OPERATIONS

Study: Social media may ease negative word-of-mouth impact

BY Staff Writer

Ann Arbor, Mich. — A study released Tuesday by customer feedback management firm CFI Group found that social media may be blunting the impact of negative word-of-mouth.

According to the findings of its annual Call Center Satisfaction Index, CFI Group said that social media commentary after a call center experience can have a counter-intuitive impact.

“What we are seeing is that, if you have a bad experience, you post it once on Facebook for all to see and then you’re done with it,” said Terry Redding, director of development and delivery for CFI Group. “By the same token, we are seeing good experiences posted in the same way. In fact, we’ve observed that positive comments generally outweigh negative ones almost as a rule.”

While a bad experience may increase the odds that someone will tell others, the sheer number of positive experiences and positive posts seems to be outweighing the negative word-of-mouth in volume.

Another key finding in this year’s report, said CFI, was the shift to self-service, particularly via the web. In 2011, 27% of respondents had tried to resolve their issues elsewhere prior to resorting to working with the call center. The primary alternate channel was the web.

“This is the first year since we’ve fielded that study that we’ve seen a decrease in overall score on the private sector side,” said Redding. “We feel the drop is due to an increasing number of easier calls being offloaded to self-service channels like the web, leaving the more complex cases going to the call centers.”

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OPERATIONS

West Marine CEO steps down

BY Staff Writer

Watsonville, Calif. — West Marine said Tuesday that its president and CEO Geoff Eisenberg will resign once a new chief is appointed.

Following a leadership transition period, Eisenberg will serve as a special advisor to the West Marine board of directors.

West Marine has already initiated the search for a new CEO. No reason has been given for Eisenberg’s departure.

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OPERATIONS

American Express stops selling gift cards in New Jersey over ZIP code requirement

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — American Express Co. has become the first company to pull its gift cards from being sold in New Jersey drug stores, supermarkets and convenience stores in response to a controversial new revision in the state’s unclaimed property law. (The only way New Jersey residents can now buy AmEx gift cards is directly from the company.)

Under the new law, New Jersey’s Treasury Department will soon require sellers to obtain the ZIP code of everyone who buys a gift card. The state believes that by so doing, it can claim to the value of any card that is not redeemed after two years. Before the legislative revision, if a gift card went unused, the issuing business kept the money.

John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, said the law poses serious administrative burdens to businesses and potential problems for consumers.

“Retailers and gift card issuers like American Express have had serious concerns about the escheat law since it was passed nearly two years ago,” Holub told the Associated Press. “I fear many retailers are likely to follow American Express’s lead because the legal risk, technological burden and steep cost of complying is simply too great.”

There is no way American Express Co. can ensure compliance with cards not bought directly from AmEx, company spokeswoman Vanessa McCutchen told The Associated Press, so the company decided to pull its cards from the shelves.

The requirement, the first of its type in the country, is being challenged in court by the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, American Express and other groups. However, an injunction against ZIP code collections was lifted in March and the state Treasury is reportedly working with gift-card sellers to hammer out rules for its implementation.

Two years ago, the New Jersey Legislature passed a law that allows the state to claim the proceeds of gift cards bought in the Garden State if customers don’t use them within two years. It saw the unused cards as an untapped revenue source that could help with the state’s budget shortfall.

A lawsuit followed and a U.S. District Court judge enjoined the collection of ZIP codes. Although the merits of the case have yet to be argued, the injunction was lifted after a subsequent hearing, paving the way for Treasury to issue guidance on new ZIP code collection requirements, the Associated Press reported.

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