When Is the Right Time to Call Out a Company on Social Media?

20 July 2015 | 18 Comments

I’m a strong believer of the leadership mantra, “Praise publicly, criticize privately.” It applies to management, relationships, friendships, etc–pretty much every type of human dynamic.

So why did I call out Shapeways on Twitter today?

***

Before I talk about Shapeways, I have a corollary to Stonemaier Games. A few weeks ago I was alerted to this post on the a Facebook board game group:

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I chimed into the discussion to learn more and assure the person that we replace any missing or broken parts through this form on our website. As it turned out, there were no yellow cards with errors on them, but there were 5 missing visitor cards.

Here’s the problem with posts like this: They lead to false assumptions. Anyone who sees that post might assume (incorrectly) that Viticulture is missing 5 yellow cards, which is not true. A very small percentage of any game is going to have some sort of mistake inside the box.

Literally all you have to do is go to the company’s website, click on whatever their version of “replacement parts” is, and ask for replacement parts. I guarantee you that any game publisher would prefer that you do that than posting on social media about a niche error.

The other problem is that these types of posts are permanent, even if they turn out not to be true. So not only are people in the Facebook group seeing a niche error, they’re also seeing an untruth (the yellow cards don’t have any errors). They would have to dig through the comments to see otherwise.

Do I understand someone’s frustration when opening the box and not getting everything they paid for? Absolutely. Is it an opportunity for me to show good customer service in a public forum? Definitely.

But what’s the point? What do you gain from posting something like this? Maybe you catch the publisher’s attention so they can fix the problem (in this case I wasn’t tagged in the post, so I wouldn’t have seen it if an alert ambassador hadn’t tagged me in the comment). But you’re much better off just contacting the publisher directly, whether it’s through a form or an e-mail.

Think about what you want to gain from a post like this before you make it, and perhaps consider some of the negative repercussions as well.

***

This brings us back to Shapeways.

In preparation for my upcoming Kickstarter campaign for Scythe, I’ve been printing a lot of miniature samples via Shapeways (a 3D printing service). I’ve had very few issues that didn’t originate with me.

A week or so ago, I received miniature that was white instead of painted yellow. I contacted customer service about it, and they replied in a timely manner, pointing out that they were worried the miniature wouldn’t have survived the post-painting tumbling process. The recommended that I paint it by hand.

It wasn’t ideal, but it was fine. I checked my e-mail, and I did in fact have an e-mail from Shapeways alerting me to the issue during the process.

IMG_4486But now we’re a week before Gen Con, a big convention for which I need perfect miniatures, and I received a package with 4 Saxon mechs. They look identical…except 3 are black and 1 is white (they should all be black.

Without any time to spare, I wrote to customer service right away. But this is really time sensitive at this point–I need 4 black Saxon mechs for Gen Con.

So I turned to Twitter.

Before I did, I checked my recent e-mails from Shapeways to make sure I wasn’t about to spread false information about a mistake I had previously been alerted to. There’s no such message. I think the presence of 3 perfect mechs is indicative of this–there’s no reason why the fourth mech shouldn’t be black too.

I was annoyed, but that wasn’t why I turned to Twitter. Maybe that feels right to you, but I don’t use social media as a platform to complain.

Rather, the reason I turned to Twitter is that I need Shapeways to act, and I need them to act quickly.

That’s it. That’s the sole reason. I don’t have the luxury of time here, and I need to give Shapeways enough of a nudge that they actually fix the problem in time for Gen Con. Usually I’d even wait a few days to hear back from customer service, but these models can take weeks to print–I don’t have that much time.

UPDATE: This post isn’t really about Shapeways, but to their credit, I did hear back from them less than a day after sending in the complaint and making the tweet, and they’re working to fix the problem.

***

It’s in that urgency that I see perhaps the only good reason to call out a company on social media: to inspire immediate action when you’ve exhausted your other options. If you do, you better make sure you’re conveying accurate information (both out of human decency and to avoid committing libel).

However, that’s MY reason. I’m sure other people have very different thresholds and motivations for calling out a company (or a person) on social media. Where do you draw the line?

18 Comments on “When Is the Right Time to Call Out a Company on Social Media?

  1. I feel like it might be justified to bring an issue to public spotlight if private interactions have not prompted the company to fix their problem. This is purely hypothetical at this point, as most game companies have had great costumer service (including Stonemeier Games!) in my experience.

  2. You say you posted that because you needed an immediate response, but had you tried to phone them first? Otherwise I don’t think you can say it was your only option left.

    1. Michael: I haven’t tried to call them, but I think the call out on social media gives them a different type of public pressure that a phone call doesn’t achieve.

      Perhaps I’m missing it, but I don’t think I say anywhere in the article that social media was my only option remaining. I haven’t tried carrier pigeon yet.

  3. My first idea was to call them. Don’t they have a customer service hotline to get help from? Of course you checked everything (mails) before posting anything wrong, but hotline should have been first option (if available). If not yes, because of your timelimit it may be an ok action, but not one that should normally done and you are saying that either.
    I always write mails when i have missing parts (and i happens more often than i want it to happen). I never opened any social media discussion for something like that. But there are those people out there acting before thinking… and i think although this is a fine post about this problem of overacting, but the people who really should read it will never see it. :-(

  4. Jamey,

    It’s an interesting dilemma…I agree with several of the others who state the obvious way to resolve the issue…via phone which is both direct and personal. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about the relationship Shapeways has with its customers to understand fully whether or not your approach will yield the desired result.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  5. I just wanted to mention, for all those saying that a phonecall would be best… I just checked Shapeways website, and (like many websites) they have no contact phone number. Jamey said they did not respond to his emails which is the only way of contact them.

    In addition, think back to anytime you’ve called a company for service. Because of large volumes of calls, first you talk to a robot, then a person, then you often get transferred around, explaining your issue multiple times, and the solution is not always fast of helpful. Regardless, Shapeways has no contzct number (at least not one that is easy to locate on their website) so Twitter was a quick way to contact them.

    Last point: in a previous interraction, they recommended painting the model the last time it was shipped out incorrectly, they did not replace it nor did they offer. Maybe calling them out on Twitter will help bring about a change in their overall policies.

    1. Caitlin: Just to clarify, Shapeways had not yet replied to my e-mail when I sent posted on Twitter and wrote this post, but they did reply within 24 hours (which is great). It’s just that in this case, any time made a big difference.

      The lack of a phone number is interesting, partially because I don’t list a phone number on our website either. Granted, it’s just me, and I’m sure Shapeways has more than one employee, but I wonder if some people arrive at my website looking for a phone number.

  6. Oops! I was wrong. They did respond to his emails after the yellow-not-white error, but would not be a fast enough option this time. My mistake!

  7. excellent post and totally agree with that as a leadership mantra. I tell the teams at work that I work with that feedback is a very strategic thing. There are times you need to choose very carefully the style, forum, and trail that you leave behind or “on the record”. Great stuff.

  8. Personally I think that the only justification for public comments is if you want to inform the public about something. Using the fact that the public can see something to add pressure to what should be a private communication is pretty questionable to me. In the end the definition of ‘needing’ something to happen fast is personal, everyone who ever complained about anything could think they needed a fast response. I assume that previous responses from Shapeways were slow? That their customer service was poor? If you needed to use twitter to make them faster and better?

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