UNION GAP — Business schools might teach that the customer is always right. But Ryan Clark knew this time they were wrong.
And that turned out to be a money maker for his company, Liberty Bottleworks.
It started when Clark saw a Facebook rant in all capital letters complaining about his company’s customer service.
Clark already knew the customer had sent numerous emails asking why employees weren’t working over the weekend to resolve her problems. And he knew one of his representatives reported the customer had hung up during an attempt to resolve the problem.
Clark decided he needed to stand up for his employees and responded personally to the Facebook post:
“We did receive your numerous voicemails and emails. The buck stops with me. This will, I am sure, upset you ... my customer service team will not be helping you on the weekends. Your voicemail stated ‘it is the holidays, you should be working’ and your email stated, ‘Instead of doing my Christmas cards and enjoying the holiday spirit I was dealing with this.’ Perhaps you need to spend a bit more time embracing the holiday spirit. You see, my employees were home with their families doing their cards, baking cookies, etc. Family first, product second.”
(For a sampling of the response on social media, scroll to the bottom of this article.)
That post went viral. While the customer apparently deleted the comment, screenshots of the conversation were posted all over social media.
As a result, Liberty Bottleworks turned the rant into rave reviews.
The company heard from a lot of people who had never heard of Liberty Bottleworks but liked that it cares about its employees.
“First of all, let’s congratulate Mr. Clark on, at the very least, a public relations coup. American employees today are so routinely taken for granted during the holiday season that even if it takes destroying an American customer to defend their right to have holidays, then so be it,” Johnny McNutty said on HappyPlace, a website that posts popular videos, photos and other online content.
Clark didn’t expect all the attention. For him, it was about affirming the value of his employees.
“You can’t trade that for a bottle,” he said Wednesday in a phone interview. “You can’t trade that for 100 bottles. You can’t trade that at all.”
The customer who posted the original comment could not be reached for additional explanation.
Clark said that the incident has generated enough additional sales that he had to move production workers to the packing department to process additional shipments.
But he’s not comfortable that some people posted mean comments about the customer.
“People were saying some nasty things,” he said. “It upset me a lot. The purpose (of posting the response) is to say, ‘Be nice to people.’ The purpose was not to say mean things.”
But he is happy that the company’s value of putting employees first has resonated.
“We have this silly belief that you can do well by doing good,” he said. “To see the number of people reaffirm (the idea) is kind of a neat thing.”
A few commenters stated online that while the manner in which the unhappy customer delivered the complaint was questionable, there was a valid concern.
In a follow-up Facebook post that was also deleted, the customer said Liberty Bottleworks waited nearly a week before letting her know there was a problem with her order.
In a Facebook post, Liberty Bottleworks indicated it would work to improve customer service:
“Thanks to all of you for the overwhelming support this week — we definitely learned a lot over the last 24 hours. To be more specific, we can improve on customer communications and service, such as improving the ‘Contact Us’ section on the website; posting hours of operation that will help manage your expectations.”