Customer service used to mean a toll-free number or a counter at the back of a store, but with businesses becoming increasingly tech-savvy, the customer service landscape is heading more and more in the social media sphere, which may not always be a good thing.
N-Control, the maker of the Playstation 3 Avenger Controller accessory, recently came under fire for an “abusive” email exchange between a customer and Paul Christoforo, president of the company's PR firm Ocean Marketing.
The disgruntled customer, Dave, sent the email conversation to Penny Arcade, a comic website, and soon after, the entire exchange was posted on the site. Dave originally reached out to Christoforo on December 16 to ask when the controllers he had ordered would come in, and after several dismissive and rude email responses, Dave replied with an angry message back about Christoforo's “poor communication.”
Christoforo emailed Dave back, saying many offensive phrases, including, “We do value our customers but sometimes we get children like you we just have to put you in the corner with your im (sic) stupid hat on.”
Once the emails went viral and Penny Arcade fans saw Christoforo's ill-mannered customer interaction, gamers and reviewers flooded N-Control with complaints and quickly knocked the company down to one star on Amazon.com.
N-Control rightly sought to distance itself from the firm and ended its relationship with Christoforo and Ocean Marketing, issuing an official press release on the night of December 28.
Christoforo sent Dave a personal apology and later showed up on MSNBC where he called the situation “humbling a little bit, but life goes on. I'm not going to die."
He added, “I could have nipped this all in the bud by being a little nicer. You never know who knows who, and lesson learned. We all have bad days and they caught me on one.”
In the future, maybe PR and marketing people shouldn't be handling customer service questions—not because they're not capable, but because they are so inundated with other issues for their clients. It may be more advantageous for brands to use dedicated employees or brand ambassadors as customer service representatives, especially with social media making brands easily accessible.
Twitter and Facebook are great customer service tools because they allow consumers to ask brands questions at any time, but that also means that consumers expect their questions to be answered quickly, so companies need to have customer service professionals who are available—and amiable doesn't hurt either.