I’m No Customer Service Expert, But…

I didn’t plan to write anything for the blog today, but as with the Alyssa Bereznack story from a while back, some things I can’t pass by without comment.  This is going to be quick and off the cuff (not edited), so my apologies…

You may have heard already about the ongoing Ocean Marketing customer service fiasco.  If not, Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade fame has posted an example brought to his attention.  Apparently this is an ongoing problem over at Ocean Marketing, because this isn’t a new issue for them.  Take a moment to read both threads (be patient, traffic volumes are high to both sites right now) and then come back…

Okay, I think we can all see where Paul Christoforo went wrong, can’t we?  That’s right, he should never have been allowed to interact with customers in any way ever.  He is the poster-child for why a company has a Customer Service department.  If I wrote a PSA urging companies to hire CS staff, it would end with his picture and a voice-over saying, “Don’t end up like Paul Christoforo and Ocean Marketing!”, and I’d probably underlay the screams of the damned for effect.

I’m sure if you type “Ocean Marketing PR” into the search engine of your choice you will find links to your favourite gaming sites, already sporting articles on this kerfuffle.  As I am not a hard-core console gamer, I can’t really speak from that point of view.  To be honest, I would hardly count myself a soft-core console gamer; I’m in the (slow) process of finishing Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, for instance.  Don’t judge me.

But I can speak as a consumer who has watched the internet change the game for customer service.  Before the rise of the internet, customer service used to be a 9-5 thing and relatively private.  You called during business hours, spoke to someone or possible several someones, and things were either sorted out or they weren’t.  But your avenues for complaint were pretty limited.  Unfortunately for Ocean Marketing and Paul Christoforo, those days are so far gone we’ll be studying the fossils soon.  Even more unfortunate, Paul Christoforo doesn’t seem to realize the change, and in the end that is going to harm his company.

Look, I can’t say it plain enough: customer service is no longer private!  I’m not what could be described as a web guru, or even particularly web savvy.  So the fact that I know a company’s customer service is a 24/7/365 affair living in a glass house, and Mr. Christoforo apparently does not, boggles my mind.  If you provide just inadequate customer service, word will spread across the internet. Never mind the “set us to DefCon 1 and tell the $#@&er on the Red Phone to go to hell!” kind of customer service demonstrated by Ocean Marketing.  Good lord, Christoforo’s ignorance of the status quo is so bad, he actually thinks that complaints to news sites are a marketing tool:

LOL Thanks for the Free PR I know the Editor N Chief of Kotaku , IGN , Engadget I’ll be meeting them at CES…[break mine, because he does go on] …Send that over to Engadget you look like a complete moron swearing and sending your customer service complaints to a magazine as if they will post it or even pay attention…

Um, really? Not a marketing expert either, but even I can tell you the days of “any publicity is good publicity” are over.  No, sorry Ocean Marketing, but bad publicity is bad.  It goes everywhere and lasts for the life of the internet.  Six months or a year from now I can type “Ocean Marketing PR” into my browser and relive this horrible customer service example.  Or as I like to call it, the beginning of your end.  Which would be a shame because apparently you make a damn fine controller, so good that even the guy you treat like $@%& defends it.  But a great product doesn’t give you a free pass to be a douche canoe.

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I also wanted to touch briefly on the “threats” and insults aimed at Mike Krahulik and Penny Arcade Expo by Paul Christoforo.  I’m pretty sure that Mr. Krahulik is taking them about as seriously as I am, which is to say, not seriously at all.  Put in perspective, I will give more credence to what a five-year-old tells me about quantum singularities than I will anything Christoforo says about PAX or PAX East.  That said, it again shows a definite lack of audience savvy.

I have followed PA since before there was a PAX.  I remember reading about it on the site when they announced the first one, and enjoyed hearing about its success.  And I remember hoping that it continued to be a successful event for them, because I believed in their reasons for starting it, lo those many years ago.  Fast forward to today and voila!  PAX did so well it had to split in two, and it shows no signs of stopping.  I haven’t made it to one yet, but it is on my list, believe it.  PAX is successful because of the attendees, and they are a rabidly faithful bunch by all accounts.  Heck, I have a nerd-crush on PAX and I’ve never even seen it!

This is all to say that, of everything Paul Christoforo did wrong in his “customer service” exchanges, taking shots at PAX and Penny Arcade was perhaps the wrongest.  At one point he actually claims to not know who PA or Mike Krahulik are.  Well, Paul, I can guarantee your sales and marketing departments likely know, and if they don’t you need to fire them and hire good ones.  You just personally insulted a founder of one of the biggest gaming events in North America.  An apology at this point, while definitely required, is not going to help.  I don’t even think falling on your sword is going to cut it, frankly.  But if you really believe in your product and want it to succeed despite you, I think you need to try both.

Okay, that’s my two cents.  Thoughts, rebuttals, amusing cat videos? Post them below…

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One thought on “I’m No Customer Service Expert, But…

  1. Holy crap, I read that link you posted about the previous customer service fiasco back in Feb-June of this year. This guy never changes, never gets it, and continues to be an arrogant douche bag through it all. His career is dead, and good riddance…

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