I recently had a customer service experience that put a spotlight on Lenovo’s significant order management problems, and their equally significant social media successes. I was one of many consumers who ordered a laptop, only to be strung along with a series of shipment delays and less than candid conversations with their customer support representatives. When I wrote a blog report about the problem, Lenovo’s Web Marketing team responded like an A-Team and managed the problem through to a resolution. Having a great Web Marketing team that can sweep in and sweep up after a word-of-mouth lynch mob will not help Lenovo build equity in its brand–but it may keep them from bleeding to death long enough until help arrives.
Originally, I had made an online purchase of Z61 ThinkPad, one of Lenovo’s top-of-the-line notebooks. I was given a ship date two weeks out, which was disappointing but not a deal-breaker. I don’t think there’s a better laptop on the market, so I was willing to wait. When two weeks was up, I checked my order status only to find another two weeks had been tacked on. No email notification, just a quiet slip on the ship date. I called customer service, and was told there was a backlog on wide LCD screens, but that the machine would ship well before the new estimated ship date. I grumbled and waited.
Another two weeks passed, and the same chain of events repeated itself. With no notification or acknowledgement, another 2 weeks was added to my estimated ship date. Now I was angry. I called customer service again, and this time I pressed harder on the credibility of the new ship date. What I was told was maddening. The rep said he had no idea when the machine would actually ship, that he didn’t have any confidence in the new ship date, and that what the last rep had told me was essentially fiction, as there is no way for reps to know what exactly is causing the delay and when it would be resolved. Would I like to cancel or continue my order?
I wrote an angry blog post about the ordeal the next day. I was doubly incensed because only a week before, I’d written a nostalgic love letter for my retiring ThinkPad, which I’d had for 8 years. I figured any laptop that had managed to survive and serve me for 8 years deserved brand loyalty. But now, Lenovo was undermining the brand by failing abyssmally to manage their order pipeline. I wrote the post with little expectation for anything other than comments from other unhappy customers. So the first comment I received was a huge surprise.
The next day, within 12 hours of the original post, I received a comment on my blog from the VP of Web Marketing at Lenovo, David Churbuck. He publicly posted his contact information and encouraged me to call him. When I called, he asked me for the order details and passed me on to a customer service rep. The rep looked at my order and explained the problem. The Z61 was being discontinued to make way for the new T61. If I wanted to change my order, he could get it to me much faster, but it would still be delayed as much as three weeks, since the new batch was just coming in. He changed my order, responded to my email requests for status during the following weeks, and proactively notified me with a tracking number when the laptop shipped.
What I appreciated about Lenovo’s response were details any web marketer should note. First and foremost, unlike my original experience with Lenovo’s customer service, their Web marketing team was honest with me. They told me as much as they could about the problem, were honest about the expected delay, and gave me options that could expedite my order. Being told that your order will be delayed for 3 weeks is disappointing, but it doesn’t arouse the kind of anger that comes from being told it will be delayed 2 weeks, and then being strung along for another delay. The second thing I appreciate is that they didn’t try to offer me anything unusual in order to influence my blog. They didn’t offer me a discount, or a free upgrade, or anything else that isn’t available to any other customer. Of course, my access to that level of service came only after writing a blog post about it, but I can only attribute the blame for that to the order management group, not to the Web Marketing group. I guess the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Finally, what impressed me about Lenovo’s social media relations in this case was the efficiency of the response. I followed up with David Churbuck to find out how he had found my blog so quickly, and how they trained their staff to respond to complaints. It turns out, no surprise, that they have a system that recognizes the power of social media. Every day, they have a couple of employees search for Lenovo related posts on Technorati. They then check the resulting lists of blogs mentioning Lenovo with BuzzLogic to rank the influence of each blog, which helps them prioritize responses. Once they have a prioritized list, they move out and begin responding to those blogs to engage their customer community.
I finally got my new ThinkPad T61 yesterday, and I’m ecstatic. It was well worth the wait. It’s like the difference between a Volvo and a Porsche–a machine I can not only rely on, but love to drive. I sincerely hope Lenovo is able to get their order management and supply chain dialed in. It’s too good a product to be killed by such a poor initial customer experience. While their Web Marketing team is only buying time for the company in the long run, their efficiency and effectiveness at managing such a difficult situation is something every marketer can learn from.