A 'chatbot' operator, who was sacked after his “rude” behaviour led to a "damaging" one-star review for a local electronics company, has been awarded over £1,700 compensation for unfair dismissal.
The claim was considered by the Employment Tribunal – an independent panel tasked with reviewing work-related disputes – who decided that the customer service associate was unfairly sacked from his job, but nonetheless reduced the award because his behaviour contributed to the sacking.
The man was employed at MyMemory Ltd - an online store selling storage devices, electronics and other appliances - until after a negative review describing his manner as “the worst customer service” the customer has experienced, he was dismissed.
MyMemory argued that “it fairly dismissed the [employee] on the grounds that [he] was ‘rude and dismissive’ to a customer during a live online chat and that he deliberately ‘shut down’ the online chat with customers instead of resolving their issues.”
Pictured: The former customer service representative was awarded just over £1,700 for the unfair dismissal.
The company also claimed that “this alleged misconduct resulted in a damaging negative public online review” of MyMemory.
The employee claimed, however, that his being fired did not follow a fair process, because the company didn’t investigate the circumstances, he was not allowed to appeal the decision to let him go and the reason he was sacked did not qualify as “gross misconduct” as it was characterised by the company.
The Tribunal heard that the man’s role required him to engage with customers via an ‘online chat’ function on the company’s website to answer their questions and help them resolve any problems they might be having.
The judgment notes that the use of this function is “to help the customer as quickly and efficiently as possible, whilst ensuring that the customer’s query was properly addressed and resolved.”
MyMemory’s founder Karl Moss gave evidence “that an average of below 4.8 stars” on reviews “can have a detrimental effect on [the company’s] sales and reputation.”
Pictured: The company sells tech devices.
The Tribunal accepted this and Mr Moss’s observation that a one-star rating - meaning "terrible" - has a disproportionately damaging impact on a retailer’s average star rating.”
The author of the review stated that the customer service he received was "the worst customer service I have encountered."
This same customer also emailed MyMemory, complaining that the employee was “unhelpful to say the least.”
Having reviewed the transcript of the online chat, “Mr Moss concluded that the [employee] was refusing to help the customer and unnecessarily escalated an issue which [he himself] could easily have diffused.”
This was denied by his former employee at Tribunal who maintained that “he answered the customer’s query appropriately.”
Mr Moss also saw other transcripts where the man “had behaved in a ‘dismissive manner towards customers.’” This led to him to conclude that he could “no longer trust [the employee] to support our customers, as despite our efforts he continued to have little respect for them or a desire to genuinely help them. He continued to frustrate and escalate simple queries.”
Pictured: The Tribunal considered the evidence in this case.
When informing the man of his decision, however, Mr Moss did not show him any of the “relevant documents” and in the dismissal letter, he did not offer the employee “an opportunity to appeal.”
The Tribunal subsequently found that the sales representative was unfairly dismissed and ruled that he was entitled to an award of almost £3,000, but because his behaviour contributed to his being fired, they applied a 10% discount.
The award was also reduced by a further 30% as it was found that it was possible – even in the circumstances that a fair investigation and process was followed – the employee may still have been dismissed.
He was therefore awarded £1,790.73 in total.
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