Nichole Kelly is not just a writer for Social Media Explorer, but a business partner of mine. While we’re still working out the details of what that relationship means so that we can announce it publicly, but it’s safe to say she and her work and expertise are important to me.
Last week, Nichole was involved in an incredible exchange, both publicly and privately, with a company called Solve360. They are owned by a company called Norada and produce a customer relationship management software which has the honor of having one of Nichole’s consulting clients as a customer. When Nichole reached out to them to try an answer some technical questions about how their service integrates with an email platform, she was disappointed in the routing and re-routing to the online help documentation (which wasn’t sufficient to answer her query) and posted these two tweets:
Most of us in the social media echo chamber are tempted to use the public channels here as a way to flip the ear of companies that don’t please us. When we do, sometimes we get tended to and other times we don’t. Frankly, I think calling out companies in situations like this is often counter-productive, even if it is justified. If they’d simply called her back (what her email to the company asked for) the problem wouldn’t have been a problem.
But the situation soon spiraled out of control. The next day, Nichole saw this tweet in response from the company:
I’ve been shown the public and private email exchanges between Nichole and Solve360 (represented by someone listed as Mike). I’ve also seen the exchanges that included a few of Nichole’s readers and followers, including Megan Horn, who blogged her experience with more detail than we care to dive into. I’ve also seen an email sent to Horn from someone named Steve Ireland, who we believe is the president of Norada. While we thought about sharing them all here for everyone to see, I elected to save you the experience.
In short, the exchanges are astonishing. The company Twitter account called Nichole and Megan “frauds” and said the issue is “over your pay scale.” This is when Horn emailed the company hoping the issue could be explained by a rogue employee manning the Twitter account. Ireland (the company executive, not the customer service person) then responded with an email that included accusing Kelly of being a, “self-proclaimed social media expert(s) grandstanding.” He also said, “social media currently has no place in the top 10 ROI for any real business.”
And while Horn’s email was sent to point out that whomever was manning the customer service desk for the company was being rude and condescending — she wasn’t really involved in the root issue — she was met with similar shortness and condescending finger wagging from Ireland, including this:
“Your actions are not without consequence.”
What We Can Learn
I don’t know why this company thinks taking hostilities out on social media folk is a way to win friends and influence people, nor why they would take those hostilities out on someone who represents a client that currently pays them for multiple (in the 20s) seat licenses of their software. I don’t know why any company of any kind anywhere would be outwardly hostile toward any customer, even one that is being a turd (though I don’t think any customers were in this situation). I can’t imagine a company anywhere would ever say publicly, “squeaky wheels don’t get greased here.”
It’s apparent that Mike and Steve are cut from a different cloth than the customer service we all expect from those with whom we do business.
My takeaway from watching, then reviewing, this scenario is that customer service is not something you do. It’s not an act. It’s who you are. It’s part of your DNA. Steve and Mike do not appear to have service in their DNA. They appear to be content that if they keep a certain number of customers happy, they can shit on the rest and still make their margins. They also appear to have a bend against social media, social media consultants or Kelly, but I’m still not sure why they’d be so vocally abusive of any of the three.
Unfortunately, when customer service isn’t in your DNA, when it’s something you do rather than who you are, you eventually lose (or for Mike and Steve’s sake, you don’t win as big as you could have). Negative word of mouth spreads much faster than any positive word of mouth and even those you take care of like kings will eventually hear how you treated those that you don’t.
This situation has nothing to do with social media or social media experts. It has everything to do with knowing that any exchange with a customer or prospect is your banner you wave to the world. You can choose for it to say, “We love customers.” Or you can choose for it to say, “You’re not our core account, so you don’t matter. Deal with it.”
And no, the fact this company makes a customer RELATIONSHIP management software is not lost on me. I need a good laugh now and then. That fact will be nice to revisit.
At the end of the day, Solve360 is right about one thing: Actions are not without consequence.
While I’m sure there are some consequences awaiting them, they won’t likely realize them right away. A few tweets and even an SME blog post aren’t going to cause dozens of customers to run fleeing from Solve360. But continued behavior like that they exhibited last week to customers will sneak up on them.
Karma, as they say, is a bitch.
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