Allstate: Not In Good Hands When It Comes to Social Media Customer Care
Aaron Perlut | Partner
I hate seeing brands fail in the customer service realm.
Perhaps this is because I spent 10 years working for energy utilities where there is a premium on customer service; or because our Elasticity team developed and led Charter/Spectrum Communications’ social media customer service practice for nearly seven years; or maybe because, as a consumer, I just want a company to live up to its brand promise.
Customer service does not require extensive knowledge of psychology. It comes down to a simple premise: Giving a shit. If you care about a customer’s plight, take pride in what you do, and work to resolve customer issues to the best of your ability — consumers feel it and your brand reaps the benefits.
But all brands and their commitments to customer service — or “customer care” as we call it in the digital space — are not created equally. It’s a hard truth that each and every one of us has experienced and something I learned this weekend about Allstate — a company I’ve long-admired (and even wrote about for Forbes several years ago.)
This was my personal experience the past weekend:
On Saturday, April 13, I received a letter saying one of my accounts did not get paid as scheduled through direct deposit and was now being removed from Allstate’s Easy Pay system. There was no bill to send in a payment nor a toll-free phone number to call on the letter.
Concerned, I phoned my agent and, as expected because it was Saturday, was patched through to the Allstate customer call center.
I then went through a painfully long voice response unit (or VRU). After hitting about five or six digits to supposedly get to a human who could help me, the VRU hung up on me. Good times.
Rise, wash, repeat. The VRU hung up on two more times. Even better times.
Finally, annoyed and curious about how Allstate would respond from a social media customer care perspective, I sent out an admittedly pissy tweet at 1:54 pm.
As an American consumer I’ve had to deal with dozens upon dozens of customer service voice response unit on toll-free lines. The one that I just endured with @Allstate – The one that hung up on me three times – was by far the worst experience in my 48 years. Ugh
Two minutes later, Allstate responded — a great sign!
One of our top priorities is making sure that we are available when you need us. We apologize that you recently had trouble reaching Customer Service and we have already started looking into possible solutions to make sure this goes more smoothly in the future. ^ YH
OK, so my needs, right now, are Allstate’s top priority. Awesome! But they didn’t tell me how they can help me. Standard operating procedure would be a suggestion of a direct message conversation. I’m already on edge after being hung up on three times, so this just further irritates me, most likely because I know how this can be done effectively. Hence, I fire off an even pissier response.
Simple solution: Try having someone actually speak with me as opposed to using pitiful technology or social media customer care
Needless to say, there was no direct engagement for the remainder of Saturday. But some 26 hours later I was watching the NBA playoffs and saw an Allstate ad which reminded me that I’d still gotten no response. I tweeted again.
Still waiting for that call @Allstate …. Great work social media customer care team….errr
Again, nothing, nada, ARGH! I stand down for the day.
Finally, it’s Monday morning. I get up early, work out, and frantically get the kids off to school. Then out of nowhere, the Twitter machine pops and I get a response from Allstate’s separate social media customer care account, because, you know, it’s a weekday so they can finally spring into action. You go Allstate!
Truly sorry to hear about your experience, Aaron. If you’d like us to look into your concern, please DM us with more information. Thank you. ^SW https://t.co/teZoLdxm0P
This was textbook social customer care and duly appropriate — had it come Saturday! The damage was done. Allstate had imprinted on my mind a predisposed notion of how the brand functions in the digital space, given me a perception it cares little about customers, and suggested customer issues on weekends seemingly don’t matter.
In short: There are no good hands for Allstate if it’s not on the company’s terms and that’s just not how things work in today’s environment.
But let’s put all of my abject pettiness behind us and examine.
Beyond upsetting a customer, here’s why all of this really matters to a company’s reputation. The traditional sales consumer funnel is virtually meaningless in today’s digital world. Certainly it begins with awareness and then moves into purchase consideration. But there is a post-purchase experience today where consumers are using Google and other means to search the Internet and see what others are saying about a brand they are considering — and it’s just as important as anywhere in the value chain.
As Elasticity Director of Social Response Ashton Beck noted previously on our blog, most brands today understand the importance of how social media and customer service play an increasingly integrated and integral role in the health of their business. Unfortunately, not all brands have invested in, or have developed, a cohesive strategy that combines the two together.
When planned and executed correctly, social media customer care teams react, respond and resolve consumer issues 24/7 because the internet doesn’t sleep.
Allstate appears to be one of these brands because, at least in my case, it failed to realize that consumers don’t take weekends off, nor can companies wishing to be seen as giving a shit about social media customer care.
A former senior Omnicom (FleishmanHillard) counselor and communications executive for two of the nation’s largest energy companies, Aaron has spent more than 20 years in media and marketing helping a range of organizations — from Fortune 500s to professional sports franchises to economic development authorities to well-funded startups to non-profits — manage reputation and market brands in an evolving media environment.
An early adopter in the social media space, creating online communities and working closely with bloggers before they became accepted in mainstream media, Aaron develops unique marketing communications and reputation management strategies meant to break through the clutter of today’s crowded media environment that straddle both new and traditional media realms and has counseled organizations including H&R Block, Capital One, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, CafePress, the National Football League, aisle411, SunEdison, LockerDome, UPS, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Charter Communications, Papa John’s, and the Karate Kid Haircut Association.
He began his career as a television producer and continues to contribute to media including AdWeek, Forbes, SocialMediaToday, VentureBeat, HuffingtonPost, ESPN.com and other outlets.