5 times customers should say “sorry”

Ever apologized to a business? If you said “never,” then maybe you don’t have kids.

At some point, each of my children has slipped a candy bar or lollipop — strategically stocked at kid-level in the checkout area — into their pockets without first informing Mom or Dad. When we discovered the transgression, we raced back to the store, paid for the item and apologized. Profusely.

Then we gave the kids a stern lecture about paying for merchandise before leaving the store. We haven’t had any relapses, but then again, the teen years are just around the corner. Fingers crossed.

I hear a lot of apologies in my line of work. But as a consumer advocate, they almost always go one way: the company apologizes to a customer for a problem, actual or perceived. Sometimes, the tables should be turned.
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Want better airline service? Power up your smartphone

Ricardo Miguel Silva Saraiva/Shutterstock
Liz Owen needed help, and she needed it fast.

She had rescheduled a flight from Washington to Los Angeles on Virgin America to avoid superstorm Sandy, which was about to slam into the East Coast. But she’d forgotten to order a wheelchair.

Owen, who works for a nonprofit organization in Washington, had recently broken her foot, which was in a cast. “I had been on the phone on hold with Virgin America for well over an hour,” she remembers. Halfway to the airport, she decided to send Virgin America a tweet — a message on the microblogging service Twitter.
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Please vote for your favorite Twitter personality

Here you go! These are the finalists for your favorite Twitter personality of 2012 list.

I appreciate your help in narrowing the list down to 24 nominees. There were many deserving candidates.

Now it’s your turn to vote. The top 12 will make the final list. Polling ends on Black Friday, Nov. 25.

Good luck.

(Photo: Paul Snelling/Flickr)

“It’s extremely difficult to craft the right response to avoid ending up in the fray”

Let’s turn the tables and take a look at customer service from the other side. I recently received a request for help from the unlikeliest of places: the general counsel for a fast-food chain. She wanted to know how to handle the increasing number of complaints that were emerging through social media.

By way of full disclosure, the On Your Side wiki has begun posting the Twitter accounts of corporations, since it’s often a highly effective way of making first contact with a company.

I wanted to share a few excerpts from our correspondence, since I think they are instructive for those of us pondering a social-media grievance.
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7 secrets for boosting your online power

Got a travel problem?

Just tweet about your troubles, and the airline, car rental company or hotel will fix it. At least that’s the conventional wisdom. And while it’s true that travel companies are spending a lot of time online listening to their customers, they’re not necessarily paying attention to all of us.

“Travel companies pick and choose who to respond to in social media,” says social media expert Ryan Goff of the advertising firm MGH, Inc. “You better believe that a Web celebrity with 100,000 Twitter followers is going to catch a company’s attention over the casual Tweeter with only 10 friends.”
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