January 22, 2013
Why can't I buy these tickets? It was the sound of panic as I answered the phone and quickly realized we had a big problem. I immediately asked the standard questions about the Internet connection and walked him through the proper series of steps to purchase the tickets online, but for some reason it still wasn't working.
His frustration only escalated as another error message would appear again at the end of the process stating that he was not eligible to participate in the presale for concert tickets to Jingle Ball. However, the confusion was that he lived in an area that should have worked perfectly, so I knew there was a glitch and not just a small one; this one had the potential to result in a customer service nightmare.
You see, each year before tickets went on sale to the general public, we would hold a special pre-sale for members of our database to buy seats, a full day before anyone else. It was an excellent benefit, but the problem you experience with selling any ticket to an extremely popular show or event is the potential for scalpers to buy a large amount and sell them to the public at much higher prices.
Our research had shown us that many of these companies would have agents in various states outside of the area that would sign up and log in to purchase the tickets during the pre-sale. It would be done through various offices in several states working the system, so our goal was to block any zip code that was not associated with the New York City area, and hopefully this would save the seats for our biggest fans ... and help them avoid overpaying for the Jingle Ball experience.
When I received the call that evening, it was clear that someone had made a mistake in programming the online ticket system and somehow this gentlemen's zip code was in the blocked list.
I quickly wrote down his information and called the venue box office. I worked with their team to identify the problem and fortunately, it was only one zip code that was affected for the sale. The quick actions helped to correct the problem immediately. We were also able to save some tickets for those that may have been originally blocked to ensure they would have an opportunity to see the show.
What saved a potential nightmare that day and helped to correct things before it was too late, was the fact that me and my team always communicated with the database (and everyone) by providing a personal e-mail address, a mobile and direct office number so people could have instant access for questions, comments or any feedback for the station. Each e-mail and online communications stated one of us as "Your Insider" and included the information.
Fortunately, the listener who experienced the problem was able to easily discover what to do and call me that day. We were able to quickly correct the mistake, within moments of the sales starting, and avoid a situation where many people could have encountered a very bad experience.
You hear about customer service complaints with companies and people all the time ... especially today. If someone does something bad to you, it's common to post and express that to as many friends, family and co-workers as possible. A bad report now can be spread to hundreds and even thousands in a matter of minutes. The result is the possibility to be black-marked before you ever know what hit you...and without even being aware of it.
Customer service is the key to building a foundation for success in this environment. The best people and companies put it at the top of their priorities and understand it's worth the time, energy, and investment to build the right experience.
Make it easy for people to communicate with you and give them access to help make a difference.
Monitor and listen to what is being posted and shared about you online. Some of the greatest success stories happen when someone takes the time to reach out and correct a problem for someone.
Follow up on everything! If someone posts a bad review or comment, take the time to respond and solve the problem. You don't have to hash it out on a Facebook wall, but a simple, "Here's my direct contact information, please call me to discuss this issue" will illustrate you care.
Most people already expect the worst in customer service today, so doing nothing will make you just like everyone else. The opportunity lies in getting tuned in to a service strategy that makes you stand out from the crowd ... you will actually surprise anyone who comes in contact with you because you will be focused on them and the right results.
You will over-deliver for someone and make a social impact for everyone who may touch you at some moment in time.