When a customer complains about a moldy apartment to her 20 friends on Twitter, a rational response is to contact the customer and work out a solution.
Amanda Bonnen posted this on Twitter May 12:
"Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay."
The apartment had suffered a leak and in these situations mold can occur. This is a common situation and it normally handled by fixing the problem before it escalates into a dispute.
Instead of resolving the problem, Horizon Group Management LLC filed a libel lawsuit against Amanda because of her Twitter post. Horizon seems to be stuck in the 20th century mindset where grumbling customers could be squashed like a bug by legal action.
After filing the $50,000 lawsuit for libel, a company spokesperson worsened the situation by saying, "We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of organization."
This was an inept PR handing of the situation and in Internet parlance this is called an "Epic Fail". If you Google "Horizon Realty Epic Fail" you will get this result:
Results 1 – 10 of about 5,600 for Horizon Realty epic fail. (0.23 seconds)
Instead of 20 people commenting on Horizon's lack of customer service, there are now thousands of people who will warn others about Horizon. Ouch!
Horizon Realty has had their head handed to them and seems to have damaged their company reputation severely. They are also the butt of Internet humor, "Hello, I'd like to rent a moldy apartment."
Horizon's failure to recognize the validity of a customer complaint has made them very visible to potential renters as a litigious and unresponsive landlord. Will their attractive website serve to overcome this PR gaffe? Hard to tell.
What can be learned from this?
If you hear anyone complain about your product or service, it is an opportunity to improve what you are doing and to reestablish trust on the part of the customer.
Any action other than solving the problem is completely wrong. Attempting to shoot or sue the messenger alerts all and sundry that you have something to hide.
H/T Ace of Spades