A lesson in Online Reputation Management


Ok so about 4 months ago I managed to smash the screen on my trusty Sony Ericsson 3G mobile. This phone had served me well, and I was actually pretty gutted that I wasn’t offered an equivalent Sony as a replacement. If I had been, I probably would have avoided a bunch of trouble.

What I ended up with was a Motorola v3x – Motorola’s best and newest 3G toy, apparently the best money could buy. At this point I feel I should repeat the abovementioned rant warning. This is a rant about a crappy product and even worse customer service. There is a valuable point here though, so bear with me.

The Players:

Moi – a humble Rodeo Clown-wannabe from Titahi Bay

Vodafone – half of New Zealand’s mobile phone duopoly, and retailers of sub-standard mobile devices

Motorola – you’ve heard of them. My guess is they need to call Dan Trietsch for an explanation of the term ‘quality’

MobileFoneRepair … dotcom! (don’t forget the .com!) – Motorola’s NZ agent and employer of the least helpful customer support people I’ve ever encountered (beating Motorola by a nose).

ACT I: Within hours of purchasing said phone, it was obvious that I had been had. Poor audio quality, dropped calls, powering off for no reason. Back it goes to the store for immediate replacement.

ACT II: Replacement arrives. Two weeks later, back it goes for the same reason. This time they tell me the ‘out of the box failure’ period had expired, so the phone would have to go to MobileFoneRepair… dotcom! Phone returns a week later with a clean bill of health. Gee – I must have been making all those issues up to get attention. My parents didn’t love me enough?

ACT III: Two weeks later, back it goes again. Politely explain that the phone is unreliable at best. Off again to MobileFoneRepair… dotcom! Back it comes with a clean bill of health. Upon querying this with Vodafone, they advise that the most likely explanation is that the phone is fine, but their network is defective. How comforting.

ACT IV (this is where it gets really interesting): So last week I decided I’d had it. I called Motorola, explained the troubles I was having and what a piece of crap phone I had. The helpful customer support guy told me that they would replace the phone right away.

GREAT! My frustrations are over, right?


A week later and no sign of the promised replacement. I call Motorola again only to be told that I have to call Motorola New Zealand. That’s right sports fans, it turns out that all this time I’d actually been dealing with a crew in Australia. They give me a phone number for Motorola NZ and essentially wash their hands of me.

Which brings me to this morning. I call ‘Motorola NZ’ and who answers the phone? MobileFoneRepair… dotcom! Upon explaining the situation and asking the procedure for collecting my replacement, the operator (‘Ramana’) tells me I have to send the phone in for repairs. ‘But Motorola’s already authorised a replacement, right?’ ‘You guys have already tried to fix it and couldn’t, right?’ ‘Why send it in again, then?’ Yelling in my ear and then a hang-up. Nice. I call back and ask to speak to her supervisor. ‘I am the supervisor’ she says. I ask can I speak to the person who signs her paycheck? ‘No’, and she hangs up on me again.

At this point I’m getting really pissed, so I call Vodafone again. (I must have called them a dozen times thus far, with no joy). The upshot? I personally have to request a letter from Motorola Australia, take it (not post it) and the phone in to MobileFoneRepair… dotcom!, then wait 48 hours for a replacement. Gee that’s reasonable. Seeing as how I chose to buy a Motorola and spend close to a grand a month with Vodafone I suppose it is my mess to clear up. Silly me!

Why am I telling you this? Do I want a cookie? Do I expect you to care? Nope, but I do want to tell you a few things:

1. Motorola’s production quality is terrible. Since I got into this mess I’ve asked around, and haven’t met a single person who’s had a Motorola phone and didn’t find it defective in one way or another. Stay away from them.

2. Poor quality wouldn’t be such a big deal if their customer service was better – or even ‘adequate ‘ – but it isn’t. Motorola is happy to flog their defective wares in New Zealand, but doesn’t want to know about what happens afterwards. This they delegate to MobileFoneRepair… dotcom!, they too sadly lacking in quality control and customer service.

3. If you see a phone you like on TradeMe or at a parallel importer store, buy it. Buying from an authorised reseller gives you no higher degree of quality, protection or after-sales service. Trust me on this.

4. Don’t ever put up with this kind of crap. Vodafone has now offered to give me a new phone, from a different manufacturer, if I extend my contract with them. You think this means Motorola is off the hook? Hell no – I’m going to get that replacement out of them if it kills me. Then I’m going to throw it in the trash where it belongs.

5. When you encounter this kind of malarky, TELL PEOPLE. A single pissed-off consumer boycotting a company’s products will accomplish very little. A few million people voting with their wallets is a different story. Your power as a consumer comes from sharing your views and experiences with others.

6. Companies should take note that, like it or not, they have online reputations. The things people say about them online – particularly in blogs – are becoming more and more powerful in their ability not only to influence peoples’ purchasing decisions but also as a way for organisations to understand what people really think about their brands, products and services. This kind of ‘chatter’ is inherently honest and useful, particularly in comparison to traditional market research methods which are drastically swayed (IMHO) by the ‘interviewer effect’.

So here’s my contribution to the abovementioned companies’ online reputations:

Vodafone: Your customer service team is impotent. Your after-sales support for hardware purchased from your retailers is non-existant.

Motorola: Your quality control is pathetic. Your New Zealand agent is a terrible ambassador for your brand.

MobileFoneRepair… dotcom!: Your call centre needs a shake-up. Anyone who disconnects a customer – once, let alone twice! – isn’t fit to clean your toilets, let alone lead your Customer Services team. Your testing procedures are also way out of whack. Empirical Research 101: Failure to find a fault does not prove there is no fault – it merely proves you were unable to find a fault. Believe me, this is a VERY important distinction.

For anyone else concerned about their online reputation, Online Reputation Management is a fascinating field, and one in which we (Marker) have a great deal of expertise. If you want to know more about what people are saying about you online (even if it’s bad, it’s better to know!) and/or change things for the better, we’d love to hear from you.


Thanks for listening. Go forth and be empowered.

Person of the Year: You

Ok so what do I hear when I turned on the radio (old school – you like that?) this morning? Buried among the usual Monday morning ‘life sucks’ articles was the tremendous news that I, a humble rodeo clown-wannabe from Titahi Bay, had been named Time’s Man of the Year (none of that PC ‘person’ malarky).

This is a great honour. I read an article in The Onion last week entitled Dictator Slays Millions In Last-Minute Push To Be Time’s Man Of The Year, and with past winners including Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Wallis Simpson (*fnar fnar fnar*) I knew the running was going to be tight, but who’d have thought little old me would make the grade?

I’d like to thank God, my Momma, and Elvis.

At this point I should probably mention that I’m not the sole recipient this year. This being the year of consumer generated media, honours go out to everyone. Yes, my countless adoring fans, YOU are Time’s Man of the Year also. Please send acceptance speeches, rants and other relevant diatribes to the usual address, and if you’re going to toast our mutual good fortune and new-found notoriety – make mine a Miller Lite.

That’s not a knife. THIS is a knife

Dear Santa,

I’ve been a really good boy this year: Saving orphans from terrorists by making bombs out of used tea bags; Using the Stargate to bring peace to the universe; and Being a full-time love god to aunts Patti & Selma.

With all that good karma under my belt, please please please PLEASE can I have one of these for Christmas?




Those helpful ‘gummint’ people

They say that, as a rule, you should design web applications for use by the lowest common denominator – the morons, cretins etc – so as not to have your call centre inundated with people wanting to know which one is the ‘any’ key.

When I went to renew my car registration online yesterday I found our friends at the LTSA have well and truly taken this concept on board. Check out the ‘Quick Tips’ accompanying the Family Name and Date of Birth fields. Should I feel slighted? Or just proud that I didn’t need to check my license?

On a related (just) note, two nice little tidbits to help soak up the 70-odd working hours remaining until Christmas:

Call centre terminology: EBKAC defined (some of you will no doubt be pissed when you find out what this means)

Required reading for any Help Desk user or operator: Simon Travaglia’s ‘The Bastard Operator from Hell

Merry Christmas.

You better watch out, you better not cry…

Yep, Christmas is just around the corner, and with it the regular barrage of advertising for this year’s expensive must-haves.

In addition to many new flavours of the ubiquitous ipod and (at last!!!) the launch of a NZ iTunes Music Store, gaming consoles are once-again the hot item. Sony looks to have missed the boat – in this part of the world, at least – for a pre-Christmas PS3 release (note to self – do NOT buy Sony stock), but I have to admit that the Nintendo Wii looks cool and is priced pretty reasonably ($500 for the Wii vs $1,200 for the PS3).

Gamers are funny. Really funny. Like moths to a flame they’ll do ANYTHING to feed their habit, which often entails going against all natural instincts (i.e. going outside) and queueing up outside shops for days on end to be the first kid on their block to have / see the next cool thing – be it a console, Star Wars prequel, or Anthony Daniels‘ autograph on their still-in-the-box original C3PO figurine.

Want to know what really gets under their skin? Make sure you’re the first in line the night of the next big product launch. Then, have your buddies film you enter the store, buy one, and then smash it to pieces with a sledgehammer in front of the 300-odd people still in the queue. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you SmashMyWii.com!


Which reminds me of an article I found about this time last year that still cracks me up. If any of you have ungrateful children pestering you for the new ‘it’ toy, prepare to be inspired…

Man Law!

Ok, so some of you will have picked up by now that my general opinion of ad agencies isn’t that high. By far the majority are still stuck in the 80’s, pouring money into pointless TVC’s that may win awards and raise a few smiles but contribute nothing to the client’s bottom line.

This campaign, on the other hand, is really cool. Take a bunch of well-known men – Burt Reynolds, Eddie Griffin, Aron Ralston (American hiker who amputated his hand with a pocket knife), etc – and have them sit around a table debating ‘Man Laws’. Topics include:

If your buddy’s girlfriend breaks up with him, how long should you wait before asking her out?
Is it time to retire the high-five?
Can a wife or girlfriend store non-beer items in the garage fridge?

The TV campaign was closely integrated with a website, where people could view all the ads (there are a ton of them), and also propose and debate their own Man Laws. The ads were also scattered through the various CGM and social networking sites. Search Google, YouTube, MySpace etc for ‘Man Law’ and you’ll find thousands of references to the Miller campaign site, and countless home-made homages and imitations.

Let’s just say that the buzz surrounding this campaign has been … ‘significant’. This has been a huge success for Miller, and should stand as an example to agencies around the world of what can be achieved with a well-conceived, integrated (across media) campaign that embraces its audience as participants, rather than spectators.


See Jon? I finally submitted a post that didn’t mention porn… D’oh!

Malaysia mulls Internet laws against bloggers

Now this is scary. A few weeks ago I had a good old rant about freedom of speech, and how disappointed I was to see it in short supply in the United Arab Emirates.

Now it seems Malaysia wants to take things further, proposing to implement a set of laws specifically designed to target bloggers. Proposed initiatives include compulsory registration of bloggers, and harsh penalties for breaches of acceptable use guidelines. Malaysian Deputy Science and Technology Minister Kong Cho Ha was quoted as saying:

We are talking about creating cyber laws to control those who misuse the Internet. We need to have stricter cyber laws to prevent these bloggers from disseminating disharmony, chaos, seditious material and lies.

The irony is that (thankfully) talk like this tends to stimulate other kinds of talk – like how the right to free expression is sacrosanct, and can’t be messed with by some petty little bureaucrat. Like King Canute found, the tide is just too strong. So good luck with that, Mr Kong. Bring it.

Just in time for Christmas

Isn’t technology wonderful? Particularly appropriate this morning in the aftermath of our Christmas party, when the tinkle tinkle of a teaspoon sounds like a 747 flying directly overhead. Behold – the self-stirring mug.