The Wonderful World of Internet HR

Wonderful Pistachios introduced me to the incredible world of online customer service.  Customers of late have been finding maggots and burnt nuts within the protective shells of their pistachios.

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Two separate (horrifying) instances produced immediate responses from the company.  These errors are so egregious that they have no choice but to be upfront in their damage control.  They use comforting language to their customers, almost adopting a parental undertone.  “We’ll take care of you.”  This sentence is intended to show that they remain in control and have the means to care for their customers, regardless of external circumstance.

In Chapter 8 of Ben Shields’, Social Media Management, he mentions that best practices in social media management lie within the speed of reply.  Stopping the uproar before it becomes an untamable wildfire of customer anger is imperative.  Also, Shields states that tone of the response is important as well.  Acknowledging error and displaying how you will correct it in the future is more effective than a simple apology to a customer.  So, despite the gross factor of Wonderful Pistachio’s latest mistakes, their social media team is doing an exemplary job in managing it online.


This is something Uber has faced recently in more than one way.  On the political, business, and technical front, Uber has stood in the face of extreme crisis a lot in the past year.  They even have a separate Twitter account than their main @Uber account to deal with customer maladies.

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In 2014, Uber exec Emil Michael suggested spending a million dollars in a counter-strike against the media, using “off the record” material against a female journalist that wrote a critical piece on the company concerning their male-dominated culture.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick issued a poor, lengthy apology that did nothing to soothe public opinion:

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In his rambling apology, Kalanick does not take into account the nature of Twitter.  It’s a brief platform.  He basically chops up what looks like an email to employees and calls it a day.  He also glazes over the actual issue at hand, making too broad a statement and not mentioning any steps to correcting Uber’s culture moving forward.

Shields states that in mitigating a crisis, you must do three things: shift perception, direct audiences to a specific action, and improve brand health (216).  Kalanick does none of these things with his lackluster apology.  An effective strategy would have been creating a plan for the company to empower women within their business model and harshly reprimand (i.e. fire) any male drivers that have been reported as sexually harassing women.  Merely reproducing a company policy in 13 tweets does not satisfy a consumers’ need for change.  Also, incorporating visual content within an apology, especially from a company as tech-saavy as Uber, would appeal to customer emotion more than loose text.  Shields also makes an excellent point in stating on page 218 that anything on social media these days can be taken out of context and create an even larger problem.  Post with caution.



2 thoughts on “The Wonderful World of Internet HR

  1. You did a great job of picking examples for this blog post. In the pistachio example, I was surprised by the company’s tone of their response. I thought it was out of the ordinary to be so chill and friendly in a situation that seems very serious and panicky to me, if I were the one who had an angry customer tweeting at me. However. when comparing that against the Uber example, I see how that response was much more like a politician dodging the real issue and using a lot of idealistic language to try to appeal to a broad range of audience members. But when you get down to it, an apology tweet needs to take care first and foremost of the person who is complaining. If you take care of them, then you have taken care of the problem. Uber has tried to salvage their public image with their entire broad following rather than solve the problem. And, on top of that, the pistachio company used the affordances of Twitter (short messages, DMs) to handle their customer service, where Uber has not used Twitter as effectively as it could.


  2. It is really incredible that instances like the pistachios can gain so much traction that the company needs to respond. That being said, I don’t think their choice of tone was quite right. To me, it sounded like they weren’t actually interested in the problem, just in keeping people quit.

    Also, I really dislike when a company only responds on one platform. I’m not on Twitter, so even if Kalanick’s apology was enough, I wouldn’t see it. If you are interested in actually improving brand image, you need to make sure that as many people as possible can see your message.


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