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Bad Communication Leads to Crappy Customer Service

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It boggles my mind how some businesses seem to think that their customers don’t matter. Even though they may have a corporate blog and easy means of being contacted, their version of customer service appears to consist of “This is what we’re doing now. Like it or lump it.”

At the time of writing this blog post, HootSuite, the web app I use most for Twitter, has been down over over nine hours. It was due to be down for maintenance last night, but only for a period of 30 minutes.  There are hundreds, of tweets from user stating that they can’t access their dashboards, but so far there has been no acknowledgement from HootSuite. Nothing on either their main or support accounts, and nothing on their blog. People are angry confused and frustrated.

Now, I understand that it’s a weekend, and a long one at that. But the internet does not stop simply because everyone is out of the office, and it’s incredible that HootSuite have no one monitoring their accounts in case precisely this kind of problem occurs. You could argue that Hootsuite is a free service and because of that, users should stop whining. But the market for Twitter applications is very competitive and this non-communication risks alienating users and driving them away to one of the many alternatives that are out there. Something as simple as releasing a statement describing what has gone wrong is a much better strategy than saying nothing at all.

There is no point having corporate Twitter accounts if they are not monitored, just as there is no point having a blog if you don’t want to interact with readers. The HootSuite blog is still displaying their April Fool’s day joke and their Twitter account taunts me with the news that they are “back from maintenance” and thanks me for my patience. The support account has not been updated in over 18 hours. They obviously take Easter very seriously in the HootSuite nest.

This is crappy behaviour, especially from a business whose popularity depends on user satisfaction. Hootsuite is free; users are not tied to a contract or any other agreement and can defect to an alternative whenever they like. By neglecting or refusing to let their users know what is going on, HootSuite are sending a message. And that message roughly reads as “Thanks for using our product! Please note that we don’t actually care about your user experience and cannot be bothered to keep you informed.”

Reputations can be destroyed in an instant, but it will take far longer for them to recover. Just look at Toyota’s troubles. If nothing happens over the Easter weekend, HootSuite users won’t stop using Twitter. They will find an alternative to tide them over, and some of them won’t come back, even when HootSuite is back to normal. Those who do return will be wary, worried that problems could recur at any point and knowing that they won’t get any useful information from HootSuite. As for me? I’m hacked off enough to be blogging about it, and frustrated that a company with such a terrific web app have so little consideration for the users who have done so much to promote it.

[Image via Mashable]

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5 Comments

  1. Heather says:

    Just did a quick google search for Hootsuite and came across this (along with lots of realtime updates on how it wasn’t working for people). Glad to know its not just me, but it is a little ridiculous.

    I use it because its so much nicer than Twitter itself, but that doesn’t matter too much if its just plain down. Hope its back on soon.

  2. Stephanie Migot says:

    It’s back up and running now (22:47 UK time), but I am still absolutely infuriated at their handling of the issue. It’s one thing to have some difficulties during maintenance, but entirely another to keep your customer base in the dark.

    Still, the outage means that I’ve spent most of the day looking for alternatives to HootSuite, and will be blogging about those on Monday.

  3. Hi Stephanie,

    once again – for seven hours by now – Hootsuite ceased operations on my account, leaving 40+ updates to five different accounts unprocessed and counting…

    Have you found by now a (web-based) alternative to Hootsuite that allows scheduling updates (mainly to Twitter and Facebook)?

    Best regards, Stefan

  4. Stephanie Migot says:

    Hi Stefan! Well yes, I did do a follow-up on the apps I’d been trying out as alternatives to HootSuite. For what it’s worth, I’d go with CoTweet as the best alternative.

  5. Hi Stephanie: That would be my choice at moment, too. Happy New Year!

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