My growing dilemma with bad customer service. Consumer conversation management.

Let me tell you a little story first.

I stayed in a hotelroom last night at a large and international hotel chain in The Netherlands. The room cost me 164 euros a night. Normally that would be waaaay too much for what I would pay for a decent bed and a roof above my head, but now convenience (I had to be at the office across the hotel this morning and there is no hotel really near) and the fact that the hotel was booked through my employer made me accept the treat. I would deal with my karma later and would make sure to make up with my colleagues by doing some really efficient sales meetings the next day.

I accepted that the 17.85 euros for 24h internet (or 5.95 euros for 60 minutes) wasn’t included in the hotel room. Internet is just really expensive these days.

Chewing gum, strange spots and bathroom math with hole When I walked into the bathroom this morning, I encountered this scene (see photo). My floor math had a hole in it,  there was a chewing gum stain on the floor (small stain on the right) and a strange red smear in the corner (that I could clean with some water and towels).

In my no-nonsense mind, a 164-euro-room sets a bandwidth of expectations. As does a 50-euro room. Or a room at a youth hostel. Or, for my part, a 500 euro room. Depending on location and cost, there’s a certain level of cleanness and luxury one expects in a room. Let’s say that in the bandwidth of expectations of a 164-euro-room, I expect a clean room.

But that’s only where my dilemma starts.

I had dinner with PR people last night and we talked about how some bloggers/twitter users misuse their influence and put brands and companies under unreasonable pressure. Some demand free products, demand customer service to call them whenever they like and start unreasonable rants. I totally recognize that. Even I think some people go too far in sharing their frustration with the world.

It’s about consumer conversation management. As a consumer, when will you share your frustration and dissatisfaction with the world and when do you swallow your frustration? How far will you go in showing your negative emotions about a brand? How will you avoid being the guy/gal that complains about every brand and annoys their followers/friends?

To be more precise,

  • Obviously, this must all be a misunderstanding. I might be naïve, but I believe most companies truly want to please me as a consumer. In this case, there must be a perfectly normal explanation why my room isn’t clean. Maybe I should go to the hotel reception first before complaining via twitter or putting a negative experience on
  • I don’t want to be a frustrated person. I tend to be a positive person. I believe happiness spreads. I prefer spreading positive experiences over nagging about customer service, especially when nagging costs me 17.85 euros for 24h. People complaining about bad products or bad customer service in my timeline usually annoy me. I don’t want to be that person.
  • I don’t want to be a frustrated blogger. I hate it when bloggers or influential twitter guru evangelists use their perceived online influence to complain and get things done. I’m in no way influential, but I don’t want to use my twitter followers to get things done. At least not when it’s about complaining about a company.
  • I don’t want to insult a (possible) client. At InSites Consulting, my current employer, we work with over 250 clients. That means that pretty much every brand I mention online, is a current client, a former client or a possible client.

What is the new etiquette for consumer conversation management? What is an unreasonable rant and what is a valid complaint?


  1. I like your post. I agree its an act of balance, keep talking about your good experiences and promote those brands, ignore the ones treating you bad but sometimes one just have to tell.

  2. Had a very similar dilemma yesterday. Decided not to unleash the fury and was happy afterwards that I hadn’t, because I confronted the provider of the bad experience and was impressed with the quick and efficient way in which they set things straight. Do you remember the MTV show Boiling Point? Avoid a low boiling point 😉

    1. I guess so, but for me, it’s beyond a boiling point. Usually it is about the cases I genuinely feel that something’s wrong with the service. 

  3. Hmmm, I have to meet you somewhere in the middle I think. I do rant sometimes. I sometimes behave like a frustrated blogger. But I am also a very chearful person who exclaims publicly when being treated kindly or when my expectations are being surpassed. I find it hard to not behave like myself online, it’s easier to be me, the whole me and nothing but the me than to pretend or to withhold.

    I am an acquired taste that is loved by some and not appreciated by others. Which is fine by me. I always try to be hones and straightforward. So when I post a complaint online it probably means I have already expressed myself in person to the one I’m complaining about but probably didn’t get a helpful response.

    I have an example. Last year, a Rituals candle exploded just a few inches from my boyfriends head. He was fine, but we got a bit of a scare. I was concerned and wanted to know if Rituals knew of this problem. So I tweeted them a picture of the situation, and the details like product time and time and place of purchase. They replied within an hour and were very concerned too, thanked me for my info and send me a nice package to make up for the production mistake (which I did not ask for or expected, but appreciated a lot). I mentioned this great service on Twitter and Facebook and sure, this gave them some positive exposure.

    I think having a positive and proactive online presence is a way to avoid public rants. You’re article reminded me of my part in the conversation. Maybe sometimes I should be more tolarable. But don’t exclude company responsability and accountability either. I dont like people continiously being negative in my timeline either, but when someone I know and like has a negative experience or needs some support, I would like to know.

    1. Interesting and I tend to agree.

      But do you feel that with every twitter follower you add, you have a greater responsibility to balance your negative tweets?

      1. I sometimes miss the times when nobody listened to me and read my tweets. Not that I want to overstate my importance, but you get my drift. Yes, the larger number of followers you have, the more levelled and MOR your tweets become. Unless you can really set yourself as a personality, but then you also have to deal with the fact that people take your opinions much more serious than you do. And find a way to deal with that and be ok. I just try to act online in a way that suits me and make sure I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day. I sometimes hurt people with my bold statements, I always try to be honest and respectful and when I fail to do so, I appologize. But recently some negative tweets have been biting me in the ass. How ’bout you? Do you feel like you are holding back and fear to be MOR?

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