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August 26, 2008


David Alston

Thanks for the great post. You know, it's interesting how when a single consumer has a bad customer experience on their own they grumble about it, get in a bad mood perhaps and maybe tell a couple folks at work about it the next day. They feel that maybe it's just them, and that nobody else had an experience like the one they had. They think about the person they dealt with on the other end - "maybe they were having a bad day", "maybe they didn't get enough training", "maybe they aren't getting any organizational support and feel frustrated". We tend to come up with excuses to try to validate this rotten experience we just went through because it's out of the ordinary - but in a bad way.

Now enter social media and tweeting about the experience you just had. I was literally overwhelmed with the responses. I had no idea that UHaul had treated others in a similar way. So perhaps it wasn't an isolated thing, maybe it was a universal problem with the company - for whatever reason.

And it was a great discussion too. I received possible theories on why it may have happened - monopoly positioning, focus on price, lack of training, dealer network setup etc... What great insight - and as a marketing person - I started to get drawn into this discussion and to forget the customer service mess I just went through.

What happened was:

- a market validation that indeed an issue existed based on the number of responses and the speed in which they came in
- a mini-strategic focus group on possible root causes for the resulting customer service experience I received
- possible alternatives to consider (in this case, Penske) which I immediately decided to act on and book - canceling UHaul.
- ways to escalate my issue (got the cell number for the CEO of UHaul who said he was open to fix these types of problems - I sent him a text message to drop me a line - no response yet)

Bottom line - a treasure trove of information for any UHaul exec to dig into and potentially use to help solve the bigger problems they are facing. A list of influential social media contacts who had bad experiences with UHaul that cared enough to share them and maybe would care enough to help UHaul fix them if they asked.

But will this be a tree that falls in the forest where no one at UHaul hears. I hope not. They appear to be coasting on brand goodwill from the past. Perhaps it's enough to carry them forward for years to come. Or perhaps another moving truck company will appear on the scene and learn from this UHaul experience and create and offering so remarkable that people will tweet it and blog about it. Could this be Penske? Could it be a new brand? Only time will tell.

Thanks for great discussion.

Warren Sukernek

Sounds like U-Haul could use a Twittervention! Nice post highlighting the groundswell of conversations about brands on Twitter and the importance for those brands to join the conversation (Sorry, JJ).

Doug Meacam

U-Haul's atrocious customer service is legendary. In my first and last experience with them a few years ago, they promised the truck, but at the last minute told me I had to pick it up at a location 25 miles from my house even though there was an U-Haul station less than 2 miles from me, and they wanted me to pay for the additional mileage. Like David, I shared the experience via Twitter and got several responses that echoed my frustration.

There are three types of B2C companies out there. 1) Those who are listening to their customers to build a better experience, 2) those who aren't listening, but think they know what a good customer experience is, and 3) those who simply don't care.

All the examples you shared clearly indicate that U-Haul falls into that last group and they have been there for a while now. It will be interesting to see if David contacting the CEO leads to any lasting changes. Call me cynical, but given U-Haul's franchise model and long history of bad customer service, I doubt that change will be coming any time soon.

Brandon Zeman

I was planning on doing this exact same post! As I was watching David tweet about U-Haul, I couldn't help but think that this is exactly why every company needs to respect and monitor social media, and more importantly, be positively involved. I've never had an experience with U-Haul, but I can just about promise that after this fiasco, I won't be calling them when I need moving services.

I just discovered your blog and I must say its great! Very excited to read more!

Steve Woodruff

Thanks for pulling all this together. These are exactly the kinds of case studies we need to see in order to help make the case for the business impact of social media. And since bad news is shared so widely, we can easily put a multiplier on all the numbers you've shown - then add a "time" multiplier since the negative testimonies are archived on-line. OUCH!

Jeannie Walters

Great post! I recently blogged about how one small experience at a store led me to both blog and tweet immediately. The results will start playing out and we will see a revolution - I hope!

One of the ways to deteriorate customer experience is to get feedback and NOT do anything with it. Feedback is there for the taking - companies just have to catch up and act.

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Good for UHaul. I've used Twitter, but it seems to not be as user friendly as Facebook or MySpace.

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I have used U-Haul once and it was a terrible experience. It's crazy how twitter can start a snowball effect with negative responses. They really should get on to twitter and put out this fire.

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Twitter is a great tool across the board! It is good for your family, and you can do one for work.

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Twitter is something I like to use to keep my family updated on what I am doing and where I am going. It is a great way to communicate, without wasting the time to call.

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