How To Torment People: 10 Steps To An ORM Crisis


Most companies are really great. They want to be helpful, to offer a great product and to create experiences that their customers will continually seek out. But I’ve come to the conclusion that not all companies operate that way. Some seem to genuinely enjoy tormenting people. Or at least that’s all I can deem by watching them. Looking back, it seems rude that we only cater to people who want to do right by customers. So, here are some tips on how to absolutely torment your customers in order to create an online reputation management nightmare that few could only dream of. This post is dedicated to the “everyone else” out there.

Ready to get dirty? Here’s to tormenting customers in twenty-ten.

Ignore Them: While some companies have proactively taken steps to create a listening station and really focus in on what people are saying about them, you should refuse to do any of this. The best way to incite an online reputation management nightmare is to flat out ignore people. Let them spread their misinformation. Let them feel like they’re talking to a wall. Let them get all worked up and bent out of shape just because you didn’t replace their laptop. That burst into flames. In their child’s face. And blinded him. You have more important things to do – it’s time for drunken office darts and chair races! W00t!

Lie to them: Tell them it’s your CEO blogging when it’s the secretary. Write your own reviews on Yelp pretending to be an over-the-moon customer. Twitter information that could be true, but really isn’t. Promise to have their order shipped out by Monday and then hold on to it for another three weeks. Sure, they’ll eventually find out and be pissed that you lied…but think of how fun it will be in the meantime! Lying to people creates awesome online reputation management debacles.  Soon the angry blog posts about what a jerk your company is will come piling in. Ah, sweet success.

Leave Yourself Wide Open To Attack: A responsible site owner would use a service like KnowEm to register all their social media profiles and take steps to secure their Google 10. You, however, should not waste your time doing any of that nonsense. The chances that someone with a gripe would try to register your name for bad purposes are…well, it’s actually pretty common. But feel free to leave your social media presence up to your customers. It’s never hurt anyone before.

Keep Doing What’s Proven To Annoy Them: Even though you’ve never purposely listened to what your customers are complaining about, you’ve likely heard it through the grapevine. Customers are whiners. They don’t like being signed up to things they never asked, they’re not happy you tricked them into giving up their credit card information, nor do they enjoy the incessant spam phone calls during dinner. Keep. On. Doing it. In fact, start doing it more. You are the business owner. You know best. Just like Ev and Biz, it’s your opinion that matters. You can always find new customers and users. They grow on trees out back.

Make Their Life Harder: Good usability is for chumps. You should make it nearly impossible for users to do what they want to do. This helps to “show them whose boss” and builds respect. Some easy ways to make others’ lives difficult are to make your site hard to navigate and unintuitive; don’t let them easily subscribe or unsubscribe from emailings; don’t include any contact information like an email address, phone number or address on your site; and purposely not addressing any of the natural questions they will have about your product. This will give them lots of reasons to write bad things about you. Of course, you’ll just have to trust its working since you’re not actually listening to the conversations. [please revisit Ignore Them up from above for more information.]

Send Employees Into Social Media Unprepared: If you want to really get yourself in trouble, don’t offer any type of social media education to employees. Teaching them about all the different channels out there, how to use them, and how to engage customers will only lead to responsible social media use. Instead, you should ban it in the workplace entirely. This will ensure that your company creates no human face for customers to interact with AND you can give your employees just enough rope to hang themselves with, creating an even larger ORM mishap. I also recommend assigning your most anti-social and temper tantrum-prone employee to hand all social company interactions. This works awesome.

Poke Them: Disagreements and misunderstands are likely to happen thanks to the social nature of this new Web. For example, a customer may tweet at you that you sold them a faulty part or they may write a blog entry stating that you mishandled a situation. While a concerned business would take time to carefully address this person and find a way to take it offline for resolution, YOU should pick a fight in public. Just go all out. Accuse them of lying. Tell them they’re stupid and just don’t understand how to use the part properly.  Call their mother or child ugly. Just go bananas and accept absolutely no responsibility. Basically, take our advice on how to respond to negative reviews and comments and just flip it. Have a ball.

Fight them. On Everything: It doesn’t matter if you’re right. All that matters is that your customer is wrong. Show zero empathy when dealing with customers by refusing to honor coupons that are a day late, not letting them return things, making shipping impossible, and just looking for ways to create a ruckus. Win the fight, lose the customer. Wise words for creating ORM nightmares.

Let Negative Reviews Pile Up: Letting negative reviews not only tells people that you’re ignoring them and don’t care, it also attracts other negative reviews, which can further damage your online reputation. There have also been clues that review sentiment plays a part in whether or not Google will display your listing in Local Search. That means the more negativity you can rack up, the greater you screw over yourself in the long run. Cupcakes for everyone!

Reinvent the ORM Wheel: Sure, there have been online reputation management guides written, there are blueprints for reputation dashboards and we’ve seen plenty of social media case studies, but why follow any of them? You shouldn’t! You should spend your time reinventing the wheel and ignoring any lessons others have learned before you.  They likely have no insight and may put you on a path that your customers are already familiar with and participate in.  Don’t make it easy for them.

There you have it, 10 very easy ways to incite your community and create that online reputation disaster you’ve always dreamed of. Now get to work!

Your Comments

  • Disa Johnson

    Sooo reminding me of my favorite Dilbert cartoons…

    Disa :)

  • cory huff


    I can’t even express how deeply this post moves me. I always knew that ignoring people and ‘staying the course’ was the best thing I could do for me and my business.

    *eye rolling*

    Really, though. I am amazed at the number of business owners who think that just because it’s on the Internet the opinions don’t matter.

  • Nick Mattern

    Good job on this Lisa, one of the best posts to date.

    Might have to buy you a few beers at ASW.

  • netmeg

    Oooh, I can play this game.

    – Do everything in your power to insure that your customers can’t get hold of a real live human. Install a circular phone system that answers the phone but just keeps looping back to the main message. Publish a customer service email that bounces. Publish a customer service phone number with no options to talk to an actual person. It’s like a game, right?

    • Lisa Barone

      Oooo fun! I love those. I just start pressing numbers until I eventually end up throwing the phone at the wall and then stomping on it.

      • netmeg

        Yea, the really sad thing is all of the things I mentioned in my comment are *exactly* what I went through yesterday when trying to contact my bank about a problem with my account.

        ** The people who have my money **

        • Nick Gowdy

          If you haven’t seen it already, can be a good resource for finding somebody with a pulse to answer your call. I think they’ve got an iPhone app, too. And email addresses, if you’re really down to last resort.

          Mostly covers banks, cell phone companies, cable companies, airlines — e.g. the soulless corporations that are prone to following this “torment list” to the letter.

  • Michael Martin

    You gotta throw all those fun link request emails in the torment list along with those from that friendly prince in Nigeria who will give you great wealth for simply fronting him some money.

  • Daniel Redman

    It’s actually amazing how many domains are left wide open on both sides of the fence (B/C). And it’s not just bad companies that are at risk, but good companies with bad customers. Customers that are web savvy are learning how much damage a negative Yelp or Rip-off report can really be in the scheme of things (let alone a blog). I despise that someone can virtually hold an SMB hostage using those dangerous weapons. What’s the retribution? Years of expense and that pang in the back of your throat that makes you cock-your-fist every time you reread what they’ve written.

  • Inside the Webb

    Some pretty neat tips you’ve got here. I look forward to more posts from you

  • Nancy E. Wigal

    A great explanation and definition of driving people insane – thanks so much! I love it when I hear businesses say, “I’ll just have my admin person do some tweets and update our FB page, no big deal!”

    Then they wonder why their parts get caught in the wringer when the waste hits the propeller blades, and that poor admin person is completely unprepared to deal with it…

  • Jim Rudnick

    I wonder how many of those Scoble subscribes too….

    Great post Lisa as always….I especially like the “make their life harder” with regards to Canadian telcos and their call service centres…sigh…!!!



  • Richard Barratt

    Some great pointers on ‘Business Prevention Strategies’ here Lisa, if only more ‘heretical’ companies would adopt this approach.

    On the chance that this whole post was ‘Tongue-in-Cheek’….


    Seriously, you’re President of Nailonhead Land here – why do some companies seem to think that it’s totally fine to embrace every measure possible to piss us off AND still expect to be a profitable business in time for 2020?

    BTW, my personal favourites are: No phone number or address on website and telephone answering systems.

  • YM Ousley

    Great post. I didn’t know there was a playbook for crappy customer relations, but I had a recent experience that make me think these really are rules some companies live by.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t try to cheat if you can’t take the heat. You’re sure to get busted on sites like Yelp, Rip Off Report, or Reddit (if you’re a politician). Yeah, it’s hard to make a living, especially as an entrepreneur, and the temptation to cut corners or employ sketchy business models is always there. People got away with all kinds of schemes and scams in the 70′s, 80′s or even 90′s – when the flow of information was asymmetrical – but they don’t work in the social media era!

  • Elliot Travers

    Great post. I feel like some companies actually follow this model unforunately