I’m a big fan of ZipCar. I love the convenience, utility, and sweet iPhone App (that let’s you honk the horn of Zipcars from your phone!) … but until yesterday, I was a sworn enemy of their customer service.
This summer, I booked a car for 5 hours to get to a conference in Connecticut where I was speaking. Click, click, vrrrrmmmm. I was on my way. Four hours later I figured I’d extend my reservation in case I hit traffic, and when I busted out my iPhone app, no current reservation was found. Weird. So I called them and learned that apparently, not only did I “not have a reservation” but my car was three hours past due! (The result of a web reservation glitch / user error.) Then they tacked on a $150 late fee. “But that’s impossible, I booked it for five hours,” I told them. “Sorry sir, you can submit an appeal to your local office.” NOT COOL!
So, I appealed. I wrote them an email that afternoon, hoping to hear back. Nothing. Weeks went by and I sent a follow up. This time, I got a response saying: “Thank you for contacting Zipcar. Unfortunately, we cannot reimburse the late fee you had received. […] Here are a few tips to help avoid late return fees…” Tips to avoid late fees? Are you kidding me? I want to talk to a human being. Not an auto-response. So I responded, telling them I’d like to discuss the situation and was not okay with how this was handled. Guess what? No response.
A few weeks go by and at this point I’m fed up. The tough part is that I really do love the company. I think what they do is great and what they enable is amazing. But warm fuzzy feelings don’t justify completely ignoring a loyal customer. So I do what I believe is the future (and present, let’s be real) and turn to social. It’s time to socialize the heck out of this. A one-to-one conversation via email can easily slip through the cracks, but calling them to action across my two most active social channels is the ultimate test. So I Google image “not cool” and find a sweet photo to post on their Facebook page, with a quick description of my issue – primarily the lack of response on their end, above and beyond the late fee. We all know images catch more eyes on the feed. I was hoping it would catch theirs.
Of course, a cross-platform strategy is essential. I followed up my Facebook post with a nicely compact 140 character complaint – putting a “.” Before the “@Zipcar” so all could see.
The next day I got a call from the General Manager of Zipcar’s Boston office, who apologized for their lack of responsiveness and “dropping the ball.” Within five minutes, she refunded the $150 late fee, gave me her office line, and told me to call her directly with any future issues. Woaaah – social for the win!
I thought it only fair in my renewed happy Zipster state to inform my social network of the incredible experience and Zipcar’s social savviness! So I took to Facebook and Twitter to share the love.
They even thanked me for being their favorite tweet of the day!
Since I overthink pretty much everything, I couldn’t stop thinking about what just happened, the future of customer service, and the power of the social consumer.
Would they respond the same way if I had hardly any friends and followers? How about if I called them directly and didn’t share it across social? Why does anyone go through typical customer service middle-men / channels when social gets you straight to the top? Will this approach work in 3, 5, 10 when social CRM becomes mainstream? And most glaringly, how does any brand still NOT have a team, or at the very least a dedicated and empowered community manager to surprise, delight, and over-deliver every day?
Do you have any great social customer service stories? Would love to hear ‘em!
Thank you for being awesome, @Zipcar! Your fan, (pun intended!) -David