How important is customer service? My experience at Valvoline

Excellent customer service, whether online or in person, makes or breaks a business. We’re not in a Seinfeld-esque world where people will tolerate “Soup-Nazi” style service, instead, we’re living in a time where EVERYONE can have a voice. Businesses that focus on providing kick-ass service online and offline will make it through and flourish.

Too many people misunderstand the importance of what social media is and what it’s capable of achieving. Many of my friends perceive my infatuation with social networks as worthless and assume that it’s a fetish comparable to being an adamant sports fan. Understanding social media is further convoluted by those that staunchly believe that they have never and will never buy anything on Facebook, from Pinterest, or as a result of someone’s tweet on Twitter. At least once over the next year, I guarantee that you’ll make a purchase (or not make one) that was influenced by social media.

Last Monday, in recognition of my favorite president, Grover Cleveland, I celebrated Presidents’ Day by purchasing an oil change. A few days prior, I had received a coupon in the mail for a discount off of my next oil change, and, as a person fixated on getting the most bang for my buck, I brought along the $10 discount coupon for my premium oil change. I’ve been getting my oil change at Valvoline and expected the traditional “upselling” and subpar service that often accompanies a trip to a car mechanic.

I wasn’t disappointed as I received both terrible service and an inquiry on the condition of my car. I didn’t mind the “upsell” as the gentleman was very nice while asking about my sparkplugs. What did bother me, and what will keep me from going to a Valvoline again, was a combination of bad customer service throughout my stay.

Before proceeding, let me clear up one thing. I rarely write reviews as I often empathize with customer service workers dealing with disgruntled customers.

My day at Valvoline starts …

  1. I drove to the Valvoline Instant Oil Change, walked inside, and was told to move my car up to the garage door and park it next in line.
  2.  Once I walked back inside, no one is at the counter.
  3. The line behind me gets longer. Seven minutes pass and no service.
  4. The clerk takes my keys after I tell her i’m looking for a high mileage – premium change. She doesn’t thank me but moves on to those next in line looking for an oil change by asking “who else needs a change?”.
  5. After my oil change, the clerk calls “Honda Accord”. That’s not my name.
  6. She starts to ring me out, but calls me by my first name, Andrew. Somehow she actually knew my name.
  7. She rings me up after I give her my $10 off coupon. She puts it in as $6 off. I nicely point out the error and she explains that the $10 off is for a tire rotation. I mention that i’m from out of state and that the coupon does say $10 off a premium change.
  8. She goes out and speaks to her manager to ask if this is okay She comes back in, attempts to input the $10 off, it fails. She goes back to her manager and he comes in as well. They explain to me that because my discount is out of state, they won’t honor it, but will give me the $6 discount.
  9. They don’t place the oil sticker on my car, rather, they hand it to me.

There are many reasons why my experience could have been so sub-par. Perhaps the clerk felt under the weather or was having a bad day. Maybe they were completely understaffed and trying to do the best job possible. Or maybe they just didn’t care. Whatever the reason, people that go to the Internet and social media to write about their bad experience are impacting future sales for the business. If I raved about Valvoline, I might tell all my friends. If I had an awful experience, I might swear off of Valvoline Instant Oil Change forever. And, worst of all…

I could go on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp etc. and explain my situation while pushing it to my six-thousand+ contacts. In this situation, unless Valvoline Instant Oil Change is watching social media, they won’t realize my dissatisfaction with their service or what I would be saying about this brand.

Why does this matter? Let’s say I convince three current Valvoline customers to never go there again because of a bad customer service experience and they can identify with me, that $4 compounds into much more. Considering people like to frequent the same mechanics and auto body shops, this adds up. Now, maybe each of these three people convince another three…

Sure, a large business, such as Valvoline, won’t be greatly impacted. But what if this was a small restaurant or business?

And what can Valvoline do to change? The easiest fix is to monitor social media channels, take me offline, and remedy the problem. Perhaps then I will give them an excellent online customer service review for their handling of the situation. Obviously, they could also change their store customer service, but having a brand notice the problem is enough to hopefully start making a change.

That’s great, but won’t people just abuse this? They haven’t yet, why would they try? It can be embarrassing for someone to spout off about a business, have the business remedy the problem, and continue doing it. This is why people mock others behind their backs but won’t say anything face-to-face.

Is social media powerful? Absolutely. Can your small, mid-sized, or large business afford to avoid what’s being said about them online? Do you ever share your less than positive customer service experiences on your social channels?

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Am I more social when focusing on Klout?

Your Klout score may mean everything in social media. Well, not everything, but it means a lot. For all you social media fanatics, or even job searchers, this post is for you. 

Klout is a scoring system analyzing your activity on social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, Tumblr, Instagram among others. 

Many social gurus and social freaks HATE Klout. They dislike it so much that they choose to opt out or consistently rant about how it’s ruining social media and relationship building. 

To be honest, I once shared that same mindset. 

My old mindset was this: Klout is ruining interpersonal relationships. Those concerned with their Klout score focus more on adding mass amounts of followers and less on maintaining relationships. 

People trying to game the system care more about the numbers than the interactions. 

It’s a great argument and one that isn’t wrong; it’s just incomplete.

WARNING: “social gurus and experts”, please close your eyes.

I’m guessing that if I focus on improving my Klout score, I will improve my score by at least 5 points and make new friends along the way. Will this make me a bad person that cares only about self improvement? No. It will signify that i’m sick of sitting around and waiting for individuals to come to me and show that i’m interested in creating and nurturing new relationships. 

It will accomplish the real aim of social media, which is to aid in social interactions. And maybe i’ll get some cool stuff from Klout, too! 

Watch out LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Stumble Upon, and WordPress. I’m coming for you. 

My goal is this: until December 10th rolls around, I will focus on raising my Klout score as much as possible. Each week I will provide an update with my score and with news of my progress, or lack of it, and tactics that i’ve found help. I’ll strengthen this Klout muscle.

Am I ridiculous for focusing on my Klout score? 

Tweet While You Work: Developing a Social Graph Helps Business

Facebook and Twitter LogosFacebook and Twitter are not just fun things to do in your off hours; they are tools for success in business. They are living, breathing devices that create networking opportunities and business leads. If you want to continue using social media as a way to keep up on celebrity gossip, photo stalking, and your most recent game of Farmville, please do. But if you want to see what opportunities are available in your life, it’s time to truly become social.

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9 Tips and Tricks for Entry PR Employment

Are you looking for tips, tricks, and advice for finding entry level PR employment after graduation? Assuming your college biography mentions multiple internships, a PR degree, a vast network, and incredible writing experiences, you may stand a chance of finding a job. Realistically, your resume isn’t that complete. While the economy is starting to turn around, it’s time to stop making excuses for why you’re still unemployed and to start taking action. The following tips and tricks are what I found game-changing when searching for employment.

1. What is Success for you? Strategize the skills needed to succeed
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6 Social Media Resolutions for 2012

2012: Year for Your Social Media Resolutions

1. Be a first responder

The old adage “success comes to those that wait” is not always true. The people that jump on the bandwagon or jump before it often benefit in social media. Think of Facebook. If you waited until now to join Facebook, you and your business are already behind in the game. The people that take necessary risks succeed

2. Slow and Steady…

…wins the social media race. Companies that expect to crush their competition within a month of using social media need not apply. We have all heard that “social media is a marathon and not a race”. To win a marathon, you need to learn to outlast and out train your competition. You won’t have a viral video or Twitter account overnight; it took Justin Bieber a while to become successful.

3. Tweet 20 Times a Day

Maybe some of your friends will unfollow you, but if they are real friends then this shouldn’t matter. Ask yourself, what do you want to get done on Twitter? Do you want to create and maintain relationships? How will you get this done without maintaining a constant stream of contact?

4. Blog 3 Times a Week

Most people shy away from creating content online. A minority of people produce content and even fewer produce content worth sharing. It’s better to write often than to not write at all

5. Re-Assess Facebook

Sure, updating a Facebook Timeline will make a difference, but so will changing the way Facebook is used. Timeline has radically changed the way to view Facebook (Hubspot).

6. Maximize Google+ and LinkedIn

Make an effort to remain active on both networks. Google has enough money to make Google+ work. Think of it as the NBA’s Miami Heat. So much money and talent is poured in that Google+ and the Heat are destined to be successful.

LinkedIn is truly a resource that should be used by anyone and everyone. Take the time to network and add people that you know. Join some groups and create relationships. LinkedIn is a tool unlike any other, so stop comparing it as an adult Facebook.

Social Media is like Spanish

Have you seen the similarities between Spanish and Social Media? To many business owners, both are intimidating foreign languages. For others, the belief is that rudimentary skills are all that is necessary. But, for the businesses that get it, Spanish and Social Media strength is what sets them apart.

Closed door– They should just speak our language

A common belief is that all foreigners in the USA should speak English. While English is a useful language, we can’t be ignorant and expect everyone in America to speak it fluently and effortlessly. With changing demographics in the USA, it is smart business to have multilingual workers. If I want to give your business money, do you want to turn me away?

This is the same approach that many business owners possess towards Social Media. They think that it is a trend and not worth learning. “Why should I accommodate?” This discrimination against such a game-changing medium is as problematic as not having a business phone-number in the 1990s. In the nicest way possible, your days in business are numbered.

Ignorance – My cousin or employee took Spanish/ grew up on Social Media

Let’s role play – Imagine that I barely speak English, but I am interested in purchasing merchandise from you. Are you going to turn me away? Probably not. I have money and money speaks. So, you send over your 25 year old worker/nephew, who took Spanish in high school. As I am checking out, the employee say Ano instead of Año. Woops!

A common business misconception is that everyone in Generation Y “gets” Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Just because you have an employee that uses social media doesn’t mean that they understand it. Is their Facebook profile a picture of them with an ice luge? Chances are that they shouldn’t be running your social pages. Facebook and Twitter language is a completely different world. The generation gap is deepening. Consider this; the people that are currently going through school today have never known life without a cellphone. What’s a fax machine?

Not knowing how to correctly speak Spanish or use social media can be just as detrimental as not doing it at all. Many people think that the reason their Facebook attempt is unsuccessful is due to a lack of interest. If you have a great product, Facebook/Twitter done well is the difference between success and failure.

Open Arms– “Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”Chinese Proverb

The people that understand social media are the ones that embrace change and attempt to use it to leverage their business. These are the business owners that decide to employ Spanish speakers after noticing  the demographic trends in America. They rock!

It is these same business owners that reach out to learn new social networks and how their business can benefit. These owners may be in networking groups that bring in speakers to discuss new trends (@WestchesterIRL really opened my eyes to these types of people), or sign up for social media classes. They may not be the best in the field, but they understand that ignorance will shorten their business’s life span. They are the ones that are maximizing their current business potential and will be in flourishing in the next few years.

As a member of Generation Y, I can assure you that traditional marketing strategies rarely work on me. I understand that many people still enjoy the idea of “push marketing”, but businesses can’t assume that currents strategies will provide business longevity. If your business discriminates against social media, you’re in trouble.

What’s the Deal With QR Codes?

qrcode
I’ve been on a QR code spree. Anything and everything that scans with a QR Reader falls prey to my iPhone4, Dwight (named after the famous Dwight Shrute. Move over, Siri). It’s viral marketing at its best. After all, mobile is the future

So, what is a QR Code? They are those little boxes that look like barcodes. As everyone should do when beginning research, a quick Wikipedia search finds

“A QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is a type of matrix barcode [which} consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be made up of any kind of data (e.g., binary, alphanumeric symbols).”

So, in human speech, QR codes are essentially little website links that you “click” on with a QR Code Scanner located on your cell phone. These links can bring you to a website address, social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Blog, LinkedIn, Google+ accounts), discounts, videos of merchandise etc.

There are even programs which aggregate different links together for your business (check out http://tagitup.net)

 F.A.Q’s

What can a QR Code do?

QR codes allow people viewing to see the information in the code. Are you interested in a whether a gadget works? There’s a video for that. For some reason, you want to know the ingredients of your McRib (check out 16 QR Code uses for restaurants)

Why should I care?

QR codes have been around for years in Japan and have had great success. Instead of being behind the eight ball, it’s time to move to “new” technologies and ideas to help your business. Plus, there are plenty of people like me around that will pull out a QR reader the second a QR code is available, which ultimately drives traffic to your social media network, websites, business etc

Where can I find a QR Code. Is it free? 

You can do a simple Google search to find a QR code generator. Personally, I use http://qrcode.kaywa.com/. And, it is absolutely free

But I don’t have a smart-phone! 

Don’t worry about it! All you need is a cell-phone with a camera (and you need to be willing to pay for a little data). You then send the photo to your computer. It’s a little indirect, but you’re not out of luck

Where will I find them?

Anywhere and everywhere. I’ve seen them on traditional mail media, at Brookstone as a product tag video, on the windows of businesses, my resume, car windows, business cards

Can I customize my QR Code?

Absolutely! I customized my face into my website QR. What you can do depends on the readability of the QR. Use QRHacker for editing abilities or pay extra for a designer

What’s a good QR Code reader to download?

I use QRReader for my iPhone4, but there are plenty of other ones

As a disclaimer, be wary of situations in which a QR Code may have questionable content. QR Codes have the ability to contain viruses and other malicious content that could take control of your phone’s functionality