year as a means of raising global awareness about consumer rights. The first WCRD was observed on 15 March 1983, and has since become an important occasion for mobilising citizen action.

 

 

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Casual sexism is alive and kicking in UK boardrooms

Only a day after International Women’s Day, at a Retail Week seminar entitled “How to become a non-exec director”, one was left wondering what role women had as non-executive directors. The session was provided by three male chairmen of boards, one male commercial director and one male chair of panel. Perhaps someone should have a word with the organiser about ensuring some diversity?

During the seminar John Allan, chair of the Tesco board, made remarks about white men becoming an endangered species. The full comment was “If you are female and from an ethnic minority background, preferably both you are in an extremely prepicious period so go for it frankly. For a thousand years, men have got most of these jobs, the pendulum has swung very significantly the other way now and will do for the foreseeable future, I think, so you are at an advantage. If you are a white male, tough. You are an endangered species and you are going to have to work twice as hard.” Harry Wallop, a journalist who chaired the panel, told him to look around the room to see that white men were not an endangered species. Allan later claimed the comments were meant to be humorous and that the audience had enjoyed his “colourful turn of speech” and that he intended to be “humorous, a bit hyperbolic”

I was at that seminar. I did not enjoy the speech, I cringed for him. It was the kind of painful out-of-touch comment only too commonly trotted out by men in the guise of “humour”, with no understanding of the issues or how their comments contribute to the problem of bias towards men in senior positions.

Tesco has 11 board members and 8 of them are men, meaning that at Tesco they’re hardly an endangered species. His comments made it sound like all women would be welcome, regardless of their skills. Why wasn’t he saying something along the lines of “Tesco would welcome applications from more women who are currently under-represented on the board?” We know that there are women out there who can equal or better the skillset of existing board members and Tesco, alongside the majority of other boards, should be saying the same. Allan’s full comments were not reported anywhere, shame really as I (and I’m sure many of us who believe in equality and know that we haven’t reached it) also took issue with the comment “..you are at an advantage.”

He wasn’t the only one casually giving out the sexism though. When asked for advice on taking the first steps into non-exec directorship Jim Pringle from Notum Associates said “…your chairman may be able to help you..”. When asked about how much he gets involved with the CEO, Peter Williams chairman of  Boohoo.com, Mister Spex and U and I Group said “…the CEO is employed to run the business and the executive is employed to support him run the business…”

Maybe they have a point, According to the subsequent Guardian article Call to boycott Tesco over ‘endangered’ white men claim “In the private sector, women accounted for just 29% of directors appointed in the UK last year, according to the recruitment firm Egon Zehnder, the lowest proportion since 2012.”

There are only 6 women CEOs in the FTSE 100. SIX! And the proportion of female directors among FTSE 100 companies is just 26%. The lack of ethnic diversity is a further serious issue on UK boards. According to reports last year, only 8% of those directors were not white, whereas people from minority ethnic backgrounds made up 14% of the UK’s overall workforce.

“Every little helps” is a slogan inextricably linked to Tesco. It’s about time Tesco helped itself to some female talent and helped women by taking their contribution to the workplace seriously, stopped paying lip service to equality and undertook some good diversity training to boot. I may have to put my foot in that boot…

For various stories relating to Tesco and me see History with Tesco which covers taking them to court and winning, various complaints, meetings and interviewing Dave Lewis and Matt Davies.

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