Great Customer Service or Great PR?


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So, Morton’s Steakhouse is making waves online at the minute, due to them delivering a steak to HARO founder and social media guy Peter Shankman.

If you’ve not heard it, the story in a nutshell is this – Peter faces a long flight home and is hungry, so tweets to Morton’s that he’d love a steak delivered and waiting for him at Newark Airport. Lo and behold, when he arrives and goes to his car, the steak and a tuxedo-wearing waiter are there waiting for him.

Cue Peter’s post “The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told”, and his belief in the awesome way Morton’s looks after their customers.

This would all be great, if it was a simple customer service story. But I’m not sold on that – it feels a great PR opportunity for Morton’s (and nothing wrong with that), but a customer service example? Sorry, not for me.

Average Joe vs. Peter Shankman

In his post, Peter says he believes it’s because he’s a good customer, and that he wasn’t treated any differently because he has over 100,000 Twitter followers. And looking at Morton’s social media stream, it’s clear they do a great job of engaging people, both on Twitter and Facebook. And that’s great to see.

But would they deliver a steak to anyone that tweeted them to, to show great customer service? I’m not so sure. Especially if it’s not paid for (which Peter doesn’t mention in his post, so not sure if it was free or not).

Had Joe Invisible with 10 followers tweeted the same, would he have received the same service? Acknowledgement? Options to have delivery to an airport? Perhaps, though the cynic in me is doubtful (always happy to be proven wrong!).

Great Service Is Consistent

One of the overall takeaways from Peter’s post is that Morton’s is always known for being on the ball. Which is quite a thing to live up to, for any company. While Morton’s no doubt offers a great experience, they’re also guilty of poor ones. For every positive review, there are a fair few negative experiences.

Of course, this is to be expected for any business, and restaurants in particular will usually have an above average list of complaints compared to many other industries – we people like our food, after all.

But the litmus test for any business is how they respond to their critics as much as how they respond to their fans. Does Morton’s respond – publicly or privately – to each online complaint? Does their customer service team pro-actively engage their critics on forums and review sites as much as they do on Twitter and Facebook, which are far more public platforms to the majority of social media users?

Perhaps, and if so, great, because that would be the sign of “the greatest customer service”, as opposed to a steak to an influencer.

There’s Nothing Wrong With PR for Customers

As mentioned, Peter counters claims in his post that it had anything to do with his Twitter followers, and more to do with Morton’s offering awesome customer service.

But so what if it is down to his follower numbers? Or the fact that his HARO newsletter offers more than 130,000 people to get a story in front of? Or that his site, where Peter posts about his experience, is in the Top 50,000 online according to Alexa?

It’s smart business to see an opportunity like a tweet from Peter, and know that you’re probably going to get a shitload of traffic and positive press for the price of a steak meal.

But, again, that’s great PR, not great customer service.

So, by all means, let’s congratulate Morton’s for a job well done – more companies should take a look at how a relatively small act can result in a fairly big reaction. But let’s also keep in mind who the recipient of the action was, and the reach and eyeballs that recipient has, before we say it’s the norm and not a well-seized opportunity.

Unless, of course, Morton’s wants to spend over $4.5 million and send their lowest-priced steak to all of Peter’s 100,000+ followers, to show everyone gets treated the same…

image: suttonhoo

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown is partner at Bonsai Interactive Marketing, a full service agency offering integrated, social media and mobile marketing solutions. He is also founder of the 12for12k Challenge, a social media-led charity initiative connecting globally and helping locally.


  1. Danny, you make a good point that if everyone expects to order a steak by tweet with free delivery at the airport, this stunt could backfire.

    But by this same logic no company should ever try to do anything extraordinary for a customer, because then everyone will expect it.

    Remember the early days of Twitter? There was a time when a company responding to a tweet was considered unusual. Comcast got some great press because it started treating tweets as customer service requests. Now it’s more expected that if you tweet, the company should be listening and take care of problems.

    Done right, memorable service experiences are also great marketing due to word of mouth. This Mortons incident reminds me of KLM Surprise.

    Zappos! has made great service a part of their core company (marketing) strategy, and it seems Mortons is doing something similar. And who knows, maybe Mortons just found a new channel for ordering Steaks!

  2. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, appreciated.

    I don’t think it’s as much not doing anything extraordinary as it is making the user experience more extraordinary as a standard. I know many local retailers in my hometown, and they know my preferences, birthday, son’s birthday, anniversary, etc, because they take an interest. It’s the same for all their customers.

    I also know of many online retailers that build loyalty with every customer, as opposed to the few because of their reach and “spend”. There’s no doubt Morton’s was smart about this, and made a great opportunity out of nothing.

    But as a customer service example, it falls short, since by definition everyone buying from you is a customer. If it’s not scalable – which, like you rightly say, this would be impossible to scale – it’s not customer service; it’s personal service.

    Nothing wrong with that, either, but let’s see both Morton’s and Peter word it as such. 😉


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