Amazon CTO Werner Vogels is widely regarded as one of the top influencers and thought leaders of cloud computing, and was once named the "Cloud's Most Influential Executive."
Last week, a salesman committed a grave error when he cold emailed Vogels, pitching him a deal on one of Amazon's very own products. It began like this:
Is your company still considering going to the cloud?"
Admittedly, the email is pretty funny--especially considering that Amazon Web Services is one of the largest cloud service providers in the world (with over $10 billion in annual revenue, according to Techcrunch ), and Vogels is considered one of its founding fathers.
Apparently, Vogels thought he'd use this email to teach a lesson to salespeople everywhere, by sharing it with his 166,000 Twitter followers , along with the message:
"Dear John, I know your targeting algorithm was cheap and thus not perfect, but I suggest to ask your money back from however [sic] sold it to you!"
Oh, and one more thing:
Vogels included the full name of the guy who emailed him.
I've got nothing against making an example out of this huge mistake. (I recently wrote about the need to view all criticism as an opportunity to learn.) But completely humiliating a salesperson in front of thousands of people--a guy who happens to be selling your product--is a sign of other problems.
Of course, tone and sarcasm can be difficult to interpret in written communication. Giving Vogels the benefit of the doubt, the tweet could be viewed as a friendly attempt at humor.
But in cases like this, perception is reality. And reading the responses to Vogels's tweet show that it may take a while for the salesman in question to live down his mistake.
[Note: Before you call me a hypocrite for naming Vogels, remember that his tweet was public. The salesman's email wasn't.]
Unfortunately, this just feeds into Amazon's biggest problem: its reputation as a company that lacks emotional intelligence. The company's been under a microscope since a scathing hit piece by The New York Times, which painted the e-commerce giant as having a majorempathyproblem. ( Employee rebuttals haven't always helped, depending on your perspective.)
Granted, Vogels has a great point: The automation tool this salesman's using definitely needs some fine-tuning.
But why call out the guy who's trying to sell your product--and making your company money?
All of this could have been solved with a single, easy action:
Vogels could have blurred out the salesman's last name. He would have made his point, got some laughs, and spared the little guy some embarrassment--instead of throwing him under the bus.
The good news: As a company, Amazon has shown evidence of being able to learn from criticism --including from that Times article from last year.
Let's hope everybody takes a lesson from this one, too.