I have a terrible customer service story to share. It is a story of bait and switch advertising so blatant that everyone I tell it to is shocked by the brazenness of it. People literally get mad just hearing the story.
But something happened as I began writing the story this weekend: I found myself having to explain why I was not mentioning the company by name.
As I wrote, I realized that I have never really discussed why I generally don’t call out companies by name on this blog (there are rare exceptions), and I realized that the answer was going to take more than a quick paragraph — that it deserved a blog post of its own.
So, today I would like to explain the reasoning behind that philosophy, and if you would like to hear my enraging customer service story, please come back on Thursday.
Obviously, here at Customers That Stick we focus on discussing customer service and the customer experience. Customer service stories are an important part of that discussion, whether they appear in the comment section or in our customer service stories series (as highlighted on our menu below).
Here’s the catch though: some stories are positive and some stories are not.
We react differently to negative information than we do to positive information.
If I share a positive customer story, then people will take away a message not only about the company itself but also about what can be learned from the company’s performance.
With negative customer service stories, the message tends to get lost. It tends to be all about the company.
If that is the case, then what value does the conversation bring to this community?
If you want to read stories about bad customer service then there are no shortage of venues for that. I think we can all agree that finding stories of bad customer service on the Internet is not too difficult. Knowing which ones are credible, of course, is an entirely different matter.
Here’s the thing: I do not think people who call a company out by name are wrong to do so. When I read negative customer service stories on the blogs of friends and colleagues, I often comment and participate in the discussion. If the stories are factual and constructive in their approach, then they can provide valuable feedback to a company and valuable lessons to others.
But here at Customers That Stick, it would just be too easy to do.
We have been ramping up our guest post program this year, and I imagine if we openly solicited ideas along the lines of send us your customer service horror stories that we would have a full year’s worth of guest posts lined up in a few weeks.
But is that what I want this blog to be about? Is that what I want the Customers That Stick brand to be about?
This purpose of this blog is to move forward a conversation about improving customer service and the customer experience. Sure, sometimes we’ll take quick detours and talk about subjects that are not strictly on topic. But these diversions are infrequent and, hopefully, do no more than add depth and humanness to the brand — without redefining it.
Does this mean that we will never write anything critical about any company? Absolutely not. But those criticisms are constructive process criticisms — not complaints about a bad experience.
For instance, my experience contacting Apple customer service via phone left a lot to be desired, but overall I’m an Apple fan and have a lot positive things to say about their customer experience processes. Similarly, I have a huge amount of respect for Amazon but am tinkering around with an idea for a post about how it could improve its online ratings system.
However, these are not heat of the moment stories about a bad experience; these are dispassionate analyses of potential process improvements.
I want to emphasize again that this decision is not a value judgement; it is a content and community choice. This is a decision about what I want people to experience when they come here and what I want them to take away.
Negative customer service stories are important. Learning what not to do can be as important as learning what to do. But if the lesson is what matters, then the name of the company really does not.
Let’s recognize bad service moments for what they can teach us…
…and let the Internet take care of the rest.
In that spirit, please join me on Thursday when we discuss a car company’s deceptive offer in Fine Print is Inevitable; Bait and Switch is Not.
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.