Reporting Kurtis Ming
They were frustrated, paying customers who couldn’t get results from their phone companies, they said.
Tom Triplett had called customer service about his $200 AT&T overcharge, but two months later, he was still waiting.
“[I've spent] at least 10 hours on the phone with them,” Triplett said. “I don’t feel like the calls have been effective at all.”
Alan Washburn was in a similar situation — he had racked up about 12 hours on the phone with Sprint trying to get a $1,100 overcharge corrected, he said.
“You’re stuck! You can’t do anything,” he said.
And Jasmine Bradley, a new Comcast customer, said she had a number of billing problems since installation — and 8 hours on the phone still hadn’t resolved it.
“It’s just been a disaster,” she said.
All three told CBS13 they had seen a cultural shift — customer service going down the toilet.
“[I've seen it] even in the past 10 years, where companies just really don’t seem to care,” Bradley said.
But now, consumers have a voice they didn’t have a decade ago — computers, phones and tablets that can broadcast to the world with the power of social networking.
But do companies care what you say about them online?
“I’ve never Twittered,” said Triplett, smiling.
CBS13 decided to conduct a test, using social media.
A producer asked Triplett, Washburn and Bradley to sign up for Twitter — a platform none of them had ever used before.
After creating their usernames, the three summarized their complaints into 140 characters, the maximum length of messages on Twitter, and named the companies in hopes of getting a response.
“I’m not gonna be surprised if we don’t hear back,” Washburn said. “I think that if this works, it’s genius.”
Evolving Customer Service
For the customer service industry, social media is a game changer, said John Segale, President of Precision Public Relations.
Savvier companies are tracking their reputations online, said Segale, and negative postings can hurt a business.
“You’ve gotta have that instantaneous response,” he said.
Philadelphia-based Comcast is one of the companies leading the social media surge in customer service. The company employs 10 specialized representatives who scan Twitter, Facebook and message boards to see what customers are saying.
“The customers who aren’t expecting a response, who aren’t going to twitter just to meet us there, are surprised,” said Melissa Mendoza, known on Twitter as @ComcastMelissa.
Asked about customers who might defame Comcast by tweets, she said, “Good or bad feedback, whatever it is, we’re there and we’re responding.”
“This is here to stay,” Segale said of social media outreach in customer service. “It’s revolutionizing business every day.”
Within 15 minutes of sending out her tweet to Comcast, Bradley already had a tweet back to her Twitter name.
“We got a response from Melissa at Comcast,” she said. “She says, ‘That’s terrible, I’m sorry for the trouble. Email the full details, we’ll get this addressed for you.’”
Bradley emailed Comcast and the company fixed her problem.
Sprint got back to Washburn, just 10 minutes after his tweet, and reversed the extra charges on his bill within two days.
And for Triplett, AT&T tweeted back the next morning asking for the best number at which to call him, which it did. The company finally dropped the $200 overcharge from his account.
“Three months ago, I wish I’d have known or thought about Twitter,” he said.
CBS13′s Twitter experiment worked, getting results in all three of the consumers’ cases — accomplishing in minutes online what they said they couldn’t do in hours over the phone.
“That’s kinda cool,” said Bradley. “I would much prefer this to sitting on hold forever.”
“It’s a tremendous timesaver,” said Triplett.
“Oh, tweeting,” Bradley said. “This is my new medium.”