Customer Service Fail: There’s No Value in an Answer that Doesn’t Address the Question

Sorry, Safeway, I love shopping in your stores, but I just have to call you out on this too-classic example of poor customer service wrapped up in a friendly email.

This past weekend, I was not able to find any variety of Tide HE detergent in my local store. This has been an on-again, off again frustrating problem, so I went to the website and used the contact form to send this message:

I shop at the store on Burke Centre Pkwy. Does the store not carry Tide HE any longer? I have always had a problem reliably purchasing Tide HE at this store, and this weekend I was only able to find one small bottle. I wonder if whoever stocks this area is not aware of HE versus regular? I know the labeling is not very obvious. But, people like me with HE washing machines cannot use the regular detergent.

A few days later, I got thus uber-friendly but basically irrelevant response:

Thank you for writing to us regarding a request for your local Safeway store to carry ‘Tide HE’.

Upon receiving your inquiry, we have researched the item, and found our research indicates that though ‘Tide liquid he 2x w/ tod April fresh 72-loads – size: 138FZ’ may not be currently stocked at your store, it is designated as a valid item for stocking. Please speak with a manager about ordering this product back into your store along with the UPC and order number: UPC: 0-37000-87474 – Order #: 36 01753. We will also forward your request to our buyers of Tide products for your store so they know this item has been requested. We apologize if this in any way inconveniences you. We realize how important one-stop shopping is to our customers. Thank you for taking the time to submit your product request. We do track these requests and they are reviewed often to help us determine which items to stock.

First, I wasn’t asking about “Tide liquid he 2x w/ tod April fresh 72-loads – size: 138FZ,” and, second, is it really my job to ask the manager to place an order? I appreciate the raise in my standing from customer to buyer, but that’s not what I was looking for here.

This case illustrates that good customer service goes beyond being responsive. This response doesn’t address my question so it is only slightly more helpful than no response at all. At least I know they got my message.

Communicators, be sure to not get lost in the process of customer service, and keep a focus on meaningful customer service. After all, irrelevant communication isn’t helpful; it is just noise.

As for me, after work today I am headed to Target to see if I can find some Tide HE.


Essential Books for the Writer


What’s on your writer’s reference bookshelf? I find that although much has changed since I started my writing career, the my key go-to reference books have not. I wrote about this for Online Learning Tips.

I am looking to add books to my reference collection. What book is your favorite?

For Teens, It’s All About the Apps

Project Tomorrow, a non-profit organization focused on digital technology for education, recently released the results of its 2013 survey of 325,279 K-12 students across the U.S. and it indicates that teens are moving away from social media and using more social apps.

According to the survey, in 2013 just 30% of middle school students and 39% of high school students said they are maintaining a profile on a social networking site such as Facebook. That’s a decrease of approximately 40% since 2009. Social apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine are now used by 44% of students in grades 6-12.

Two-thirds of students in grades 6-12 use text messaging. Other findings:

  • 28% of middle school students said they are making and posting videos
  • 12% said they have their own blog
  • 23% of middle school students regularly play multi-player online games

Making Telephone Meetings Effective

onlinecareertips_logo1Check out my post about nurturing an effective remote team at Online Career Tips.

DC Area Professional Development Op: PR Research

prsa-logoPRSA-NCC will offer How Research Can Lead to a Winning PR Program on  Weds., April 16, fro 8-10 a.m.

Research and data can provide needed intelligence and the foundation for communication success, yet it is often one of the first components that gets cut from the budget. But nowadays there are more options for conducting smart, cost effective research. With greater emphasis on social media and emerging trends across target audiences and limited budgets, what are today’s trends and best practices being used in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors ?  Explore how research is being conducted through social media and traditional market and opinion research methodologies and how to best leverage your data to enhance the results of your communication programs.

Featured speakers are:

  • Tesfa Alexander, PhD, Director of Research & Evaluation for the Office of Health Communication and Education at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products, manages the market research for the new teen tobacco campaign, “The Real Cost.”
  • Shonali Burke, ABC, President and CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc., is a social media expert and blogger with strategies to take your business communication strategy from “corporate codswallop to community cool ™.”
  • Irfan Kamal, SVP of Digital/Social Strategy, Ogilvy Public Relations, leads social strategy and enabling data-driven content production and tracking social/multichannel program ROI for private sector clients.
  • Courtney Kennedy, PhD, Vice President of Advanced Methods for Abt SRBI, is a statistician and innovative survey methodologist with expertise in designing studies for federal, academic, non-profit and private sector clients and also serves as an NBC election night analyst.