Ocean Marketing PR implodes with poor customer service emails

Ocean Marketing PR implodes with poor customer service emails

Summary: Social media marketing company, Ocean Marketing, has shot itself in the foot with this PR gaffe and mobilised the gamer community with an email exchange that went viral.

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Social media marketing company Ocean Marketing has shot itself in the foot with this PR gaffe, highlighted by Penny Arcade the other day.

Penny Arcade is a web comic focused on video games and video game culture. One of the creators is Mike Krahulik, also known as 'Gabe'.

A customer, 'Dave', ordered 2 Avenger PlayStation 3 controllers, made by N-Control for delivery before December 24th and asked about the status of his order. The Ocean Marketing PR lead, Paul Christoforo and Dave entered into an email conversation. This email exchange was initially polite, but it quickly descended into a PR disaster as Penny Arcade and other news sites became involved.

You can read the entire email thread on Penny Arcade.  Here is a screenshot of the start of the exchange of emails between Dave and Christoforo:

Damage Limitation

Since Penny Arcade posted this exchange on 27th December there have been more PR problems for Ocean Marketing.

Ocean Marketing renamed its Twitter account from '@Oceanmarketting' to '@OceanStratagy' presumably to avoid any association with the torrent of abuse directed towards the Twitter account. The @OceanMarketting account was quickly taken over by someone calling himself 'Mark Etting' who is taking advantage of the PR opportunity to promote Indie games and gaming charities.

Christoforo sent two further emails to Penny Arcade, initially saying that attorneys for Ocean Marketing would be in touch. Later that day another email arrived apologising for the way that the email thread progressed.

This apology appeared to be too little, too late. Christoforo no longer works with N-Control. N-Control is now carrying out damage control actions and dealing with negative reviews on Amazon. It also released a press release confirming that it had "categorically dismissed" the third party contractor.

Social lessons

There are lessons to be learned here for social customer service teams:

  • Don't be shocked if a private email exchange ends up on the Internet.  An email exchange is not private if it is sent outside of your corporate boundary.
  • Email is not even private if it remains within corporate boundaries. Even if your internal email is protected by Digital Rights Management systems, photographs can still be taken of the email on the screen itself and published online.
  • Poor customer service examples can quickly be broadcast to a much wider audience.
  • Treat the customer with respect.
  • Late apologies mean nothing.  Apologise for your mistakes early.  Be aware that the damage may already have been done.
  • Changing your Twitter alias is simple.  Changing perception about your actions is not so easy.
  • Be aware that flippant comments can be misconstrued.
  • Be aware that your words can mobilise a community to support you -- or rail against your actions.

And most of all, anyone dealing with customers online should be aware that when things go wrong, they can go wrong quickly and dramatically -- at the speed of a mouse click.

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Topic: Collaboration

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9 comments
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  • RE: Ocean Marketing PR implodes with poor customer service emails

    You missed the part where he threatened to cancel his order and sell his controller on ebay.
    mijsgtpc
    • RE: Ocean Marketing PR implodes with poor customer service emails

      @mijsgtpc

      Too clarify for anyone reading the comment and not familiar: the Ocean marketing rep threatened to cancel the customer's pre-order, take the controllers when they came in, and then sell the units himself on eBay.
      tkejlboom
  • This ... is .... j u s t ....

    t t to to too gg gg g g good. I I I *ah bah* mm mm I I'm sp spee speechluh.. speechless.

    Christoforo FTW! w00t
    klumper
  • RE: Ocean Marketing PR implodes with poor customer service emails

    Also:

    Be aware that the customer is quite frequently wrong. However, when it comes to public opinion, Customer=good and Company=bad. Even if you sell millions of something with 99.9999% happy users, all it takes is one self-entitled loud-mouth with a platform to humiliate your business.
    aep528
    • Did you even read the article?

      @aep528 <br><br>Beyond a cursory glance? The 'self-entitled loud-mouth with a platform' was the COMPANY REP, not the hapless customer. *ding dong*<br><br>Christoforo, wearing his big boy hat, simply got his due, and gave Ocean Media (his company) one hell of a black eye in the process.
      klumper
  • RE: Ocean Marketing PR implodes with poor customer service emails

    I have run into many owners of businesses that are like that to some degree but this is the worst. Paul Christoforo went on Amazon and under different usernames added a bunch of 5-stars to products with fake reviews. He lied about his identity numerous times and when companies try to break away from him sits on their accounts until they give him something he wants. He even changed twitter names to try to hide. These kind of people make purchasing anything online a nightmare. Many times people just cut their losses and be done with it. I would have sent something to FTC but thankful Dave came up with a better solution.
    darkguardian1314
  • hmm

    I guess this is what happens when gamers are both the customers and the support staff on either side of a gamer product.
    Htalk
    • RE: Ocean Marketing PR implodes with poor customer service emails

      @Hobyx

      I thought the gamer was extremely patient. I think anyone who would simply accept the abuse, threats, and insults heaped upon them by the Ocean Market rep is defective. Is there even anything at all to suggest that the Ocean Marketing rep is a gamer?
      tkejlboom
      • RE: Ocean Marketing PR implodes with poor customer service emails

        @tkejlboom His obvious lack of understanding leads me to believe that while he claims to be a gamer ("one of us") that's probably as truthful as his claims to know the mayor of Boston.
        Digitalshakespeare