Lessons in Community: Responding to Backlash

Came across this example of poor form when handling community backlash. Long story short: the company ran a promotion that ended sooner than the community was aware and they were not happy about it.

  1. If you’re running a promotion, make sure your terms and restrictions are explicitly stated.
  2. If the community is confused about these terms , it’s not their fault (even if you think they’re wrong). It’s yours, and you should apologize.
  3. Never argue. Ever.

Point in case:

Customer Service: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Let me preface this by saying that I am extremely picky when it comes to customer service. I’ve done it all: concessions, barista, waitress, bookseller, music-seller, tech support, and community management. I’ve always followed the golden rule and, being as picky as I am, this means I do the best I possibly can for the customer/user. Because of this I expect no less in return from the people that are there to service me..oh don’t be dirty, you know what I mean.

Most of the time it’s pretty depressing, but thankfully there are still some companies out there that are just plain impressive.

The Good

I’m addicted to t-shirts. Love ’em! I order from a number of sites and decided to give Busted Tees a try during a pretty sweet sale they were having. I ordered four shirts..that sadly never showed up. I had been so busy I’d actually forgotten about them, and when I checked the UPS tracking it showed that it had been delivered to my home address a week earlier. Umm, no it hadn’t.

Prepared for a huge hassle, I ping Busted Tees on Twitter and say something along the lines of “order said it was delivered a week ago and we never got it, assume we have to file a claim with UPS?” I then call UPS and speak with one of their reps. I tell her the situation and she admits she’s embarrassed before reluctantly telling me that it’s common for the drivers to mark packages as delivered and just leave them on the truck. No joke. Then she tells me that I’ll have to contact the shipper and they will have to file a claim so UPS can start an investigation. I let out a sigh, call it a night and figure I will just contact Busted Tees in the morning to tell them what happened.

The next morning I wake up to an email from Busted Tees in my inbox.

Holy shit. I didn’t even have to contact them, they found me based on my tweet and offered to reship my order. I was dumbfounded then and even now I’m still wowed by this. They didn’t have to eat the cost, it wasn’t their fault, but they went above and beyond and turned me into a loyal and extremely happy customer. Love those guys.

The Bad

Now, where Busted Tees still has me wowed…Disqus on the other hand, still has me pissed off from an email exchange I had with them back at the beginning of the year. We had an immature commenter on our blog that set his username to “fuck off” and we really wanted his comment and his name gone. With Disqus you can moderate comments, but deleting doesn’t actually delete — it removes the comment, says the comment was removed, but leaves the username and everything in the thread. Why? I don’t know, but that’s how it is. So I contact their support to ask if this username can be removed from our comments and the conversation goes:




Arghs! Still. Pissed. First off, It was two full days before they responded. Second, I know that he did not go to this page at all and view the comments before he responded to me, he just shot me back some canned answers. Had he looked at the comment thread he would have noticed that this person commented as a guest, which means there is no profile for me to go to and report him. I just gave up. You win Mr. “fuck off.”

The Ugly

Oh Frontier. I used to love you, but now it seems you’re trying so very hard to make me hate you. Honestly, it’s starting to work.

Last week I was in San Francisco for Web 2.0 Expo and I was scheduled to fly out Thursday night at 8:00pm. Of course that’s the night that my company is sponsoring Ignite Boulder and I really wanted to be home in time for that, so I figured I’d try to catch an earlier flight. The night before, I call Frontier’s 1-800 number and see what the cost is to switch flights. $240. Umm, no thanks..what about standby? I am told bluntly that they do not offer standby. Apparently they did away with it a while ago, but since I’ve never had to fly standby I was not aware of this baffling change. Although, after doing some research online, they do in fact offer standby — it just costs $100. Whatever, $100 is better than $240 so I go online to see if there are any more seats available on the morning flight. The website says that half the plane is empty. Sweet.

However, being the worry wart that I can sometimes be, I wake up at 4:30am and call the 1-800 number again just to make sure that there are in fact seats and that I won’t be stuck at the airport for 11 hours. The agent on the phone tells me that there are 16 seats still available on this flight. Whew! I go back to sleep and then head to the airport after a few more hours. En route I check the seat availability on my iPhone, they were down to four seats and I was starting to sweat. We get to the airport and I rush to the counter to talk to someone only to find out that the flight is sold out..and has been for over 24 hours. Say what now?

I explain to the (very nice) woman behind the counter, as calmly as possible, that the website and an actual person told me there were seats on this flight and that’s the only reason I came to the airport. She apologizes and adds me to the standby list, but she’s honest and tells me that it doesn’t look good. Now, totally stressed and pissed that I will potentially be at the airport all day, I go sit at the gate and pout. Shortly before boarding I check with her again and she, once again, tells me it doesn’t look good. I turn around, still pouty, and run into two friends of mine on the same flight. I grumble about the situation to them as people start boarding and just before I give up hope, I hear my name called. Score! She gets me a seat, in stretch seating no less, and I make it home in time for Ignite. I don’t remember her name, but I owe her a hug.

Sadly, her effort doesn’t make up for a company that very obviously does not care. A company whose website has completely wrong information, whose agents also have completely wrong information (maybe looking at the same website?), and a company that doesn’t take the time to update flight information when you’re delayed an hour due to a medical incident on the plane (long story). Boo, Frontier, boo.

The Twitter Soapbox

I like Twitter, I really do. I think it’s a great tool, especially for businesses. As a community manager I closely monitor any activity that directly, or indirectly, mentions our company so that I can reach out as much as possible. And it totally works. Every time I have jumped in and helped someone I have received and complimentary post in return. People are impressed when they know that you listen, and even more so when they weren’t even talking to you. This is very rewarding. The downside, however, is that people can abuse this type of attention.

One thing I don’t like about Twitter (well, aside from the spammers and a number of other things) is that people like to use it to complain…a lot. It has become a soapbox to shout out gripes over just about anything. Since I actively use Twitter for support I see a number of posts per day where people are just shouting complaints at us. This is neither constructive nor helpful for either party. Just look at the difference between these two posts.

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That first post immediately puts me in an awkward position and I have to go into groveling mode when I respond, which is unpleasant for me and I’m sure it’s somewhat unsatisfying for the user. Whereas the second post opens with a simple greeting (nice) and a question, which leaves the issue open for discussion and allows me to actively help this person. I go to great lengths to stay both professional and courteous in all interactions that I have and it’s nice to see the same in return. Maybe it’s because people don’t make the association that there’s an actual person behind the company profile. Hi waves I’m a person and believe it or not I actually care. Please treat me like I’m human.

My advice:

  • Act like you’re talking to a person (because you are)
  • Be polite
  • Don’t shout!
  • Have patience : )