Don’t Be The Benchmark For Veiled Threats

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-This post has been updated to reflect the resolution. See updates at the end of the post-

Sarah bought a five-pack of classes from the Benchmark Group for Yoga/Pilates classes in Toronto.

She was under the false assumption that they didn’t expire, and found that out afterwards. Since she travels a lot, she wanted to use them as an “on-needed” basis. Her fault, but she wasn’t happy with the answer she received, so she tweeted:

benchmark1“Very disappointed in @benchmarkYYZ at Clear Spirit so far — expiring paid for class passes and such. #notsozen #customerexperience”

Their Twitter account was quick and apologetic:

Benchmark2

 

“@skstock oh no! We always want to make sure you have the best experience ever. Email us at [email protected]

And we’re good to go!! Email them, they’ll take care of it, explain the policy maybe, and we’re all happy.

Or not.

After an initial email from Tanya at Benchmark, explaining the policy but not offering anything more (which was in their right, since they weren’t in the wrong) she then sent Sarah an email expressing her feeling about the original tweet:

Sarah,

I’m very disappointed in what our PR/Social Media Manager has just shown me regarding twitter. Please note, I have politely explained to you when you bought your pass, what was communicated to you based on your conversation with Nicole as well as how long ago your pass expired.

I would kindly ask you to act more professional and delete your twitter comments. This is not good for you and very unprofessional way to represent yourself out there and quite unfair towards Benchmark Group as we did nothing but follow business policies. We have never had a situation like this in the past and if you have an issue its “NORM” to speak with us personally.

Mark will be in touch with you. In the meantime, I request that you will kindly delete your comments on twitter.

Tanya (removed)

Benchmark Group

I understand customers being unfair on Twitter, I’ve dealt with it many times, but this isn’t the right way to start…

Yes, I said start, because it wasn’t over. She sent another email to Sarah:

Sarah – I am an active Executive Recruiter in the Sales & Marketing vertical.  I have just checked your profile on LinkedIn and I will make you VERY AWARE – that you we have a few mutual  connections including couple very senior Directors and CEO’s. I am very well connected in the industry with over 7 years of experience recruiting talent in this vertical. You never know where your future career will be.  Maybe one day this network will be advantageous for you as a young upcoming talent.

I recommend you and will politely once again ask you to delete both of your comments about Benchmark.

My position with Benchmark is in compliment to this work.  If you didn’t like how we dealt with your EXPIRED FITNESS PACK , your next step is to speak with Mark directly and not Twitter. I will await that you will kindly delete such things and act a little more grown up developing positive relationships even when things don’t go your away, outside of policies.

All I did dear Sara, was communicate very clear policies to you. Speak with Mark next.

Good night!

Tanya

Yep. She searched out Sarah’s LinkedIn profile, and then made a thinly veiled threat that she should remove her tweet or it would have consequences on her career. It reminds me of this LinkedIn fiasco except that took PLACE on LinkedIn at least.

Since this email thread their founder, Mark Stables, expressed his disappointment about the tweet but offered to speak with her to make things right. Updates to follow.

When customers complain publicly, right or wrong, it’s an opportunity to make things right publicly as well.

Don’t ask people to take tweets down, out-service them so hard that all they want to do is take it down and sing your praises.

++++UPDATE May 14, 2014++++

Both Sarah and Mark have reached out to me saying things have been resolved. Here is the email from Sarah:

“Hi Scott,

Just wanted to let you know that Mark reached out with a very apologetic email, and gave me a call as well. He’s refunded my package, and has let me know what steps he’s taking to ensure this kind of experience doesn’t happen again. Tanya is no longer with the company, and he is going to be very careful with who he allows control of his brand in the future. A big lesson has been learned on that front.

We are grabbing a coffee this coming week, and I’m going to help him out with some social media management best practices— might even lend him my copies of UnMarketing and The Business Book of Awesome :)

Thanks again for the support, that was a crazy experience and I really appreciate it.

Cheers,

Sarah”

This is what Mark sent to Sarah before their phone call yesterday:

“Hello Sarah,

Haven’t had the opportunity to connect with you in-person or by phone but wanted to re-iterate our stance on recent events that transpired Sunday evening. Hoping I can clear the air with you and have you feel better about the people behind Benchmark.

Not only do I accept full responsibility as the business owner, I also apologize for the unacceptable customer service you received and regret how this was handled  - which is not reflective of how Benchmark/my clients have been treated the past 17 years. Although I have not experienced this in the past (much easier to have a company voice when you’re the only one doing the talking), I wanted to let you know that I have a new appreciation for situations like these (anyone representing my company issuing threats/providing poor customer service) and take them very seriously…again, I apologize that you experienced this. My company has become an extension of me, an identity. I hold it in very high regard ensuring clients like yourself, return year after year.

Our group fitness classes are a relatively new service offering and as such, have required an abundance of extra care for many new faces across multiple studios. This has presented a unique (growth) challenge to manage everyone successfully, yet I’m doing my best and will continue doing so to avoid a similar occurrence.

I wanted to also make you aware of the steps we’ve taken to ensure this never happens again. I also wanted to note that Tanya is not (nor ever was) an employee of Benchmark and at no point did I know that she was expressing her own views and opinions directed at you (hence the first tweet I sent while at dinner)  - which are not (nor would they ever be) shared by me or Benchmark…hopefully you would agree, based on my tone (Benchmark’s tone) in direct communication with you. As mentioned, Tanya is a subcontracted yoga instructor that has been providing administrative work, emailing clients about accounts/class status – while I seek a new intern.

Given the gravity of this matter, Tanya’s interaction with you, and my stance on integrity, professionalism, and customer service, she has been dismissed.

Based on this recent experience, we are working on developing customer service, employee training and social media policies to ensure that this is never repeated in the future. Admittedly, I have never had someone post a negative tweet which was why I hoped to resolve this offline- as I do understand the importance of customer service and the potential of marketing to my own potential clients via social media – my rookie move for asking you to remove it.

Hopefully I clearly communicated in earlier, previous emails the importance of making this experience a positive one. If attending future classes, (free of charge) or providing you with a refund will help create a better experience, kindly let me know and we’ll ensure you are presented with the option of your choosing.

If you feel that we have successfully resolved the matter, I would like to (mutually) reach out to Scott. I think it’s important to illustrate that I’ve done my best to rectify this regrettable and unfortunate experience.

Regards,

Mark J. Stables

Benchmark Group”

++++UPDATE May 14, 2014++++

We removed Tanya’s last name from the original post in her quoted email, as she emailed us to request we do. I agreed to, since the matter had been resolved with Sarah and Benchmark. Tanya then replied to ask me to contact people who tweeted and ask them to remove their tweets. That won’t be happening.

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