Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Man Uses Social Media to Resolve Customer Service Problem

Have a customer service problem?  Can’t get a reasonable person to help you from the company’s help desk?  Then turn to social media and potentially tell the world.  Just post a message or tell the story using Facebook, Twitter, etc., and hope that the company sees the post and responds.

When Bill Stern’s apartment burned to the ground he was devastated, losing much of his life’s possessions.   He was then faced with the task of calling credit card companies, utility companies and more to let them know about his new address, canceled services, etc.  Who would have thought that one of his biggest hassles would come from his television provider?  It turns out that DirecTV refused to waive the early termination fee.  It wasn’t like he just changed his mind.  His home burned down.

This has the look and feel of the recent Spirit Airlines debacle when Jerry Meekins, a Vietnam veteran who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, asked for a refund because his doctor told him not to fly.  In this case, it is Bill Stern and DirecTV won’t cancel his contract even though his house has burned to the ground.  When are companies going to recognize that policies, especially in extreme situations, need to have flexibility?

Companies spend lots of money creating an image and a brand promise that hopes to create loyal customers.  But for a customer to be loyal to a company, the company first has to show loyalty toward the customer.

The customer service representative at DirecTV needed to show some empathy and compassion for Mr. Stern.  I can only imagine that if they showed they cared and waived the termination fee that Mr. Stern would be happy to continue the relationship once he found a new place to live and needed their service.  Instead, they ignored common sense and alienated a customer.  And, in the process this customer used social media to share the story.  And, now it’s headline news!

Source: Source: NBC Channel 5 – Chicago, IL

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional  speaker and New York Times   bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
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  1. Interesting position that Directv took considering the circumstances. They are one of the top 3 companies I will always be loyal to because of their fantastic service. They aren’t the cheapest, but USUALLY have the best service. My other favorite companies that have a customer for life are ProFlowers (love them!!)and Verizon. Sadly, Directv got it wrong with Mr Stern!

    • You are correct. This was not the typical DirecTV story. Mr. Stern just happened to get a customer service rep that may have been new, not trained – who knows? It just isn’t the reputation that DirecTV is known for. This proves my point that no matter how good a company is, if they have one employee that may not understand the philosophy, not be properly trained, etc., they run the risk of eroding the brand promise they are trying to be known for. Thanks so much for your comment.

  2. Maybe you never had a bad experience with DirectV, but this company is bad news. They never help anyone unless it benefits them. Here they are getting rid of alot a channels people love, the reception is horrible and they don’t care about their customers. This company has a class action suit in CA. I wish I could have been a part of it because they did to me exactly what they’re being sued for. Obviously they haven’t learned from their mistakes.

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