Mr. Santelli & Mr. Gibbs Really Need That Coffee

Coffee cupThis month, close followers of politics witnessed a rather pointed exchange between CNBC reporter Rick Santelli and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs over President Obama’s economic stimulus plan. For me, this exchange highlighted how rude our culture has become, particularly in politics. Some would say that this courseness is enabled, if not exacerbated with the advent of social media tools like Twitter. I don’t know, I’m not sure about that.To recap, in the “rant heard round the world”,  CNBC’s Santelli explained his objections to the President’s economic plan and then exclaimed from the floor of the Chicago Merchantile Exchange that,

This is America! How many people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgages that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise their hand! [The traders on the floor, egged on by Santelli, then booed.] President Obama, are you listening?

Days later at a White House press briefing, Mr. Gibbs then explained why he disagreed with with Mr. Santelli’s description of the President’s plan and responded with this retort:

I would encourage him to read the President’s plan and understand that it will help millions of people, many of whom he knows. I’d be more than happy to have him come here and read it. I’d be happy to buy him a cup of coffee — decaf.

This exchange reminds me a lot of interactions my colleagues and I have had with a small fraction of Sprint’s customers on Twitter. Each day, following the wonderful example of the folks at Comcast, we use Twitter to reach out to customers who’ve had issues with their Sprint service.

Almost always this interaction is positive. Nearly everyone is appreciative of our sincere offers of help. Some are truly surprised that we are monitoring the microblogging site to help customers.

But every once in awhile, we encounter customers who are so angry, there is nothing we can do to satisfy them. When I encounter those folks, I have to remember that they are not mad at me, but mad at Sprint. They don’t care that they we work for 99.9999% of the time for everyone else. They only care that we failed them once. They also don’t care that we’re are at par with or surpass our competitors. They only care that we dropped their calls where they really need to be connected. (Sometimes, these ranting tweeters aren’t even Sprint’s customers and simply are looking for someone to blame.)

When I encounter these people, I need to remember that they are like Rick Santelli: they are using Twitter to perform for an audience of Twitter followers and journalists. I’m convinced that they would never behave this way if they were just engaging with our call center without an Internet audience. (But then again, I’ve ranted at call center reps. at other companies, generally airlines, so I am probably wrong.)

Earlier this week, I came across this tweet from Jake Tapper of ABC News, who has a great political blog, BTW.

i don’t have time in my life for rude tweeters. if thats your game, good luck with that, but thats not what i see twitter for. *

Then this one:

starting to think twitter is for some people just a quicker way to be nasty and annoying. *

I agree with Mr. Tapper.

While I use Twitter to engage policymakers and the journalists who cover them, I’m also happy to help our customers resolve the customer service issues they have with Sprint. For both purposes, I’m absolutely willing to engage in friendly debates.

But I won’t put up with rudeness.


In your life, you shouldn’t either. As Jake Tapper later observed:

the bile is flowing this am on twitter road! wish you cld all see my daughter watching blues clues and youd smile and relax. *

Mr. Tapper has a healthy perspective on life. In your tweeting, and when you write about Twitter and those who tweet, I’d urge you to adopt his approach, and “smile and relax.”

* Remember, when you tweet, it’s spontaneous. You’re going to make grammatical mistakes, intentionally or otherwise. As Mr. Tapper later expresses

i have a two strikes rule. life is too short. twitter is supposed to be fun, provocative…not a burden. IMHO

I couldn’t agree more.

As I indicate in the “About This Blog” section of this site, the views expressed on this blog are solely mine. They do not reflect Sprint Nextel’s positions, strategies or opinions. For those please visit here.



One response to “Mr. Santelli & Mr. Gibbs Really Need That Coffee

  1. Great post, JT. Thought provoking. Here would be my follow-up question:

    Do enough people research the whole story for us to not put up with rudeness ever?

    What I mean by that is that while I totally agree with your point, another thing Twitter makes it easy to do besides be rude is grab just a piece of a story and run with it.

    I was having a convo with a customer yesterday and despite my greatest efforts to help, she couldn’t resist throwing jabs. Even when I offered to send her a coupon, she still said:

    “I don’t need any accessories for phones that don’t work, half off or otherwise.”

    Now a few choice words came to mind at that point, but I was hesitant to tweet back something, even in a joking manner. Why? Because the Twitter model makes it so easy for someone, including the customer, to take that one tweet and run with it, not telling any other part of the story.

    Maybe I’m wrong and just like in person, your online reputation precedes itself and that’s enough. But I haven’t quite convinced myself of that yet just because I’ve seen the way customer perception can become reality overnight.

    Your thoughts?

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