The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Service Recovery


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If you’re a fellow Cox Communications customer, you’ll be very familiar with this story; if you’re not, read along for lessons to be learned.

Cox Communications has had an outage of their voice mail service for the last week or so (exact start date TBD – more on that in a moment). From a customer service perspective, I give them a B-. I think they did some things well, but there are some areas where they fell down.

So when did the outage actually happen? Unfortunately, like many of you, I rely heavily on my cell phone, so I can’t really answer that question on my own. I usually forward my office line to my cell if I plan to be out and about… and then conveniently forget about that setting, so it’s regularly on call forward. And I get so few phone calls on my home phone that I wouldn’t know if there was a voice mail outage. (Advantage for Cox in this situation; I’m guessing a lot of customers rely more heavily on their cell phones than their landlines anymore.)

Mission Viejo Patch states the issue started on February 21, but the first message about an outage on Cox’s Facebook page was on February 24. The first email I received from them on it was February 26. I subsequently received a message with a status update on February 28, and another mid-day February 29, indicating the service was restored. O! But wait! Not eight hours later, I received an email saying that the fix didn’t hold. Ouch.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of this issue and the way it’s been handled. Within the good were some bad and ugly, i.e., they get an A for effort but failed on execution. Take a look.

The Good

There were a lot of things that Cox did right in terms of this issue. They…

1. Communicated proactively about it (for the most part, though I’m still not sure when it actually started)

2. Signed their emails with the name of a relevant executive’s name (Vice President, Customer Care)

3. Outlined clearly what the issue was as well as who it impacted and what services were affected

4. Apologized sincerely and showed empathy: “We apologize for the inconvenience and frustration that this issue may be causing.”

5. Offered a workaround, which included calling Cox Support for a feature (call forwarding) that would be added for free for the duration of the issue (if not already a feature you subscribe to)

6. Gave instructions on how to apply the workaround

7. Provided status updates, although occasionally set expectations that were not met

8. Offered various additional options for status updates

9. Showed genuine appreciation for their customers’ patience by providing a free month of voicemail service ($7.99) for an issue that lasted almost 8 (?) days (though, now we learn it’s not resolved yet); they had indicated in their status updates that customers would be credited, but I figured there would be a credit only for the days the service was out.

The Bad

On the flip side, there were two opportunities that they missed.

1. The email messages were not personalized. Cox knows very well who I am; I have been a phone/cable/internet customer of theirs for almost 10 years. The emails were addressed to “Dear Valued Cox Customer.” In bad times, it’s great to still be polite and address customers by name, especially if you know their names.

2. Again, this has to do with personalized service. Cox knows if you have call forwarding or not. So, rather than have you wait on hold with the hundreds or thousands of other customers who don’t have call forwarding (keep in mind that it’s part of a feature bundle that you pay for, and some of the features are likely not needed by everyone), automatically give everyone call forwarding for the duration of the issue. First, customers are inconvenienced because of the issue, but then you want to further inconvenience them by making the workaround more painful than it needs to be.

The Ugly

The Ugly is ugly for a couple of reasons: it lacks personalization, and it’s useless.

The closing paragraph of the status emails read: “For updates as we work to resolve this issue, please visit your local Cox Facebook page or the customer forum on…” Ok, what does “local Cox Facebook page” mean?

I searched “Cox Communications, Orange County” on Facebook, and six “local” pages popped up, not one of which was the right one or had any information about anything. Somehow I ended up finding “Cox Orange County,” which is their official “local page.” (By the way, that Facebook page has 5,344 followers; it’s not a great vehicle for them to use to communicate to their masses when there’s an issue.) Why not link me right to that Orange County Facebook page in the email? You know I’m an Orange County customer.
Then there was the other option, the part of that sentence that said “… or the customer forum on…,” with a link to the so-called forum. (Clearly, that is a misnomer.) Call it what you want, it’s a road to nowhere that gives you nothing more than what is in the email. Here’s what that page tells me…
What I expected to see on that page was meaningful, timestamped, daily (at least) status updates. This message is of no help. As a matter of fact, it sends you somewhere else for updates! So I clicked on the link, and I was taken to the landing page for their online support area. See the image below. At the top of the page is a statement boxed in red with an “alert” symbol.
Wait, it gets better. See that link at the end of the paragraph? Want to guess where that takes you? Yea, back to the page where I just came from! The road to nowhere. A circular link to frustration. Ha!
Am I being generous with a B- grade for this experience? Maybe. I’ll let you decide.

Note: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly images (c) 2008 – Zach Bellissimo.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Annette Franz
Annette Franz is founder and Chief Experience Officer of CX Journey Inc. She is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, consultant, and speaker. She has 25+ years of experience in helping companies understand their employees and customers in order to identify what makes for a great experience and what drives retention, satisfaction, and engagement. She's sharing this knowledge and experience in her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business).


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