The truth about customer service in the Internet age

Thursday, May 16, 2013

World Wide Web
World Wide Web
Did the Internet advance customer service or jeopardized consumer rights?

Consumers today are feeling the strain. Gone is the right to invoke freedom of speech or expressing your opinions without exposure to wide criticism and scrutiny. Consumer Jane Perez stumbled upon this brutal truth as her recent post on leading consumer site Yelp escalated to the point that she is now facing a $750,000 Internet defamation lawsuit. An article published in the Washington Post points out that business owners, such as plaintiff Christopher Dietz of Dietz Development LLC, are being forced to take legal action as a counter measure, because the Internet has enabled negative reviews to be more detrimental to companies.
A single fraudulent negative post, for example, can stay visible for a long period of time and could cause indescribable harm to companies.

Yet how can consumers express their frustration over failed customer service if they can be censored for simply voicing an opinion on a forum designed to voice opinions?

The same laws could protect consumers

While the enacted cyber laws may have forced the hands of business owners to act more harshly towards potentially slanderous comments, the truth is that consumers are actually being protected by the same laws. Take for example, the case of Hadeed Carpet. The carpet cleaner received numerous negative comments from customers, the majority of which have been filtered by Yelp. Hadeed Carpet then subpoenaed Yelp to provide data for seven users, which the plaintiff claimed are being hired by competitors to post negative reviews in a smear campaign. Yelp did not divulge the users’ confidential information, citing that it would be violating its users’ rights. It also demanded that Hadeed Carpet indicate the usernames, so Yelp could investigate the company’s claims.

Yelp’s overall stand implies that abusive companies could be exposed. However, it goes without saying that consumers must be careful in posting reviews particularly if the claims are not true. As the mob mentality could inflict indescribable damage on companies, it could also bankrupt a consumer bent on destroying a company’s reputation for personal gains.

At the end of the day, all of these new technological developments and the accompanied legal remedies still give way to the underlying theme of customer service. As long as the customers are satisfied, there will be a heavily diminished volume of hasty reviews on consumer websites. However, the question remains, how can a company please all of its customers considering the inevitable fact that mistake simply happen?

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Photo credit: B.Garry on Flickr.