A user who goes by the name Loyal2nes (NES = Nintendo gaming platform) had a problem: the game Civilization 4 kept crashing. So s/he posted about it on the game maker’s customer support site. Two days later, a customer support agent, Alexis L, replied that the problem is that Loyal2nes’s device only has 4096mb of RAM, whereas it needs at least 2 gigabytes. Unfortunately, Alexis did not understand that 4096 megabytes is the same as 4 gigabytes. Ooops.
Loyal2nes posted a screencapture of the exchange under a sarcastic headline, and opened up a thread about it at Reddit, where it climbed to the front page.
Hey Loyal –
I’m Elizabeth Tobey and I’m the head of customer service – first off, I want to apologize because that’s a pretty embarrassing mistake. Secondly, I want to let you know I’m reopening your ticket and escalating it up. Chances are, I won’t get a response from the team who can help test out tonight and we’ll have a bit more back and forth in the coming days to try and troubleshoot the issue, but I promise I won’t tell you 4096MB is under spec and close your ticket.
Let me know if you have more questions now (although we can use the Support system and not reddit if you want!)
It doesn’t end there, though. Elizabeth stays with the thread as it expands and diverges. She’s frank, funny, and, as the thread continues, makes it clear that she’s not an interloper at Reddit. In fact, she’s been a Redditor (participant) for a while, participating in the threads that interest her. Often those threads are about gaming, but she also comments on ther serendipitous topics that make Reddit so much fun.
So, what’s so right about how Elizabeth handled this?
Her reply was frank, helpful, non-defensive, and understood the customer’s point of view
She identified herself by name and position
She exhibited a genuine interest in the overall thread, not simply in patching up a problem
She was speaking for 2K but very clearly also as herself and in her own voice
She spoke in a way that did not just serve her employer but, more importantly, served the conversation
She was already a member of the community — an enabler for the rest of this list
The only thing that could have made this a better example of how customer support and public relations is changing would be if Elizabeth were not the head of Customer Support but was an empowered customer support rep. But all the other main themes are there. Clear as day.