Archive for feedback

‘share’ spamming on Google+

Can you spam people using Google+?

Yes – using the ‘share’ function.

Just now, I got an item in my stream from one ‘Mac MacPherson’. From looking at this ‘incoming’ item, you can clearly see that Google+ lets people who you don’t know and who don’t know you push things at you. Great.

So I tried it out myself. Here’s how you do it. First, publish your piece of mega-spam to your stream. Make sure it contains plenty of calls to actions and links to your Viagra store or Forex trading platforms (or whatever else you’re pushing at people).

1) When you’ve published your lump of spam, click the ‘share’ link underneath it.

2) Delete any circles

3) Start to type ANY name you like in the circle / name field (G+ will kindly fill it for you with tons of people you don’t know and who don’t know you)

4) When you’ve finished adding names, click the green ‘Share’ button

5) Those people will get a notification in their stream that you want to share something with them. They either have to view your post or they can choose to delete it by clicking the little ‘x’

However, the cute bit is that even if they choose to delete you from their stream, they will still have got a notification email from the Google+ noreply containing the full content of your spamming post.

Unless Google does something about this, I think we can expect G+ to drown in a deluge of spam. how do you respond to this?

Is Goodgaragescheme a dishonest way of shifting car treatments masquerading as ‘honest’ feedback?

Quite some time ago I noticed ‘The Good Garage Scheme’ when waiting at my local garage. I asked the owner about it. He told me straight that the only way a garage could be ‘in’ the scheme was by agreeing to stock certain engine treatments. What???!!? Being a fan of honest, credible feedback, this naturally made my ears prick up.

I did some research at the time and, sure enough, he appeared to be right. I blogged about it (generously NOT using the name ‘Good Garage Scheme’ in my title to give them the benefit of the doubt) and then left it alone. Today, however, alerted by a Google search bringing traffic to this site, I found the following recent online review:

“If you’ve never heard of the good garage scheme …well it’s a scheme that any garage can join as long as they sell certain products endorsed by the company behind the scheme. They have a website where you can find good garage scheme garages and also , the most important I thought, leave reviews about the garages you visit. Now if you check their website it would be impossible to find any negative reviews posted for any garage that belongs to their scheme. On the other hand most people would probably think that this is because all the garages are good indeed and that’s why there is no bad reviews. That’s not the case though.

I live in St Albans and I decided to visit xxxx xxx x x xxxxx in St Albans to do a simple wheel alignment. The service I got was horrible. There was a 17 year old kid doing the wheel alignment while the boss ( the mechanic) was sitting in his office with his feet on his desk chatting on his mobile phone.Needless to say that the kid messed it up big time and my car was driving in a straight line with the steering wheel at an angle of 20 degrees!!!!! I complained to the mechanic who immediately tried to blame it on my car and a faulty steering wheel. That was not the case though. He did the wheel alignment and he got the car perfect which proved the point that the kid didn’t know what he was doing and in fact he put my life in danger.

Anyway , this is not a review of xxxxx x xxxx xxxxx who are completely irresponsible and dangerous. I tried to leave a negative review for this garage on the good garage scheme website but of course there was nothing posted and my review will never be posted. This is just a scam scheme. What is the point of posting only positive reviews and ignoring negative ones.

I think that trading standards and the watchdog should have a look at this scheme. In the meantime just run away from any garage under this scheme.”

As I discovered the first time I looked into this, the scheme is operated by Forte – a company supplying high-price, high-margin ‘emission-control’ fuel additives to the garages in the GoodGarageScheme system.

We think this is fundamentally dishonest.

The results? Standards of customer care and quality of work that are worse than non-participating garages!

Yes, in a recent Which? survey Good Garage Schemes performed WORST of all in a test in which cars with a list of basic faults were presented at a range of garages. Check out the Independents’ report on this here – and note the poor GGS performance.

Dixons customer service: finding out the hard way

How good is Dixons’ customer service? If I ever get through to them I’ll let you know

I made the mistake of buying a laptop for my son’s 18th birthday from Dixons.

As I checked out, I was given a delivery slot of 23rd of Dec between 5 and 8pm. As it happened, we weren’t able to be home at that time but there was no note to indicate that a delivery had been attempted.

On Christmas eve, I tried to login to Dixons’ website to track my delivery. When my password didn’t work. I initiated a password reset. Twice. I didn’t receive an email from either. I also found that I had no confirmation of purchase emails either. A friend thinks this has to do with my email hosting provider. Maybe – but I think it may have to do with Dixons not sending them in the first place.

Today, I headed for Dixons’ website to begin the painful process of trying to contact Customer Services. I say painful because according to the reviews I’ve since read, I’m going to be in for a miserable time. I was concerned to find the website down – leaving only that distinctly unprofessional landing page. I checked out @dixonsonline on Twitter but found only a cheery message from Christmas Eve. Talk about missing the point of social media. What’s the point in staying silent when people most need to hear from you?

UPDATE 28th December

I blogged about this problem (no response). Tweeted about it (no reply). I went to Get Satisfaction – a forum that connects people needing customer service with the businesses they’re customers via a highly visible pubic platform – and found a lot of other people very unhappy at Dixons’ service. I also noticed some very good customer service agents at work there, to the company’s credit.

I lifted the email address of one of their agents from someone’s thread and emailed her directly outlining the situation and inviting her to help.

Within a couple of hours I had a response. A very efficient, polite and helpful response too. Hopefully, they’ll sort out my missing laptop tomorrow and deliver it to my son’s address…

I am impressed by the skills of the people representing Dixons on the Get Satisfaction website. I don’t think, however, that many people would find their way there as it’s not clearly linked from Dixons’ website and, when all’s said and done, if Dixons’ are paying cheap and employing rubbish couriers to deliver, then they deserve the reputation it seems they’re getting.

If you’re stuck, I can heartily advise going to Get Satisfaction and talking to the Dixons people on there. They, at least, know how to treat people well – thanks!

Treat everyone like a criminal: a business lesson from Premier Inn

Premier Inn Edinburgh Haymarket’s ironing facilities remind me how easy it is to get stuck in a defensive mindset

I’ve been staying in Premier Inns quite a bit on business over the last month. Nothing wrong with them. As I said in a Tripadvisor review, they do all the basics just about right. But something occurred to me tonight, while I was ironing my shirt for tomorrow’s sessions.

When you’re away on business, and unless you’re wealthy and staying in the very best hotels, ironing a shirt in preparation for doing business the next day is a vital part of getting ready. I don’t know about you, but I can face just about anything with a nice quality, well-ironed shirt.

So why do hotels pay this vital activity so little attention? Why is the equipment they provide of the lowest quality?

In the case of Premier Inn, the irons and boards are kept in ‘Guest Services’ cupboards on each floor. No problem with that but it goes downhill from there. The iron & board combo is a fiendish contraption of a regular (if cheap) steam iron shackled by a curly wire to a metal holder unit fixed to the board.

The problems this arrangement causes are staggering. First, you can’t fill the iron with water. Why? Because there’s no container in your room with a spout. Using a glass results in nothing but a soaked floor. You can’t take the iron to the bathroom – without taking the entire ironing board with you, which is what I ended up having to do. Once there, you STILL can’t hold the iron under the tap – but you CAN now use the glass (spilling gallons of water safely down the sink in the process). Finally the iron has water in it. And now the real fun begins.

Premier Inn has managed to buy the kind of cheap steam iron that, no matter what setting you have it on, leaks water copiously onto your shirt as you go, leaving great stripes of sodden cotton in its wake. These streaks then promptly soak up all the stains on the ironing board underneath (which, of course, isn’t covered in any periodically replaceable fabric cover, but the basic ‘silver’ heat resistant cover).

That’s not the end of things. There you are, ironing yellow stains into the nice clean white shirt that you managed to get the entire length of the country without getting dirty when you realise that the restraining cord is causing the electrical cord to drag sideways against your shirt along the edge of the board. This rucks up the shirt (where you’ve already ironed it), causing immediate and permanent creases.

There are two main lessons here. The first is that this hotel (like so many) fails to spot the opportunity to improve my experience because it doesn’t stop to think about the situation from the customer’s point of view. The second and more important lesson is that to treat everyone else like criminals because someone once stole a cheap iron from you is very short-sighted.

When you’re out and about tomorrow, take a look at how much of the world around you – from the buildings you work in to the processes and systems you use – is built to accommodate the worst possible kind of person, not the best. The worst passenger, the worst employee, the worst patient, the worst consumer.

Then ask yourself: “Do I do this too?”

First Great Western refunds: cynically designed to make you just not bother

First Great Western refund system designed to make you give up

I’ve been complimentary about First Great Western in the past for good reason. The fares from Plymouth to London are reasonable (by comparison with the rest of the country); the staff have always been very friendly even in the most trying of conditions and by and large they’ve got me to London and back on time, safely and in reasonable comfort.

The only areas where First Great Western gets it wrong are the online booking system and – worse – the refunds system.

If you’re just booking one ticket every few months it’s bearable. If, however, like me you have to book a month’s worth in advance you’re heading for trouble. Booking the tickets is slow but reasonably workable. You plod through adding one ticket at a time and then pay for them all in one go. You then get the option to text the booking reference for each journey to your phone. Fiddly but not impossible.

Picking up your tickets is a game of getting your phone out, getting your credit card out and finding the right booking reference amongst multiple booking reference text. Assuming you get that right, you’re on your way.

The real trouble begins if you have to try to change a booking and get a refund. It’s bad enough trying to do it for one, but for several it becomes a nightmare.

At the beginning of the month, I booked 4 return journeys. A week later, something came up at work and I had to travel to different locations throughout the month, with the result that only 50% of my month’s journeys already booked were still relevant.

‘Super advance’ tickets of the kind I’d booked cannot be refunded directly. You can, however, get a refund (minus £10 administration fee) providing you re-book the same journey on a different date AND you pay the new fares at the point of booking. IF you send the printed tickets by recorded delivery to Edinburgh you will then get the refunds (- £10 for each booking) credited back to you.

In my case, I had to call the helpline in India to change 3 journeys. To prepare for this call required printing out this and next month’s diary in order to choose days on which I would rebook the new journeys. I also had to have to hand the original online booking references for each of the bookings I wanted to change. This all took about 30 minutes of intense concentration to find.

The call itself took 18 minutes. Booking by booking, I had to give the original reference number, specifiy which journey I wanted to change, specify the date and time of the new journey, give my debit card details and recieve a NEW online booking code. I repeated this process 3 times (save repeating the card number).

By the end of the hour, I had 3 new 1/2 journeys booked into next month (meaning that when I come to book that month, I had to omit booking those parts of my month’s travel); I’d lost £30 in administration fees, received 3 new online booking codes which I have to write into my phone by hand AND earned myself a trip to the Post Office (time I can’t afford tomorrow) to send – at great cost – my old tickets to a PO Box in Edinburgh. Oh, and I ended up with bookings next month NOT in the quiet carriage because the Indian booking office clearly doesn’t have access to the seat allocations in the quiet coach.

So what was my payoff for all that trouble? £60 refunds redeemed against some oddly booked single journeys next month.

Sorry, First Great Western. I can’t help but think you’ve set it up this way to avoid having to give any refunds. I should know. I just tore up one £36 ticket that I didn’t use last week simply because at the time I was too busy to face the hassle of trying to get a refund on it.

Online reputation management case study: VoloTV listens to feedback, makes changes

My brief encounter with VoloTV shows the basics of good reputation management – with an extra ingredient

Proof you can use a laptop in a VoloTV seat

Earlier this week I found myself in a train seat staring at a newly-installed VoloTV screen that was unexpected, a bit too close for comfort and impossible to switch off.  The 3 colleagues travelling with me felt the same – so, by way of feedback, covered the screens with large-scale bright orange Post-It notes saying how we felt.  Later, I blogged and tweeted about it.

The next day, I got a call from Yeshpaul Soor, the MD of VoloTV thanking me for the feedback (‘I’ve got your notes here in my office’) and assuring me that he was resetting ALL the VoloTVs in the First Great Western network so that the customer (and non-customer) alike will be able to switch it off.  He then invited me to visit the VoloTV office to learn about the system and get set up for some free viewing on my trip home to Plymouth.

Simple online reputation done really well:

1) Monitor the web for news items, blog posts and particularly Twitter tweets about your business

2) Go out of your way to connect with those people – pick up the phone!

3) Admit what you’ve done wrong and offer to put it right

4) Go the ‘extra mile’ to win the respect of your critics

And the extra ingredient?

Having first chosen to locate VoloTV in the distinctly unglamorous bowels of Paddington Station, Yeshpaul Soor then made it his business to get to know everyone there – from the gateline staff to the train cleaners.  The same cleaners who picked up our feedback notes and took them to him within 30 minutes of our having written them.

Is VoloTV for me? Not really – but that’s just a matter of taste, and with a business model that only needs 7% of passenger journeys to pay, VoloTV can afford me not to be a paying customer. I found myself listening to several episodes of Outnumbered while Tweeting and playing Scrabble on my iPhone. The sound and picture quality is great but I’m not much of a TV watcher at the best of times. About the only thing I did look up for was highlights of a 2006 football match between Liverpool and Arsenal where Peter Crouch scored a hat-trick and got to keep the match ball. Nice.

I suspect that I’ll carry on booking myself into the Quiet Carriage for my journeys but one thing’s certain: with a willingness to listen to and act on difficult feedback, VoloTV has earned my respect and improved it’s online reputation at the same time.

User reviews into Adwords??

What’s Google doing adding reviews to Adwords listings in search results?

For some time I’ve been thinking that the anonymous user review + the competitive environment of Google search = a disastrous formula for all concerned.  Why? Because anonymity pretty much guarantees that reviews end up being used to ‘game’ the market. This isn’t me being negative about human nature, this is just pragmatism.  If 97% of all email sent everyday is spam…well, you get what I’m saying.

Now, Google is going to put user reviews into the search results beneath paying advertiser’s ads. But which reviews? Apparently, those that come from a ‘closed’ system provided by a partner,  According to this report, review information will only be added from a review system if the organisation using it agrees.

(picture from Earthblog News)

So who’s going to want truly open and potentially critical reviews turning up in the search results next to their carefully crafted, paid-for Google ads?  Er, no-one. They’re going to want nice reviews that will make their ads look more attractive. Bye bye transparency.

All of which continues to make a mockery of the noble ideas about feedback and transparency that social media pundits like to talk about. The true value of feedback in business (as in life) is its role in driving learning, development and change but Google – like every other business dealing in ‘user generated reviews’ – is only interested in feedback as a commodity it can trade to businesses seeking competitive advantage.

So what’s Google doing adding reviews to paid ads in the search results? Just more of what it’s always been doing from the start: converting human knowledge into cash via the technology of the ‘keyword’.

Don’t be evil? Don’t make me laugh. I can’t help think that Google has been nothing but – and that we’ve colluded with it every step of the way ;-)

Online reputation monitoring tools: I just don’t get it

Why am I finding online reputation monitoring tools so ineffective?

First of all, I expect this post to bring some responses from various people behind the reputation monitoring tools that I’m going to mention.  You wouldn’t expect anything else, right? :-)

I’m posting because I’ve now tried out a few of these tools and I just can’t make sense of them.

Of course, that could all be down to me.  On the other hand, it could be something they’re doing wrong.  I genuinely don’t know which it is.

Continue Reading…

How to give great customer service – not :-)

Enjoy this real-life customer service interaction that I had yesterday


I signed up with a UK-based online graphic email marketing company a couple of days ago to help promote a friends’ short charity campaign. We had 4 days and counting to get 2000 emails out. It’s a ‘vote for my YouTube’ campaign – cut off point Friday, so time (clearly) was of the essence.

Having used this particular company before (doh!) I went straight to their site and tried to sign up. Ah, no buy button. Anywhere. Bizarre. I know what I want… I just can’t buy it.

I phoned them and asked how I could buy the product I knew I needed. I was told rudely that I had to sign up for a free account. Uh? ‘Then you convert it to a paid one’. I offered him the feedback that nowhere did it tell me that information. He couldn’t care less.

Despite that experience, I signed up for two reasons: 1) I’d used the software before and although it was cranky, at least I knew it worked in the end and 2) my friend was running out of time. She paid her money and I then spent a full 4 hours (yes, 4) fighting with the visual editor to create the newsletter email.

I triumphantly pressed ‘send to mailing list’ – and got a message saying ‘cannot send until your account is verified’.

Nothing in the help made sense of that message and there was no online help (as it was 8pm in the evening by that time).

So we lost 14 hours or so – until I had the chance to get onto them via a live support chat widget the next day. Here’s what happened.

Sam: Hi – signed up yesterday, been trying to send to mailing list since yest PM but says ‘account not verified’ – verified account yesterday afternoon.  Can you pls look into that for me

Joe: Hi Sam

Sam: Hello – did you see my question?

Joe: yes

Joe: let me check your account

Sam: thanks

Joe: your account is now verified Sam

Sam: Thanks, any explanation what happened?  Lost us quite a bit of time out of a 4 day campaign.

Joe: all accounts need to be verified before they can send anything other than test sends. You need to request verification when you are ready to send out to a list.

Sam: We clicked the verification email link yesterday.  Is that what you mean?  If not, where does it tell me we need *another* kind of verification?

Joe: no, problem – you’re verified now and can use the account to send straight away

Sam: Joe, would appreciate an answer to my question

Joe: there is no < verification link >

Joe: maybe you mean the < activation link >

Sam: Ok.  So I clicked < activation link > in email.  Where does it tell me I need to < verify > my account before I can send?

Joe: when you try to send an email, the pop-up will tell you that you need to contact support to have the account verified

Sam: Nope.  It just pops up and tells me ‘Can’t send because your account isn’t verified’  it doesn’t tell me to contact support.

Joe: what point are you trying to make Sam ?

Joe: the account is now verified

Sam: The point I’m making is that your system a) uses ‘verify’ in a way that a customer won’t understand is different from ‘activate’ b) it then fails to send but doesn’t tell me clearly why c) it doesn’t say contact support

Sam: Result is I couldn’t get this send out last night, costing my friend 14 hrs out of her campaign

Joe: would you prefer us to cancel the account and refund your money

Sam: Did I ask for that?

Joe: you state that this caused ” your friend ” – is this YOUR account Sam ?

Sam: Listen, Joe – before you start trying to be confrontational, please be aware that I work in online reputation management – I will be blogging this experience

Sam: This account is for a friend who is running a campaign

Sam: a charity campaign

Joe: actually – if you are a charity

Sam: She signed up for the account, I created the newsletter

Sam: She isn’t a registered charity yet

Joe: we do offer a free account to not-for-profit

Sam: thank you but she is not a charity yet

Joe: ok

Sam: Ok, before I go

Sam: I called Aacme Graphic Email Marketing yesterday to offer you some feedback about how hard it was to buy your product

Sam: – I got a rude reception

Sam: I eventually signed up and haven’t had a satisfactory experience with information definately missing

Sam: with the result I couldn’t send, have lost time and don’t feel very good about Aacme Graphic Email Marketing

Sam: I contact you for support and you’re reluctant to either accept my feedback (which could possibly save you a lot of lost sales) or give me a satisfactory account of why the site doesn’t offer the right information

Sam: so…

Sam: it’s not great.

Sam: Thank you for ‘validating’ – I have sent the emails

Joe: the reason for the verification process is to limit our exposure to spammers. Every account needs to be manually verified

Joe: this gives our clients a better experience once they have been validated

Joe: as there is less chance of our systems and network being corrupted by spammers

Joe: we are sorry if this has caused you any inconvenience

Sam: Joe, that’s fine – but if you p*ss them off before they even get ‘validated’ (by not telling them that’s what needs to happen) then you won’t get to give them a better experience

Joe: This is not usually the case

Sam: Seriously how would you know?

Sam: Who ever takes the time to fight through your defensiveness to give you this feedback? Hmm?  Seriously

Joe: via the amount of sign ups we get

Joe: and yes we do get feedback

Sam: Oh, lordy.  How about the ones you DON’T get

Joe: generally via our live support

Sam: Anyway, look, I still hear you don’t want to accept my feedback

Sam: so thanks for sorting this out

Joe: no we do

Sam: and I’m outta here

Joe: and it has been taken on board

Sam: ciao

Joe: have a good day Sam

Sam: you too