I had a bit of a ‘situation’ with a travel insurance company recently. They had been debiting my account for an annual policy without my knowledge and still taking my money when I took out individual policies for short trips that would have been covered by the self same annual policy.
The maddening thing was how the company chose to deal with the situation. After a quick call to cancel the ‘ghost policy’, I was told that if I wanted to talk to someone about getting a refund I would have to email the complaints department.
After waiting ten days for a reply – even one acknowledging that they’d received my email and that someone was looking at it – I rummaged around the company website and dug out a phone number for the complaints department. It was a premium rate number, of course, that I rang five times, during office hours, only to receive a recorded message telling me to call back during office hours or to leave a message and they’d call back. They never did.
Frustrated and angry, I took to social media, leaving bitter messages on both their Facebook wall and Twitter feed. I got replies to both almost immediately. And within a week I received a cheque for the cost of the errant annual policy.
Now, some may see my experience as an example of the power of social media – a disgruntled customer dealt with quickly and efficiently. But the reality is rather different.
For one thing, I don’t want to play out my disputes in public. I just want them sorted out as quickly and painlessly as possible. By failing to deal with my issue using more traditional – and private – channels, they created an angry and frustrated customer. A customer who vented that anger and frustration in a very public forum, visible both to existing and potential customers.
The funny thing, I wasn’t really angry because they’d overcharged me. Mistakes happen. I was angry because they didn’t respond to my initial efforts to resolve it.
It got me thinking though.
How many organisations have neglected traditional methods of dealing with complaints because they feel they have to deal instantly with those made in the more public forums of Facebook, Twitter and TripAdvisor?
And how many of those complaints on Facebook, Twitter and TripAdvisor are only there because an organization failed to respond properly though more traditional methods?
In our rush to embrace new technologies, it seems we have forgotten that sometimes the old ways are the best.
What was that old saying about not airing your dirty laundry in public?