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…

Dorky Thoughts

I am tied up with other projects today, so today’s post is going to be another “daily digest”; I’m going to pop in here throughout the day as postable things pop into my head.  I won’t blame you if you wait until later to read, but hey, it would also be cool if you popped in and commented; it’d be like a conversation.

If you decide to wait, why not take the Centurian Quiz I posted yesterday?  The worst that can happen is you have a bit of fun, and you could win a prize.  Prizes equal good, so give it a shot!

6:17am – Mmm, if there is anything more delicious than a hot cup of coffee first thing in the morning, I don’t want to know because I’m not sure I could handle it.  Yes, caffeine is a drug, and yes, that makes me an addict.  Don’t care, drinking my med’cine now…

7:47am – I’ll post a link when it goes live, but I wrote a guest article on “The Cage” for Beyond the Farthest Blog, the Star Trek blog belonging to Mike of Mike’s Best Blog Ever fame.  Mike was flatteringly complimentary when he received it, so I have some hope it might amuse.  Looks like it will get posted this Sunday, so I’ll post a link Monday.  And let me repeat a two-part shout-out: I am interested both in guest posting for other blogs, and having guest posts here.  If either of those things interest you, please drop me a line in the comments or contact me on Twitter.

9:24am – It seems that the lads over at Penny Arcade have made the switch from D&D 4th to Pathfinder RPG.  While there is no secret I love Pathfinder, I consider myself neutral regarding the Edition Wars.  I get a visceral pleasure from playing 4th ed., and I have played sessions at cons and enjoyed myself.  But for sustained pleasure I always come back to Pathfinder; it has what I need to make me happy at the campaign level.  Looking through the PA blog it seems that Gabe came to a similar conclusion, and made a choice accordingly.  While I’m always happy to see new Pathfinder players, I think the more vocal among our tribe need to settle down just a bit.  Guys and gals, we didn’t “win” anything, D&D did not “lose”, because there is no contest here.  They stopped playing a game they no longer enjoyed, and tried a new game which worked for them. End of Line.  To make any more of this is to perpetuate a pointless conflict.  If you are such a person, then I have the same feeling toward your virtual saber rattling as I do towards Macedonians seeking redress for a war that happened BCE.  Which is to say, confusion and annoyance.

11:13am – As foretold in the prophecy, plans are afoot for the Trimming of the Tree.  I had some concerns that I would not be able to pull-off something suitable geeky.  Then I found instructions for creating my own Star Wars paper snowflakes.  My concerns have been eliminated.

11:36am – Breaking News! Canada Post just dropped off a box from Paizo!  I am expecting a shipment of Venture-Captain shirts from them, but the shipping tag would seem to indicate this is not those.  I investigate anon!

12:46pm – Turns out the package was a bunch of stuff that I had on my Paizo site wishlist.  Thing is, I didn’t order it!  So some Pathfinder Angel took it upon themselves to purchase the stuff and send it to me.  I don’t know who you are, but thank-you very much!

1:30pm – Work done for the day (except for the stuff I’ll work on tonight).  But right now is Me Time! And how do I celebrate Me Time? With the traditional vacuuming of the living room! I know, right?  Don’t worry, there will be some relaxing in there, too.  But our carpet is filthy, and must be cleansed for the good of all (those wearing socks, mostly)!

3:12pm – Investigating the local Taoist Society.  I feel like it’s time to get back to tai chi, and it seems new classes will begin Jan 12.  So between now and then I’m going to re-implement my stretching routine so I have some flexibility back before the first class.  I’m a bit nervous/excited; I haven’t really practised tai chi since a few years after college, but I remember how good I felt when I did.  It would be pretty great to have that feeling again.

3:22pm – Seems to be a lot of negativity flying around the nerd community again.  Male privilege, bullying, women sniping at women, edition hate…seriously, everyone, dial it back.  Try focusing for a moment on why you love your corner of fandom, divorced from what other people think.  Stay with that idea, and make that what drives you.  I promise, you will enjoy our geekdom more if you stop worrying about whether another geek is doing it “right” and focus on yourself.  Yes, our fandom has issues.  But strident anger does not get your message across.  Don’t believe me?  Read your latest rant out loud and record it.  Now play it back?  Would you want to listen to that? Neither would I.