Negative online feedback doesn’t only come from customers

marketing-iconMelbourne retailer GASP’s 'interesting' approach to customer service has gone viral, after a customer who felt rudely-treated released an amazing email exchange. But it’s not only customers who can hurt you this way. Employees and even companies you hope to do a deal with can also hurt you online.

By now you probably know about the online furore that has erupted around the “customer service” offered by fashion retailer GASP, which dismissed an email from a dissatisfied customer on the grounds that she was incapable of comprehending its brand values and therefore deserved the poor service she received. GASP also excused the rudeness of a staff member as a sensible tactic to rid the store of a time-wasting customer unlikely to make a purchase.

The incident has gone viral – you can find the customer’s letter and GASP’s response by clicking on the links.

The customer letter to GASP. Click on the image to see a larger and legible version.

The Twittersphere has gone nuts about this incident, which was quickly labelled #gaspfail.

We've pretty much filed the #gaspfail under the same category of incident as the infamous United Breaks Guitars episode that shows so powerfully how negative feedback can be amplified online. If you don’t know that one, the video at the bottom of the story is self-explanatory.

But of late we’ve also come across two other incidents that show how negative online feedback can hurt you.

The first is an anonymous blog called Mini-Microsoft. The author displays intimate knowledge of Microsoft's inner workings  and is scathing about the company’s strategy and direction. An example of the blog's output is this, the most recent post, which covers the company’s annual staff meeting and has generated a plethora of negative posts.

Along the way, the contents of the annual staff meeting have been disclosed to the world and cast in a very unflattering light, all thanks to folks who should be loyal boosters for Microsoft, given that they are on the payroll!

When business partners go bad

Another from the tech industry concerns software giant Oracle, which has a great rivalry with HP. The latter company recently spent billions to acquire a software outfit called Autonomy and proudly told anyone who would listen that the two were such a great fit that neither could ever contemplate another partnership.

Not so, says Oracle, which has posted a website that includes two presentations Autonomy made to senior Oracle executives. Oracle insists the presentations show Autonomy was shopping itself around long before the HP deal. A furious war of words has resulted, with lots of people from all three companies insisting the other stretched the truth or mis-interpreted the situation.

Oracle is a famously feisty company and not many would even consider behaving in this way, but the whole incident shows it’s not just consumers who have the power to embarrass you online.

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