Being completely satisfied as a customer can be a rare experience. I'd had such a positive encounter recently that I asked for a number to call and sing their praises.
"Well, we don't have a hotline for that," the woman said. "All we have is a number you can call to file a complaint."
I called the hotline and told them about my positive experience.
"Can you just put it on file somewhere so this person can be recognized for doing their job well?" I asked.
"We don't have a form for that," the man said.
Perhaps they should.
"In corporations we are so used to catching people making mistakes and lamenting about what went wrong but we do nothing about what's going right," says Barry Moltz, author of "BAM! Bust A Myth: Delivering Customer Service in a Self Service World" (AuthorHouse). "You could really gain momentum if you give your customers a platform to give positive reviews, but most people don't consider this."
Moltz says loyalty in the long run can be established through the power of praise.
"The goal is to let the customer feel that they've been heard, and if we can achieve that, we need to broadcast it to future customers," Moltz explains. "And with the use of social media today, and 'liking' things on Facebook, we're switching from ranting fans to raising fans."
Moltz says social media is replacing traditional marketing methods, and that a lot of companies are creating ambassadors whose job is to spread the word about success stories.
"This is a great way to tell millions of people about what's going well in a company or business," Moltz says.
So is phone feedback on its way out?
"Even in our high-tech world, it's important to have a place for people to be able to call," says Moltz. "It should be a 'hotline' and not billed as a 'complaint' line.
"Also, most companies will pay bonuses for sales reps to get the sales and then minimum wage to those working on the hotlines. Companies need to invest more in their customer service employees so they are knowledgeable and enthusiastic with those who make contact."
And customers still seem to like the phone option—or even mail.
"We still get a lot of calls on our hotline," says Beth Porter, consumer relations manager for Quaker Oats. "Most people have the perception that it's for complaints but the majority of people call us with praise or with questions on how to find their favorite products."
Porter says she even sees the good old fashioned handwritten letter on occasion.
"One man, an older gentleman, wrote to us that he saved the lid from every tube of oatmeal he's ever eaten and packed them up in his garage," she says. "He even took a picture and sent it to us."
Of course, there will always be the occasional squeaky, unsatisfied wheel. In that case, Moltz says, you have to win back their trust.
"Give them a refund and compensate the customer in a manner that satisfies them as much as possible," he says. "And don't worry if you wind up getting a bad review as a result. The power of multiple positive reviews or posts online will help people forget about the bad."
And there are positives for the consumer as well.
"It's nice to alert others that someone does a good job—it's being helpful," Moltz says. "We are more likely to trust what people say about other businesses now than we trust their advertising—and people want to be helpful.
"In this day and age, it gives consumers a sense of purpose too."