Up Periscope

Feeling Yelpless: Real Customer Service

Social Sonar - Saturday, August 27, 2011

So many of us seem to live in a virtual world. We rely on technology to tell us what to do, where to go, how to get there... We are lost if our iPhone dies and we have no access to our contact list, e-mails, texts, Facebook and Twitter. We hardly look up to see what's going on in the world because the entire world is in the palm of our hand.

When a company irritates us, many of us tell Yelp. It is easy to sit somewhat anonymously behind a computer and point fingers and talk about our horrible experience (although, hopefully, if you Yelp about bad experiences, you also Yelp about good ones). Putting aside the recent questions about Yelp's business practices, the concept of the website is actually pretty amazing. Allow people to go and talk about their own experiences so that others can make decisions based on those reviews.

Last year, I had a horrible experience with the service advisers at a local car dealership. After two particularly bad visits in a row (involving out-right lies trying to get me to spend money that I didn't need to spend), I decided to write a Yelp review. After some time passed, I did receive a response from the general manager asking me to return and give them another chance. Initially, I decided not to bother. I had found a new mechanic in the interim and I didn't feel like I needed to give a third, fourth or fifth chance to the dealership.

Fast forward a year. I received a recall notice for my truck. Recall notices mean you need to see a dealer. So I called up my local dealership again (you know, the one I said I would never return to) and made an appointment. The service advisers' desk were arranged differently and I thought to myself, "maybe they've made some changes!" Boy did they -- changes for the worse. This visit pretty much put the final nail in the coffin. The behavior of more than one employee was so out of line that I left almost in tears. I was charged a pretty large amount of money for something that I had no idea I would be paying with a list of many other items to be fixed -- all at a premium price, of course.

I updated my Yelp review to include the new experience and how I lowered my star rating from two to one -- with a note that I'd put zero if Yelp would have allowed me.

A friend suggested I call the dealership.

Huh?

No thanks. I'm Yelping! I don't want their pity, I want to warn other people from having to experience what I experienced!

No, really, maybe you should call.

I couldn't bring myself to call. I was still pretty upset about the whole situation and so I wrote an e-mail. I did not ask for a refund, and I did not ask for them to fix anything for me for free. I just factually stated what happened and how disappointing it was for a customer to be treated the way I was treated. I ended up receiving several e-mails from managers of this, that and the other. Everyone apologized all over themselves. Then the owner/general manager called and left me a message.

I debated awhile, then called him back and we spoke for probably 15 minutes. It was a great conversation. I explained that I just wanted him to know how his employees were acting when he wasn't looking. He seemed to genuinely appreciate the feedback. I did end up getting a full refund and some offers of freebies to come back. I haven't decided whether I'll return yet. But I do feel like taking my complaint outside of the virtual world and actually speaking to another human helped me get the closure that writing a Yelp review sometimes does not get you. (caveat: If you have a hot temper, this might not always work for you.)

I won't stop writing Yelp reviews. I like to review the good and the bad. But I now have a greater appreciation for human contact. Next time you have a bad experience with a company, maybe a call to the owner or manager will get you the results you were hoping for. This way you aren't sitting behind your computer with your negative Yelp review and nothing to show for it.

lolorashel lives in the bay area, where she tweets, posts, and twirls about Twirly Girl Pole Fitness: women of all shapes, sizes and abilities can flourish, get their sweat on and still feel sexy!

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