Where I put my foot right in it.

Bugger, I’ve done something stupid. Again.

This particular dumbness sees me in a bit of a Twitstorm. Obviously my normal reaction would be to hide under the desk until it goes away, but I thought it might be an interesting case study, so at the risk of throwing petrol on the flames…

Last week I happened to check our Twitter account. I’m not primarily responsible for our social media, but I tweet on the account occasionally and I take an interest in what happens. We get the odd customer service query, one or two a month, so if I see them first I kick them across to the CS team to sort out.

Anyway, last week a tweet popped up: “Don’t buy a magazine subscription through @iSubscribeUK. You won’t receive it!” It seemed to me a rather sweeping attack on our business by someone who identified himself as the email marketing manager for a specific company.

We’re a small team and I care about what we do and how we do it. The tweet seemed to need a response.

And the first response was to find out what the problem was and to resolve it. Which we did; tweets, emails and phone calls went back and forth, and the problem was sorted out. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but with 100,000+ orders a year and over 600 individual publishers to deal with, sometimes things don’t go as they should.

The second response was a great deal of irritation. Why should someone make what (I felt) was an unwarranted condemnation of our entire business? So I sent an email to the MD of the company that appeared in the tweeter’s bio:

We’re trying to sort out [name] problem, but I do feel it is rather bad form for someone who is identifying themselves as being from your company to be posting such a sweeping generalisation about our company on a public forum like Twitter: https://twitter.com/dangrech/status/275560529618153472

Was it the right thing to do? Almost certainly not. Should I have done it? Of course not. Would I do it again? I doubt it, but in nearly 30 years of working I’ve done some pretty dumb things and will almost certainly do some equally dumb things in the future. Mea culpa, most definitely. (“My bad” for you youngsters.)

But there is also, I would contend, responsibility on those of us who tweet. One can’t just say whatever one wants without being aware that this can have consequences; one’s quick jibe can have real impact on real people. And if you say you’re from a particular company, then your actions reflect on that company; if someone in my team abused someone else in public I would call them out about it.

In just the same way, of course, as my actions detailed above reflect on the business. I’ve always been a fan of irony.

So again, mea culpa.

I’ll leave our customer service responses to cooler heads than mine in future. In the mean time, I need to find my tin hat and get back under the desk.



  1. Maybe I’m missing something here:

    If he put the complaint up on Twitter while using his company’s Twitter feed, then he was making the complaint on behalf of his company, not on behalf of his personal self. Had he made it from his own personal feed, than you and he could have had a good old fashioned knock down fight, were you so inclined to show him how not to provide customer service. Or you could have quietly resolved his issue and moved on. Or however you wanted to handle it.

    A few years back, a colleague of mine was fired from his firm for using their letter head while writing a fairly scathing complaint to an airline. Hell, he was more than justified in making the complaint. But, his employer fired him. That was harsh. But they say they did it because he used their letterhead and were thus speaking to the airline as a representative of the company, not as a private citizen. That’s an extreme comparison, but it works. I think.

    1. It wasn’t his company’s Twitter feed, he just has the name of his company in his author bio. They were his own opinions on his own personal feed, where he happened to have mentioned his workplace; one shouldn’t have to suppress those opinions out of fear that somebody knows who he is or where he works.

    2. He was not posting on behalf of the company, it was his personal account and he happened to mention in his bio that he worked for such company. I sit next to the said person and I bought the magazine subscription and at this point I myself was pulling my hair out trying to get a resolution. Kudos for admitting your hasty actions. Personally I shy away from stating which company I work for on my Twitter handle, I’m proud of the company but I don’t feel vain enough to tell the world who I work for. I think all round there are lessons to be learned here. 1. Don’t react hastily by going the wrong way about dealing with customer service issues, and 2. Think twice about shouting from the roof like a Twitter bird about who you work for. Happy Holidays.

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