Being rude to a customer is a terrible idea and can cost your business money.
Being rude to a customer on Twitter, however, can cripple your business.
That’s a lesson that online clothing retailer Hawke & Co. learned the hard way.
Here’s how it went down:
The problem began when @cconti tweeted at the clothing retailer regarding his dissatisfaction with his recent retail experience.
Rather than trying to rectify the problem and handling it in private, Hawke & Co. chose to respond by mocking the customer and his number of followers.
What happened next became a lesson in the power of viral marketing gone badly.
The power of the retweet
Hawke & Co.’s response to their unsatisfied customer picked up steam when Bill Prady, producer of a little show known as Big Bang Theory, shared it with his 180,000 followers. To make matters worse, Prady asked others to retweet it. And, retweet it they did.
Before long, Author Neil Gaiman answered the call and retweeted it to his followers – all two million of them.
Keeping it real, huh?
In an obvious attempt to try to clamp a lid on what had become a massive PR nightmare, Hawke & Co. deleted the tweet. Obviously; however, it was too late.
When people complained to the company that their customer service might be a bit lacking, the retailer stated that they were simply “keeping it real.”
They even went so far as to claim that the entire thing was a “social experiment” and that it was going better than they expected.
It quickly became clear that they were wrong.
Fake it ’til you make it?
In the spirit of “keeping it real” some Twitter users eventually performed a follower analysis on the @hawkeandco account.
The results weren’t pretty.
One report claimed that Hawke & Co. had 87% fake followers while another report indicated that out of more than 19k followers, only 39 were real.
Ouch. Nothing worse than being called out about your fake followers after you mock someone for their follower count.
They’re just not buying what you’re selling. Literally!
At that point, things began to go downhill even faster, if that was possible.
Later that day, Hawke & Co. sent out a tweet telling their followers to stay safe. Some responded by telling the retailer to have fun looking for new customers.
It took until Sunday for Hawke & Co. to realize that the problem was not resolved.
They issued a half-hearted apology (which has since been deleted) that went something like this:
Apparently one of our contributors was s bit feisty with a client last night. We would like to extend an apology to @cconti .
Hawke & Co (@hawkeandco) October 19, 2014
The word “apparently” was like a nail in the coffin. Instead of owning up and really apologizing, they offended even more people.
At that point, they attempted to do damage control by issuing a major discount to the Twitterverse by offering a 70% off discount for a limited time.
Judging by the responses they received, no one was buying, either their apology or their merchandise.
What They Did Right
Ok, there might be one thing. I hate to say they did much of anything good here but if there is one thing that Hawke & Co. did right in this scenario it was staying on top of their mentions in social media. Consumers today, particularly Millennials, are increasingly likely to take to social media to express their displeasure. Furthermore, they expect a response; usually within an hour.
What They Did Wrong
Where Hawke & Co. failed was trying to be “cool” with their response to what was obviously a serious concern by one of their customers. They also obviously underestimated how quickly something can go viral and the repercussions that it can have.
I can understand that some brands want to be “edgy.” And some brands pull it off.
However, there’s never an excuse for poor customer service. Being snarky with a customer – especially in front of other people – will never be cool.
My advice to any brand considering being a jerk to your customers: Get over yourselves.
Also, delete your Twitter account. You really shouldn’t have one.