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Don't Make The Internet Angry: The Role of Social Media in Customer Service
By: Melody Weister
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When most people think about and discuss social networking and how it relates to their current jobs, they consider the positive effects that this burgeoning media affords. While networking online can be a positive force in terms of finding work, connecting with other professionals in the field, and promoting one's business, the Internet remains a public forum, and a formidable foe, if one happens to cause disturbances in the wrong places. When handling customers in any position, it's vital to remember that any written communication can become public at any point. In a number of cases that have been headlining social media news lately, instances of poor customer service have made it to major social networks and resulted in not only an employee's termination, but in one case the disbanding of an entire company. 

The name Paul Christoforo went from virtually unknown to an Internet joke within the timeframe of a week. Christoforo, the former owner of a company called Ocean Marketing, was charged with handling the marketing of an addition to Xbox and PS3 controllers called the N-Avenger Controller on behalf of the actual distributor. When one customer emailed the company to inquire about the status of his order, Christoforo responded initially with vague comments, and when pressed further by the customer, exploded in a tirade of bad grammar and name-dropping that has now become an Internet mockery. The customer CC'd editors of major technology news sources, such as Engadget, Kotaku, and Penny Arcade with his response to Christoforo, and from there, the situation quickly spiralled out of control. The entire chain of emails can be found here. Once this was posted to Penny Arcade's website, social networks began picking up the story. Every company that Christoforo tried to say he worked with denounced him on Twitter, reporters began calling his home, and his Facebook became flooded with comments before he made it private. No one wanted to work with the now-infamous Christoforo, and within days of the story hitting the Internet, Ocean Marketing had gone out of business. 

A similar botched customer service mishap that made waves recently occurred at a Papa John's in New York City. Minhee Cho, the Communications Manager at ProPublica, received a receipt for her order that was blatantly racist and tweeted a photo of it with the comment, "Hey @PapaJohns just FYI my name isn't 'lady chinky eyes.'" Within hours, the post had been retweeted more than 25,000 times, and the manager of the Papa John's in question had been contacted regarding the incident by multiple reporters. By the next day, the employee responsible had been terminated. The story has since been discussed on Stephen Colbert's Comedy Central show, "The Colbert Report," and featured on major news networks' blogs. 

While these stories serve as points of interest for technology aficionados such as myself, they also illustrate a vital truth: the Internet is not a force you want to reckon with. Social networking can make, and more importantly, BREAK a company or an employee. Whether it's in the form of emails or what's being typed on a receipt, any communications to customers, fellow employees, etc. should be considered as public documents. It's easy to forget decorum and say, "It's a private email, I can say whatever I want," but in these and many other cases, doing so could end up costing more than a person ever thought possible. The Internet can be a formidable foe, ladies and gentleman; make sure you're playing nicely.


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About the Author
Melody Weister is a technology aficionado, unashamed smartphone geek, and casual gamer from Montclair, NJ, where she works as a Social Media Coordinator. Follow her on Twitter: @msmelodyrose.
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