# Wednesday, July 01, 2009

So I guess I am totally having a "get off my lawn" moment here. I read, on a blog I generally enjoy reading, the following rant about "bad customer service":

  • Why am I still required to fill out my personal details (city, birth date, job title) while registering on web sites, when all they need to do is fetch that data from my LinkedIn page?
  • Why does my new Internet provider give me a new email address (which I won't use), requiring me to read that mailbox regularly for service updates? Why not send me tweets?
  • Why do I have to go to the web site of my vendor of contact lenses to re-order my monthly set of lenses? Why not enable me to send a "reorder" message through Facebook?
  • Why does the agile 2009 conference require that I upload my presentation to their site, in PDF form with maximum size of 5 MB? Why not integrate with the much more advanced SlideShare where I already have an account?
  • Why do I get offers for products that I clearly don't want or that I already own, which can be easily deduced from my reviews, ratings, and rantings on various social sites?

Prior to this bulleted list was a complaint that an ISP hadn't magically noticed that some emails weren't reaching the ranter, and didn't email about it, or didn't go figure out what @tag to use in a Tweet so that their customer would know there was a problem with some emails. I mean really, "send me a tweet"? Tweets are broadcast messages, not one-on-one communication, aren't they?

Good heaven. If I went to a random web site and on the registration page entered "Kate Gregory" (or "Barack Obama") and it trundled off to LinkedIn and filled in where I live, what I do, my birthday etc I would be majorly creeped out and want nothing to do with that web site. Maybe, just maybe, I would be ok with a button that said "go find this out on the public web" but I doubt it. I think OpenID is a better way to go, and I do appreciate that most Microsoft sites now just let me use my Live ID, but for sites with no business relationship to share what they know about me just creeps me right out. Reorder contact lenses on Facebook? What does Facebook have to do with buying stuff from completely unrelated third parties? Why would it be a good thing to put intermediaries (Facebook, Twitter etc) in all my transactions? The big excitement of Web 1.0 was that it took intermediaries out of the picture and let me interact directly with the producers of the things I wanted to buy. One of the major inconveniences of Web 2.0 is excited under-30's (sorry to generalize, a handful of over-30's are excited like this too) making me sign up for yet another account on yet another Social Networking Silver Bullet that they are going to use to manage their event/project/party/virtual team.

I disagree with the fourth bullet, too. I would much rather just be told where to upload my stuff and be done with it. I also have some empathy for folks who want to use the same way to communicate with everyone on a reasonably large list. Can you imagine the job (probably unpaid in his or her free time) of the conference organizer who says "everybody please put your slides somewhere, anywhere on the web that works for you, and send me the link, and here are links to free places you can put your slides in case you're not on SlideShare." And this organizer probably still has to run the upload-your-slides here site for everyone who doesn't have an account somewhere else. And has to accept and send not just emails about it (with or without links) but also tweets, blog posts, and comments on one speaker's YouTube channel and another speaker's CodePlex project home page, because why should they be obliged to look in more than one place for attempts to communicate? And then this poor organizer needs to know how to download from 10 or 20 different document sharing sites, and register for notifications if they're changed, because the speaker figures uploading new docs and not telling anyone will be fine, since after all the site sends notifications if they're changed.

The last bullet is hilarious. Dude, I get offers for things that I clearly don't want. The spammers can't be bothered to check my gender or what country I live in. You really think they're going to check your MySpace to see you already tried acai berry and whether it worked for you or not?

But under all that rankling and disagreeing is the germ of a really important truth. Just as David Platt likes to say "Know your Customer, for he is not you", I can see that I might not offer enough options to the millennials, and they might not offer enough options to my and my fellow post-boomers. It's an interesting culture clash considering we write software for each other, and one that's worth thinking about. If a customer service department doesn't offer service the way you want it, if the conference speaker wrangler doesn't wrangle speakers the way they want to be wrangled, if my software doesn't let you talk back to me the way you want to talk back to me and if I don't listen when you talk the way you want to, then that's a problem. Hmmm.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009 4:51:06 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [3]
Friday, July 10, 2009 3:09:38 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Hi Kate,

Thanks for your interesting reply to my post.
My article was intended as a "customer's rant" and customers can be very unreasonable. I agree with that. But so can organizations.

But your comment on the conference organizes misses the point completely. The conference organizer requires me to upload to their site a presentation in PDF form with a max size of 5MB. That's like requiring your consumers to ditch Firefox and go back to IE6 because its more convenient for the organizer.

Why not say to the "modern" people, who already have an account on SlideShare: you can upload your presentation on SlideShare, and we'll simply embed it in our conference site (which only requires 1 line of script code). The other people can use submit to our site directly.

And about the last bullet point: Again, you miss the point. I'm not talking about spammers. I'm talking about honest vendors (yes, they exist) who simply don't know how to use social media. They need advice (they don't want to look like fools), and that's what I want to work on.

Saturday, July 11, 2009 10:13:10 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
It's an interesting question, who should bear the burden of the communication. It's simple for me if I just use the tool I want to use and someone else needs to figure out am I tweeting at them, did I blog something, should they have set up an alert somewhere. It's simpler for them if they tell me the only way they are prepared to listen to me. In the past, customer service has taken the second path. You can't call, you can't email, you have to send a paper letter or a fax, that sort of thing. Now the millenials are forcing them to listen on a lot of channels at once - including YouTube.

In the past I have felt a mild frustration when someone emails me asking for my mailing address. My email address ends @gregcons.com (like the URL of this blog.) If you just stick www. in front of there, you will find my company web site, and at the top there's a Contact Us link which leads to a page that (no surprise) has my mailing address on it. So why do people email me and ask for it? I don't know, but they've been doing so for as long as the www existed. I try very hard not to ask clients for information I could find myself. They're the client, I'm the vendor, I should take on the work of poking around looking for mailing addresses or the like. Sometimes detecting which way the power flows (and therefore who should do the work) is tricky.

Friday, July 17, 2009 6:26:14 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
"Kate Gregory" (or "Barack Obama")

Ok, you will be one too,

Kimble Mann
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