All posts in Customer Experience

Just Fab? Or Fabulously Awful Customer Practices?

Just-Fab-ScamIf you are a girly girl like I am, chances are you’ve seen the Just Fab and Fabletics ads as you wander around the internet, offering really cute stuff for a fairly cheap price… pretty much the way to stop any card-carrying fashionista on a limited budget in her tracks.

Well, after ignoring these ads for months, this past week I got a wild hair and wound up setting up an account at Just Fab to buy a $9.95 pair of precious over-the-knee boots, in sort of a “I am a Girl!!!” moment to counterbalance the 85% athletic/triathlon/cycling gear my money is spent on these days, which is what I also mostly wear. The thing about swimming, biking and running is you must always be dressed for these occasions – such a pain!!

So I was excited, and shared this fabulous deal on Facebook. By signing up to get these boots for so cheap, I had committed to a VIP membership, which means that the 1st-5th of every month they send me a personalized “boutique” of items they feel are suited to my tastes, and I can select from those or find something else to buy for $39.95 a month (shipping is free over $39 so most months you should be able to get something for that amount.) Fabletics, owned in part by Kate Hudson, the actress, operates the same way but I think the monthly amount might be different. Fabletics features exercise gear supposedly on a par with the super-expensive and elite Lululemon but I can assure you the design is not the same.

Should a $39.95 a month subscription throw people off, the Just Fab site promises that you can “Skip this Month” and pay nothing, or cancel your account at any time. So…. nothing to worry about, right?? They have, at first glance, made this whole deal sound pretty good.

But………. don’t get excited just yet. A friend showed up on my Facebook post with a warning as she too, had tried Just Fab and found the quality of her order kind of cheap, but the bigger problem was it took a ton of effort to cancel. She waited on hold on the phone forever with no results (that’s right – no way to cancel online) and finally resorted to simply not updating her CC when the bank issued a new one so her membership fee would just bounce and they would finally get the hint. So that made me nervous and I did a little Google search. WOW. I should have done that FIRST.

Consumer Affairs lists 1648 complaints and reviews for them and the complaints all center around a) not knowing the user would be billed by default monthly… they disclose this pretty well so people just must not have read at all and b) hanging on hold with no one ever answering their call so they could cancel. TechCrunch said their checkout tactics are shady. Valleywag over at Gawker calls them “the biggest scam in online fashion.” And Literally Darling (fun blog) describes a gigantic cluster situation where ultimately she lost money with Just Fab because of system glitches and non-caring, non-listening customer support personnel.

I’m so glad they have my credit card number. Sigh.

So I kind of freaked out and decided to try to pull out before even beginning. That has gone nowhere. After several automated emails saying a fashion stylist would contact me, she showed up, answered my support email with a non-answer and when I wrote back and asked her to answer the question (and not ship my first order and cancel me altogether) she did not respond again. And the shoes have now been billed to me.

So I am going to follow this through as a user experiment, not that we don’t know where it’s going. Those damn $10 boots better be FABULOUS! Here is your user experience lesson for the day, retailers and commerce sellers. Take it to heart because though you may get away with shoddy, underhanded practices initially, ultimately you will bankrupt the company and it will be you, flinging yourself off the ledge.

Retailers, it is not enough to offer cheap, cute, whatever products that customers want. You must follow through with reasonable processes and practices and the Golden Rule perpetually applies… treat customers as you want to be treated, and you can hardly go wrong.


Customer Service via Social Media… How’s That Working for You?

There is a real disconnect between genuine customer service and social media accounts online for the purpose of providing customer service, and it is almost never the fault of the staff running the social accounts.

Brian Solis and the folks over at Pivot have compiled an infographic and data on the stark reality of customer service satisfaction in this age of social media. In Brian’s words, “The challenge for change agents and internal champions is about moving businesses from #lipservice to #customerservice.”

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Beyond Marketing: How Social Media Can Help Companies Save Money, Keep Customers Satisfied and Gain Access to Fast Information

This post was written by Lisa Qualls a while back and not published. Some great points here about looking beyond the SM ROI of marketing efforts and realizing how social media can yield many other benefits inside your companies and organizations.

Leads, sales, and new revenue get most of the headlines when discussing ROI or why you should take advantage of social media platforms. However, cost reductions need to be considered as well when figuring/estimating time spent, as well as customer retention. Social media introduces new possibilities to traditional business practices such as customer care/service, research and development (R&D) and internal communications. These may not be as “sexy” as marketing and sales but anyone of them can be the Achilles heel to even the strongest of companies.

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Be Honest: Do You Provide Customer Service, or an Endless Loop of Hoop-Jumping Hell?


I am about to relate a true story. I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences and I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Names will not be changed to protect the guilty, so reveal away.

I have Time Warner Cable at my city house. I originally signed up for just the Internet, and when I did there were some options for TV of either 29.99 or 39.99 (or maybe both, unsure) for a digital package that has mostly filler stations and no movie channels. (My country house cable is much better, we get 1 HBO, 1 Showtime and 1 Cinemax at least.) I decided not to sign up for the Cable TV after all because I don’t like much that’s on TV and am used to using my Roku/Netflix on nights when I feel I must have non-internet entertainment. I am usually only in the city Monday thru Thursday nights, so I see TV on weekends.

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To Answer or Not to Answer… That is Apparently the Question for Some Businesses Online


So this morning I had kind of an interesting, annoying, local small business fail. I’m in the country for the weekend – many of you know I live in KC and Garnett, which is a rural Kansas town of about 3500 people and about 20,000 cows. My mother is here for Mother’s Day and there is a surprisingly attractive spot here that serves brunch on weekends. (A miracle in a town this size.) So on Facebook, which is where they are, I asked them if they’re open on Mother’s Day for brunch… pretty much a very basic, yes or no type of question that can be easily answered.

They Liked it.

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Brands of Any Kind: Do You REALLY Know Why People Follow Your Social Media Accounts?


I read a very interesting article called CMOs Need to Change How They Communicate to Their Fans in 2012, that is worth a look. In a survey of consumers and marketers, the expectations were not aligned regarding the reason someone “Likes” a brand on Facebook. The most glaring gap is in the questions shown below:

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How Not to do a Social Media Promotion

I was excited, then disgusted last night, in fairly short order. I learned that there is something called SocialCam coming from, the video site. SocialCam is a mobile app that lets iPhone and Android users take some video, upload it, tag people in it and share it swiftly with their social pals. Sounds awesome, right?

So I marched over to the little site and put in my email address for “early access” which I liken in my mind to be Beta testing, although I realize that may not be accurate – maybe they have already done Beta and this is a pure marketing play. If this is their beta testing process, it is WAY off base, so I will assume for the sake of argument it is not.

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Fresh ALERT: Facebook Privacy Setting Enabled

I was alerted this morning by Facebook friends that there is a new setting automatically enabled, that you may well not want enabled. I have some screen shots here of how to go and disable it or at least learn what the setting means so you can decide for yourself whether you want to play in these advertiser games or not.

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Social Media in Healthcare…Medicine for the Masses: Part 3

It’s time for installment number three of our blog series discussing social media in healthcare.  Quick recap, in our first post, we took some time to get a full picture of how social media is currently being used in healthcare.  If you missed that post, check it out here.  In the second post, we looked a little more closely at the reasons it is challenging to use social media in healthcare and some of the fears hospitals and doctors have in regards to social media.  If you missed that post, read it here.

For part three, the plan is to get a little more specific in understanding doctor/patient relationships.  The relationship between a doctor and his or her patients is extremely important to the overall healthcare process.  It is important that patients have a certain level of trust in their healthcare providers.  I mean, this person is giving me advice, prescribing medicine, performing procedures that directly impact my health.  This should be an individual that I would literally trust my life with.  Let’s start with how patients can use social media to increase the value of their healthcare.

I remember when I was a little kid, I started going to a new family doctor.  I was about five years old at the time.  Naturally I wasn’t too eager to trust this adult that I had never met before.  However, after a few visits, I started to feel more comfortable around this doctor and after a few years worth of visits, I would say I really trusted this guy.  My trust grew as I got to know my doctor a little more, and as his health advice and procedures worked the way he said they would.  Let me make one thing clear: Nothing can replace this kind of relationship growth.  The best way to gain trust for someone is interaction over time.  But what should I do now?

I just moved to Kansas City, truly away from home for the first time.  For the first time in my life (at least what I can remember) I am looking for a new doctor.  I have absolutely no clue where to start.  I want to be sure to pick the right person, someone I can trust, but have no way of getting information about the doctors in my area without visiting each one right?  Wrong.  According to Q1 productions 60 million consumers interact and discuss their health-care online. Over 320 hospitals have Twitter accounts with almost 250 hospitals on Facebook.  In my research for these posts, I came across some pretty interesting resources for people in the exact same situation I’m in.  There is a great article on Mashable called Smarter Healthcare: How Social Media is Revolutionizing Your Doctor Visits. If you have a few free minutes, it’s definitely worth thumbing through.  The article mentions a few online services that help in finding doctors.  I’ve listed them below:

  • Vitals- Will give you information about a doctor based on a variety of data, or will help you find the doctor you need
  • HealthGrades- An independent healthcare rating organization that grades healthcare providers on a variety of variables
  • Find a Doc- Service that helps you find the right doctor based on consumer ratings
  • Rate MDs- Similar to Find a Doc, a service that lets you give your doctors a rating and allows you to view what others thought as well
  • ZocDoc- Service that helps you find a doctor in the area and even lets you schedule an appointment online (unfortunately, this is only available in NYC)

In the first post, I mentioned some facts about how Americans search.  If you missed those, go back and look at them.  The bottom line is, people use the internet to research their health.  There are great sites like WebMD, Revolution Health and Yahoo! Health that provide accurate health information to individuals.  Chances are, a patient will feel much more comfortable asking a doctor questions if he or she has already done some research on their own.  Using these resources can help patients learn what questions to ask and what words to use when discussing an issue with a doctor.  There is also a large number of Facebook groups (roughly 1,200!) that advocate finding a cure for specific diseases.  This could be a great way to get information on a disease and learn how you can help find a cure.

So great, patients can use social media to strengthen the doctor patient relationship, but how does a doctor or healthcare professional do the same?  This gets a little trickier.  Recall the Children’s Mercy social media panel discussion I mentioned in the first two posts.  If you still haven’t watched the video, do so here.  Ben Dillon (Co-owner of Geonetric, a web software solutions company that focuses on healthcare) was one of the speakers.  He made some great points about how hospitals and doctors can use social media to the benefit of the doctor/patient relationship.  Mr. Dillon stated that a lot of Geonetric’s clients are hospitals trying to learn how to engage patients with social media and mentioned two specific ways that hospitals can leverage social media to increase benefits to patients.  The first is enlisting patients to blog about the hospital.  This is a great way to provide unofficial information about the hospital to potential future patients.  Brilliant.  This could ease some of the fears regarding regulations about what can and cannot be said by a healthcare professional.  It is also a great way to involve patients that were really satisfied with their care.  The second way was having doctors post a blog.  The idea here is to keep the topics general.  You don’t need to get specific or provide details.  This does two things: It gives the the patient a feeling of familiarity with the doctor and showcases the doctors expertise.

In the second post of this series, I mentioned a New England Journal of Medicine article called Practicing Medicine in the Age of Facebook. The author of this article presents some very real fears experienced when a former patient friended him on Facebook.  This is the type of situation that gives doctors and other healthcare professionals nightmares: Interacting with or mentioning patients accidentally online.  In fact, Mr. Dillion mentioned a client of his that had recently fired four nurses for talking about patients online.  The regulations are tight, there’s no way around it. An article on entitled Social Media in Healthcare: Barriers and Future Trends makes a great point about hospitals walking a fine line.  The issue is that hospitals and doctors want to provide health care information online, but want to avoid giving healthcare advice online.  A doctor can be held accountable for healthcare advice, but objective information is less of an issue.  The article simply states that doctors have to be careful and make sure the information posted online is generic and information only, not advice.  This is not meant to scare anyone away from the space, the benefits are too important.  The more familiar a patient feels with his or her healthcare provider, the more likely it becomes that this individual will follow the healthcare provider’s advice.  In the same way, the more a doctor or nurse knows about a patient, the more individualized advice he or she can give to that patient.

If you have time after reading this post, please check out all of the links.  A lot of these resources provide some great information and insight on the issue.  Also, be on the lookout Thursday, July 15 for the final post of this series.  We’ll do a recap of what we’ve uncovered so far and take a glimpse into what the future holds for social media and healthcare.

Social Media in Healthcare…Medicine for the Masses: Part 2

Alright, time for round #2.  In the first part of this series, I talked about what’s currently being done with social media in the health care field.  It was A LOT of information.  If you haven’t checked it out, do so here.  After researching all of the really innovative ways in which hospitals and healthcare professionals are using social media, I began to wonder about how they do it.  So that is where we will be going today.  Hopefully by the end of this post, we will be able to see why social media in healthcare is such a intricate topic and how those who are already using social media figured it out.

For various reasons, I’ve been to my local emergency room quite a few times.  After talking with the nurse at the desk for what seems like an eternity to update all of my personal information, I’m always handed a packet of information about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, more commonly referred to as HIPAA.  Do I ever read this packet? Absolutely not.  Usually, I put it back on the counter so they aren’t wasting the paper on me.  It’s not that I don’t recognize the need for the information, it’s just not the most captivating read.  For those of you getting ready to exit out of your browser thinking that I’m going to try and explain every aspect of HIPAA in the next couple of paragraphs, don’t.  I’m not even going to give it a shot.  I searched around on the internet, trying to find a quick overview of the legislation and couldn’t find a whole lot that was short enough.  I did find one article that summed it up fairly well, but I still don’t want to waste anyones time trying to explain it.  You can check out the article here, and I will summarize HIPAA as legislation that protects your personal health informtation.  Basically, hospitals and doctors can’t share your information with just anyone.

HIPAA creates a headache for hospitals and doctors when it comes to social media.  There are so many regulations regarding the methods by which a doctor can share information with a patient, that tweeting medical information is enough to give a doctor nightmares.  I came across an interesting article in The New England Journal of Medicine. The article is written from the prospective of a doctor who was sent a friend request through Facebook by a former patient.  From the perspective of doctors and hospitals, it is understandable to question the appropriateness of such a situation.  What if the doctor has pictures on his or her Facebook profile that aren’t very professional?  What if these pictures hurt his or her credibility as a physician?  What if the former patient asks the doctor a medical question through a wall post?  Would answering violate HIPAA?  These are all legitimate questions to ask and risks to consider.  Check out these quotes:

“Caution is recommended . . . in using social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace. Items that represent unprofessional behavior that are posted by you on such networking sites reflect poorly on you and the medical profession. Such items may become public and could subject you to unintended exposure and consequences.”- Harvard Medical School, Dean for Medical Education Jules Dienstag

“Programs/employers are increasingly gaining access to social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace to see what they can learn about candidates.” – Drexel University College of Medicine

These quotes may be alarming as they express concerns that all professionals should consider, in healthcare of otherwise. But take a closer look.  The one thing these quotes don’t do, is tell future doctors that they can’t use social media.  All that is suggested by these quotes is to use caution in what you post, something that is relevant to anyone using social media.  Take a second to look back over the previous post, specifically the 5 examples of how social media is already being used in healthcare.  Live procedures, training, crisis communications, research and education..important steps being taken by the industry today!  The potential benefits are extremely important to both healthcare professionals and patients.  It’s worth finding a way to use the platforms and still meet health privacy regulations.  I came across an interesting article on Top Rank Online Marketing Blog that attempts to make the case for social media in healthcare.  It’s definitely worth the read, check it out here.

So the fears are very real, that much is clear.  At the same time, use of social media in this field is growing.  So how are they doing it?  What type of guidelines are hospitals putting in place to monitor the activities of their employees online?  I found a post from Marketing Your Hospital titled Create a Social Media Policy for Your Hospital. This site has a lot of great information about using social media in a hospital, definitely take the time to read it.  This specific article has some great information about how to put together a social media policy for your hospital.  The writer suggests that hospitals should create a policy that covers both unofficial outposts such as personal blogs and official outposts such as an official hospital blog.  I’ve summarized the main points for each section below:

Unofficial Outposts

  • Guide the employees on use of Social Media- You don’t want to scare them away, just teach them how to use it appropriately
  • Remind employees that their posts reflect on both themselves and the hospital
  • Work with your legal department to develop rules regarding the sharing of personal information
  • Put a policy in place regarding discussions surrounding an individuals job (complaining or negative statements about the place of employment)
  • Make sure employees understand what information they publish publicly and what information is private

Official Outposts

  • Define the reasons for each outpost- what are the goals of the company Twitter account, blog, etc.
  • Ensure everyone using a specific account understands how to do so
  • Include the current policy for corporate branding and identity
  • Teach employees how to handle negative comments/complaints through these accounts
  • Put specific guidelines in place regarding patient information

This information should help anyone trying to figure out how to introduce social media into a hospital/medical practice and really any business looking to create a social media policy.  You can also check this list out for ideas of other businesses that have put social media policies in place.  You can also look through this list of Hospital Social Media Policies.

So that’s it for today, hopefully it’s easier to understand why social media presents such barriers for the healthcare industry.  On deck for next part 3 in this series is a deeper look into the benefits of social media in healthcare and the changes that are occurring with the doctor-patient relationship.  Look for that post Tuesday, July 13th.

Here is a list of links on this topic that may be helpful:

Top Rank Blog


PR Week

Social Media Today


Social Media and HIPAA

Hospital Online Marketing Education

Social Media in Healthcare…Medicine for the Masses: Part 1

Today, we kick off our blog series regarding social media and its uses in healthcare. This is the first of four posts on the topic, and I think it makes sense to layout a roadmap so we can all understand where this blog series is going. Below is a brief outline of what each post will touch on, just so you don’t get the idea that I’m rambling without a goal or purpose.

I.      Current Use/Statistics (7/6/10)
II.     Organization/Legal Issues/Fears/Questions (7/8/10)
III.   Doctor-Patient Relationship (7/13/10)
IV.    Recap/Look into the Future (7/15/10)

As I mentioned in the previous post, a lot of this information is drawn from a social media panel discussion hosted by Meers Advertising at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO.  If you haven’t already watched the recorded video of the event, you should definitely take a look here.  There is a lot of information to get through in four posts, so I figured we would keep it somewhat simple with the first post. The goal today is to paint a picture of how social media is currently being used in healthcare. The plan is to stay away from a lot of analysis or predicting, and really just get a feel for what’s being done in the field.  This is going to require looking at a lot of statistics, but please hang with me… having a better understanding of the status quo is extremely important in understanding why or why not social media will work for healthcare professionals and how it can best be used.

When I first started researching this topic for the social media panel discussion, I watched a short YouTube video called, “Social Media in Healthcare” that had some pretty interesting facts (you can view this video at the bottom of the page).  The original video is somewhat dated, but it has been updated with some new numbers.  I’ll sum up some of the key points below:

  • 60 million consumers interact and discuss their health-care online
  • Roughly 1,200 Facebook pages advocate finding a cure for an illness
  • 72% of patients say they researched their symptoms before visiting their doctor
  • 93% of e-patients say internet provided them with health care information they needed
  • 80% of internet users have looked online for health information

Source: Q1 Productions

These statistics highlight a very important point.  Whenever I speak with a prospective client, I’m usually asked, “Why does it matter if I participate in social media?”  I always try to help those who ask this question realized one thing:  Your brand, your product, your service is already a part of social media.  The question those people should be asking isn’t why they should participate, but whether or not they are willing to allow others to lead the discussion regarding their brand, product, or service. Most of the time, that answer is “no”, and it’s clear from the above statistics that the same situation holds true in healthcare, even though the goals may be different from a for-profit business. Even if healthcare professionals don’t use social media, 60 million consumers make sure the conversation continues to take place online.

I also came across a great presentation put together by Carolyn Grisko & Associates, Inc. called “Healthcare & Social Media: 2009 Trends and Strategy” (You can view this presentation at the bottom of the page).  The entire presentation is great, but the information presented on slides 5-7 is key.  Look at these statistics regarding how Americans search the internet:

  • 36% want to see what other consumers think about medication or treatment
  • 34% use social media
  • 46% use health care portals

Source:”How America Searches: Health and Wellness“- survey by Opinion Research Corp.

These two sets of statistics clearly show that people are using social media to get their hands on healthcare information.  But how have hospitals, doctors, etc. responded to these facts?  I stumbled across a great blog post on Top Rank Online Marketing Blog called, “5 Examples of Social Media in Healthcare Marketing”.

The 5 examples mentioned are:

  • Live Procedures (This is something that we have been contacted about.  A hospital wanted to use our Intefy product to allow medical students to watch a live surgery and ask an observing doctor questions via Twitter or chat)
  • Train Medical Personnel
  • Reach Mainstream Media That Use Social Media
  • Communicate in Times of Crisis
  • Provide Accurate Information to Patients (With With such a large amount of health information available on the web, it may be hard to determine the accuracy or trustworthiness of a source)

There has also been a growth in Twitter accounts, blogs, forums, and networks focused on healthcare. It is clear that social media is becoming more and more important for healthcare providers. There are resources available at the end of this post.

Now that we have a little better mental picture and understanding of how social media is used by healthcare professionals, we can look forward to understanding how these professionals go about organizing a social media strategy and what sort of legal and regulatory issues must be considered by the healthcare field in regards to the use of social media.  Look for that post to be available on Thursday, July 8.


Healthcare & Social Media: 2009 Trends & Strategy



Social Networking



The Ultimate Experience

Two different friends of ours on Twitter, @simonkuo and @britt_w, shared a link that I had not had time to look at until today. Once I did, I was amazed. Experience Paris… the whole city, like never before.


I have long had a fascination with what lies across the sea. Though I’ve not been to Europe yet, I have often imagined myself there for reasons unknown even to me. The idea of many places there just call to me, but this panoramic view of Paris offers lessons beyond appeasing a girl’s fancies.

20100321-tefc39e7gewdfhiiigrir6q4tuImmersion into an environment like this IS the ultimate experience, and it’s far better than Second Life or a virtual reality. Zoom in closely, and you can see people eating on a terrace, or the Saints on the top of the Sainte Chappelle, something you could not see as closely if you were there in person.

This wonderful site is not the only place you can feel as if you’re standing in front of a place you’ve never been. Google Maps latest “street view” feature for many places is totally amazing. To revisit a place you lived as a child, explore the home of a friend you’ve met online, study a city you’re moving to before you arrive… it’s all possible now for a lot of major places by just putting in the address and zooming around the nearby streets.

So how does this translate to your business? Are you giving people something tangible to see so they almost feel they are experiencing it firsthand? When we redesigned the APS website we went in and took photos of the location, staff and even some faux surgery photos to give people an up-close look at what working with these plastic surgeons, nurses and supporting staff would be like. @zachishere and @simonkuo from Westside Studio did a great job capturing different aspects of a “day in the life” of these busy doctors and staff and we used them throughout the site, telling a graphic story in pictures that are more compelling than stock photography ever could be (we have a few of those mixed in as well, but not many.)

Don’t just paint a picture in words of what you can do for people… find a way to have them experience it. Our friend Kamran @swagclub sends unforgettable goodie boxes to people sometimes (we loved our gifts!!), knowing that’s the best way for people to get what receiving customized promotional merchandise can feel like when it’s a good fit for the audience.

I’d love to hear how you make things tangible for people in the comments. I will be thinking about this for our products and services too, as digital goods are often just experienced via samples online. An interesting challenge, to be sure!