Monday, June 15, 2009

Twitter Time-Out or Mom, I’m really not Call/Email/IM Screening You

I was put in Twitter/Email/Blackberry/IM/ etc. time-out this weekend both due to some slow connectivity issues and preparation for a trip to Peru (more on that on another blog J). As I reentered the 24/7 world to which I am rabidly addicted this morning, I was musing about the evolution of technology over my lifespan and how it has molded my expectations of my ability to instantly connect with those around me or vice versa. I did not have to walk three miles in the snow to get to school, though I did walk, and I did not carry a cell phone with me in case something happened along the way. Our home phone did not even have an answering machine, much less voice mail. If I called one of my friends, and the phone was busy, I called back later. This was the norm. At the time, it did not seem unusual at all to have to wait for a response to a question, more pointedly, to have to wait to even ask the question. In a relatively short (I'm am NOT going to tell you my age but let's say that it's less than five and more than three decades), I have come to demand instant gratification in terms of my ability to communicate, respond, have questions answered and problems solved. In turn, I have set up an expectation, both professionally and personally, that I can be reached pretty much 24/7. I believe the first time I responded to a work email at 7:00 pm on a Friday, I place one virtual foot on the slippery slope toward disappointing my friends and colleagues when I do not/cannot answer their queries or assist them immediately at any time. Friends, this is the world in which we live today. I'm sure that soc-anthrop majors of the future and psychologists of today will dine out on this for years, but the internet and its accompanying social media and networking applications have led a majority of us to share the unwritten mutual agreement that we are ONLINE NOW! I am working on the ramifications of this in my personal/professional life, but in keeping with the theme of this blog, I'd like to share some thoughts for this reality in the B2B customer relationship world. Again, as companies are making the decision to join the Twitterverse (e al), host online customer service chats, and respond to comments on blogs, a majority of their assessment should be devoted to the infrastructure, messaging and preparation necessary for their participation to be effective and not backfire. The rapidity with which our failure to answer the expectations of our audience will be repeated is virtually unrecoverable in today's world. Whether we like it or not, when we join our customers in the social media and networking world, we have signed on to some terms in an implicit, universal, and new culture SLA:

The Terms:

  1. We are here when you are: Joining social media and networking applications and groups seems to imply that we are all conversing at the same time. We need to carefully consider the phrasing in our profiles regarding our intent for participating and responding to Tweets, comments, and queries.
  2. We will respond when you reach out to us: Our hours of customer service and turn-around time cannot be explicit enough. Fair or not, if we decide to participate in certain networks that are designed to facilitate 24/7 conversation and information exchange, we should be prepared to respond 24/7
  3. We will update our content and our information regularly: the social media and networking world is defined by refreshed, updated, responsorial content, not by static .pdf files.
  4. If your server/connection/pc is not down ours isn't/aren't either: Our network issues are NOT shared by our customers. If our email, server connection, etc. goes down, and we have chosen to participate in the SMN world, our back-up infrastructure must reflect the culture of that world.
  5. We are always in the same time zone as you are: 24/7 participation and membership means across all time zones. If I am a global business, then I necessarily must build a support infrastructure that reflects this.
  6. We are who we say we are: I am increasingly running across B2B social media and networking participants who seem to have jumped on the bandwagon rather haphazardly. The links and profiles point to third-party service providers or content host sites rather than any real place to exchange information, thoughts, questions, or customer service problems.

As a last thought, I'll share a story about my current attempt to locate an external hard drive that I ordered early this month. For the time being, I will keep the company name anonymous, as those of you who have been reading my Tweets, blog posts, etc., know how quickly I believe our current 24/7 virtual culture can negatively impact a company's reputation and I am reluctant to do that….yet. I became concerned about not receiving the new hard drive on Thursday of last week. I pulled up my internet receipt, only to find that the email message did not include any customer service contact information or instructions about what to do in case of a problem. I went to the company's website and found an 800 number. I called the 800 number and found no customer service options in their tree. After pressing "1" for support, I left a message in "Nicole's" voice mail. I called back and pressed "2" for sales, and got "Nicole's" voice mail. I sent an email to the alias on the receipt. I did not receive an email back. I filled out a form on the website via the "contact us" option. I received an auto-generated email saying that my information had been received. I DM'd the Twitter profile, and have received no response.

Without belaboring the point any longer, my "implied" SLA with this vendor is that since they are internet-order only, I should receive a response to at least one of these attempts to contact them. And yes, the charge for the new toy has been run……


As always, my best.




1 comment:

  1. Lisa--this is a GREAT post. I've already twittered it...mind if I post on one of my Telecom blogs?

    My best,
    Wendy Brache