Does anyone else feel like blackmail is making a comeback?
Submit to our demands, or else…
One of our former clients had a dissatisfied customer launch an entire campaign to destroy their reputation. This included a website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and online forums and reviews. They actively carried it on for months.
The client wanted $10,000 to “make it go away.” Once they were offered the $10,000, they increased their ransom to $25,000.
I haven’t had many unhappy clients over my career, but the ones that were, immediately went on the offensive. They threatened lawsuits, and made promises to do as much damage as possible online and in my professional circles.
Now, I know what some of you must be thinking:
“What did YOU do, Jeff? Maybe they were right to threaten.”
“And what about your client? Be honest, didn’t they deserve it?”
And herein is the most unfortunate part…
In Search of Truth
All of this conflict creates a giant game of he said-she said. There are two sides to every story and because of that the truth becomes obfuscated in the battle, rather than revealed.
In the end, all we’ve done is waste everyone’s time and force everyone to get more lawyered up to be ready for litigation or arbitration.
But the deck is stacked…
Since we tend to assume “the customer is always right” we therefore also assume the business must be wrong.
And that’s why the threat is so powerful: accusations matter.
What about my reputation? Surely that will help!
Reputation during these disputes should matter… But it doesn’t. Your (positive) reputation only has any real value to those that helped to cultivate that reputation in the first place: your fans. So while a portion of your fans will support and defend you against accusations, some will not. Some will begin to feel uncertainty. They will leave.
So, regardless of how strong and noble a person’s reputation is today or how much integrity they have, anyone with a smartphone can do substantial and immeasurable damage. The threat of reputation damage from mere accusation alone may cause a portion of your fans will leave, and many of the new opportunities to feel uncertainty.
This can all happen regardless of your stellar reputation.
How did we get here?
We got here because it has become entirely too easy and too acceptable to use your voice in whatever way you choose, from behind the comfort of your keyboard (physical or touchscreen) without much recourse at all.
In the age of the internet, you can pretty much say whatever you want.
We also got here through the common (and very real) occurrence of large companies screwing over the customer without remorse and virtually no risk of being held accountable, ethically or financially.
Where do we go from here?
I’ve thought long and hard about this question and I cannot find any technological remedy, nor legislative solution that is not subject to easy circumvention.
There is only one solution and I’m just optimistic to believe it is still possible. But it comes at a cost, and it requires some critical societal and infrastructure changes in order to be feasible.
Be better people.
There is only one solution to shitty people behaving shitty. It requires a shift in how we relate to one another on a macro scale.
It requires that we all open up instead of shutting off. It requires that we embrace compassion, empathy, and transparency as core values and behaviors.
- When a company wrongs you, let them know that you are willing to find a reasonable solution.
- As a business, when someone threatens extortion, you immediately let them know that you are willing to address their grievances reasonably.
The hope is that enough of us do that, then the crazy ones will look that much more crazy, and the tide will turn toward sanity.
This does not excuse companies and this certainly does not mean you should silence your voice as a customer. If you get screwed over, stand up, and use your voice. But you must also be reasonable in your desire to be compensated for your troubles, or else you are just as bad as the company screwing you over. Fair is fair.