Up Front by Emma Hart


Your Whining Is Important to Us

At the start of this year, I decided to consciously take a new, experimental approach to my internet interactions. No Safeties ’10 meant being less paranoid (or ‘cautious’) and accepting any ‘friend’ or ‘follower’ except the most obvious spam. It also meant making more of an effort to remember to reply to emails, even if they could be construed as a bit dodgy. That second bit been a little less successful, as some of you will know from personal experience.

As I report to the small number of (always female usually American) friends constantly astonished that I’m not dead in a ditch yet, this experiment has had mixed results. On the one hand, I garnered a selection of increasingly young male Pakistani, Indian and Turkish Facebook friends. On the other, I had coffee with a very nice German man here on holiday.

That, and the not turning up in a ditch, was pretty much what I was expecting. Those friends were, after all, wrong when they thought David Haywood was going to murder me. What I wasn’t expecting was the attention from businesses.

At first it was just a very helpful nice man deducing my home phone number from my Twitter account so he could give me some information I’d asked for. (Yes, you may. It’s an experiment, after all.) Then it was a blog comment causing some instant action in an area where that action should have been happening anyway. And then, a business we were dealing with over our house purchase picked up on a Tweet of mine, from the middle of a conversation with someone else, worked out who I was and leaned on the person we were dealing with to make the problem go away.

Brilliant, right? Somebody searching tweets for their company’s name and getting customer service reps to deal with complaints so the bad publicity goes away. It doesn’t always work: there was no amount of Tweet-plaining, it seemed, that was going to fix a Prominent Tweeter’s Orcon connection. But if you’re currently experiencing service intractability, it’s got to be worth a try.

And what could possibly go wrong? One keyworded 140-character tweet will give you all the context and nuance you could possibly want, right?

As advantageous as this has been to me personally, it gives me the chills. I work in customer service, you see. And if our company was big enough to make a decision like this, I know just what would happen.

For a start, most of the customers complaining about us on Twitter/Facebook/blogs would be the ones we already put the most time into. The ones that get pissed off because we can’t rupture the time-space continuum for them. The ones who, when you tell them what they want is completely impossible, bounce round every single other admin trying to get a different answer, then start on the second lap.

Ergo, the person who goes through the Tweets and brings us their whining and demands that we make it go away? Becomes the Most Hated Person in the Building, and we don’t even have a building. We have to take time away from other customers to explain that, no, actually, that wasn’t what happened, that wasn’t what we said, and the reason that thing hasn’t been done is that nobody got bitten by a radioactive spider last night. All in all, I’d rather have Person Who Goes Through Tweets working on the team, and maybe we could do more for the less squeaky wheels.

Anyway, the big change in my net habits so far has been that, after tweeting the dreadful experience we had with Jetstar and the brilliant service we got from the Christchurch City Council (srsly), I intend to never mention a business again. Otherwise one day someone’s going to push a customer representative too far, and I’ll end up dead in a ditch.

For those curious about my (for me) prolonged absence from Public Address, this blog may go some way to explaining it – both in its content, and the shitty shitty quality of the writing.

Emma Hart is the author of the book 'Not Safe For Work'.

(Click here to find out more)

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