customer service

Difficult client? Sue the bastard!

judge with gavel
Photo: IXQUICK
A Greek Apple authorised Service Provider has taken a client to court because he complained online about their service. According to the company, the client slandered their good name and they are seeking € 200 000 (about $ 267 000) in damages. Now I do not know who was right or wrong in this case, but from a Public Relations point of view the company (System Graph) made an enormous mistake. For example: imagine you live in Greece and you contemplate buying an Apple computer from them. Enter "System Graph Apple" in Google and this story is right there on the front page. Would that influence your purchase decision? I think it would. More importantly, the story is over the entire internet, where the customer is generally perceived as the underdog and the company as being 'evil'. This will have a longer term impact since something on the internet doesn't disappear easily. But let's look at this from a larger perspective:

Could the iPhone blow up in Apple's face?

broken iphoneSeveral people in France, the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden reported the screen of their iPhone 3GS exploding or cracking (the image by the way is not a real photograph, it was fabricated for illustrative purposes only). Apparantly, one French iPhone user was hit by small pieces of glass in his face because the screen 'exploded' when taking a call. At first Apple only said they were "aware of the problem" but couldn't say anything more until the phones were sent back and inspected. After investigating the phones, they claimed that the damage was caused by an "external force", suggesting that the problem is not with the iPhone. In fact, by stating it like this, they more or less blame the customers for the damage. While this may or may not be true, a French consumer organisation and the European Union are now researching the cases and watching out for any future issues regarding the iPhone. Getting this kind of attention is hardly ever a good thing for an organisation. It looks as if Apple is trying to cover up any deficiencies of the iPhone. From a Public Relations point of view, trying to cover things up is usually a bad strategy, so let us examine what is going on here from a PR angle:

How a stupid mistake makes great Public Relations

venice crowne plaza hotel
©IHG
I have never been to Venice (at least, not yet...) and I'd never heard of the Crowne Plaza hotel there. Not until now that is. And the fact that I am now aware of it is a good example of how online communication has a profound effect on Public Relations. Somebody in their organisation made a silly mistake. A mistake that has huge (financial) consequences for the hotel, very negative on the first impression, but possibly great consequences in the long run. Read on to see how and what:

Public Relations 101 - customer service

call centreWhen you want to buy a new product or service, you usually do some research first. The more expensive the product, or the longer term the service, the more research you are likely to do. This "research" is of course influenced by various factors, many of which are of a psychological nature. And not all are rational. But it does usually involve one thing: you consult people you trust that have either first-hand experience with the product, service and the company or are considered an "authority" on the subject. The main element however is that you trust these people.