How a tweet from Shutterstock’s CEO changed the way I think about customer service

customer service
by Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

There have been a few online exchanges that have changed the way I do business. One such exchange happened recently, on November 24th, and I thought I’d share with you the lesson I learned.

That day, with J-pop music blasting from my iMac speakers, I was working on a cover for my upcoming sci-fi book and was looking for high-quality images that I could use. After rummaging through crappy free online stock piles, I realized I ought to look into paid stock images.

Of course, I stumbled upon one of the biggest premium stock photo sites: Shutterstock. So I signed up, chose the five-image package deal, and proceeded to checkout when a warning message in German popped up, saying: “you can’t pay digitally for your chosen option.”

First came bewilderment, then amusement.

So here was this huuuge online photo portal and there was no way for me to pay online? Blasphemy.

As a millennial, I was of course compelled to express my “frustration” online and make sure the world knew about it. Twitter was my chosen to medium to announce this frustration:


A short time later, maybe just a couple of minutes, the very CEO of Shutterstock tweet-replies back at me:


I thought it was a joke, since I hadn’t even added the @ sign, which means the tweet was neither addressed to Shutterstock nor the CEO. But then I clicked the profile and realized it was, in fact, their CEO that had tweeted at me. So I told him I was using the German version of Shutterstock and was bewildered about its lack of online payment options.

The CEO replied:


As a German, I immediately chalked it up to a cultural difference, thinking this might just be a polite, though ultimately empty, phrase that Americans use without actually meaning it.

Nevertheless, the next day, at around 11 am, I got a call from the German branch of Shutterstock asking about my problem.

At this stage, I felt shameful. I mean, I was just experiencing a minor discomfort and tweeted about it like any millennial would do, and then somehow the Shutterstock machinery was put into motion to deal with me. Nevertheless, I told the representative that it was inconvenient to pay the “old-fashioned” way where I had to fill out a page full of information, instead of offering me a simply Paypal button that would allow me to just click and confirm.

The service woman finished the conversation with the following words,

“Okay, we’re going to offer Paypal payments in the future.”

Boom. I was shutterstocked.

What this story has taught me

I hear these stories on the internet all the time and often think “yeah, that’s got to be rare, that would never happen to me.” Or one might think it’s some feel-good story that was probably fabricated in the first place. But when these superb customer service moments happen to you, they do have an impact.

And they hurt.

They hurt, because that little Twitter exchange with Shutterstock’s CEO reminded me of the sloppiness in my online illustration career. Because of my writing ventures that make me more and more money, I have purposefully ignored messages of past clients. Good ones, that I have worked with on multiple projects. Despite their interest and needs to work with me again, I have ignored them simply because I’m busier than I used to be.

I lie to myself and say, “I don’t have time, I need to focus on my current work.”
And even after repeat messages–one client had even sent me 11 emails which remained unanswered–I put them out of my mind and didn’t even bother to send a one line reply.

Not anymore.

Instead of blaming it on burnout, personal problems, or an increasing workload, the Shutterstock exchange told me to grow a pair.

I resolved to better serve my clients, regardless of overloading work, or any other excuse I could muster up.

Today, I answered all of the client requests I had ignored and excused myself for the lack of service.


When a CEO of one of the biggest stock image sites has the time to tweet-reply and tell an overseas department to personally call me, then I should have all the time in the world to treat my customers the same way.

Have you experienced a customer service moment that changed the way you felt about your own business? If yes, what lesson did you take away from it?

mars dorian
Mars Dorian draws funky illustrations and pens sci-fi thrillers for the Internet Generation. His latest novel is available on Amazon for just $2.99! Consider his artwork for your next project:
Original illustrations by the author.

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