A Twitter Trainwreck

Gladbrook, Iowa, Green Mountain Train Wreck, Rock Island Railroad

No one can look away from a train wreck, and I certainly couldn’t tear myself away from this trainwreck of a Twitter exchange. It ended pretty well, actually, considering. So far, no one has been fired or sued, and I’m sure it’s been great for brand awareness… Is any publicity really good publicity?

I work in marketing, but one of my first loves is customer service. No, really. When I was in college, I worked at Montreal’s biggest yarn shop. The owners both seemed to have a true dislike for their customers, but I loved talking to people, finding out what they needed, helping them plan their next project, and working through their latest knitting mistake.

When I started with Flippa, one of my tasks was handling Premium Support for our high-end listings, and helping out our support guys when they needed a hand. Though we deal with hundreds of support requests every day, and not everyone was, shall we say, polite to us, I still loved helping out people.

I forget where I read it, but there’s a great blog post out there encouraging everyone who runs a business to try and make someone’s day, every day. That’s still my mission when I respond to people on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and on various forums and blogs. Everyone deserves to have their day made, once in awhile, and it’s sometimes as easy as sending a few credits their way, or helping them fix their listing after office hours, or just sending some words of encouragement.

So when I see a brand interacting this way with their customers online, especially on Twitter, I can’t help but dread what’s coming. This guy was complaining about the company’s pricing (which is something we encounter often enough at Flippa), and, in responding, the company completely forgot that this guy was a real person, with friends and family and a budget. Sending two complimentary tickets his way might have bought them a customer for life. Berating him online and standing up for their brand, as Econsultancy put it, might have spread their name across the Internet, but it sure left a bad taste in my mouth — and I bet I’m not alone.