Does providing obnoxious customer service pay off?

Posted by Heidi Miller on December 2, 2010 at 10:15 PM

Angry_customer Does providing bad customer service pay off?

Last week, the New York Times reported on DecorMyEyes owner Vitaly Borker, an online retailer who claims that he intentionally provokes negative reactions from his customers in order to increase his online visibility and sales. The article describes Borker's using threats and obscenity with customers.

Unfortunately, the article has created a stir in the online community, mostly due to Borker's claim that his negative reviews on GetSatisfaction, a feedback and review tool, fueled his Google rankings and provided more online sales.

Christophe Van Bael reported on the shockingly bad service and its apparent success. Google responded to Borker's claims of using negative reviews to game the system with being bad to your customers is bad for business, reporting that it has been testing its algorithms. And this morning, at Seattle's Social Media Breakfast, Rand Fishkin criticized the NYT's coverage of the phenomenon, saying, "I wish the media understood more about SEO" so that Borker's claims could have been reported more accurately.

Fishkin pointed out that if you read through page eight of the New York Times article, it turns out that Borker's shenanigans aren't actually paying off, despite his adherence to a mission statement of The Customer Is Always Wrong:

DURING our initial phone conversation, Mr. Borker described his business as fantastically profitable. At his home, that seems unlikely. He won’t get specific about his annual income, but he tallies the business from the day before: 120 orders, gross revenue of roughly $20,000, which yielded perhaps $3,000 in profit, out of which he had to pay his employees — mostly women who answer phones and e-mail, off-site — and advertising.

Even GetSatisfaction has denied Borker's claims of success, calling the NYT article "unintentionally misleading":

The story implies that links on Get Satisfaction positively accrue to the benefit of a company, even if they’re negative. Like any online community that cares to combat spammers, we code our user-submitted links so that Google ignores them for the purposes of calculating page rank (specifically, we attach “rel=nofollow” to anchor tags). Somebody trying to gin up their Page Rank by encouraging complaints on Get Satisfaction would be sorely disappointed.

Likewise, GetSatisfaction read the article to the end and points out that Borker may adhere to his philosophy strictly, but his business isn't actually thriving or growing because of it:

Secondly, throughout the article the implication is that bad behavior such as this pays. It is not until the last page of an EIGHT page article that it becomes clear that Mr. Borker is quite troubled financially. This is no formula for success.

While it might be a bit of a chuckle to highlight a shock jock such as Borker in an article on bizarre customer service philosophy, the journalist could have provided a far more accurate article if he had contacted Google, GetSatisfaction or any SEO expert to determine whether Borkin's claims of gaming the system with negativity had any validity.

As it is, the article is more of a character study and doesn't provide any credible proof that provoking and angering one's customers is an effective way to increase sales or grow a business.

And no, Borker, I'm not using any of your requested keywords.

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Topics: retension, negative, Customer Service, Negative customers, angry, feedback, Customer Experience

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